Making fingerprints less useful

March 31, 2008 at 10:56 pm 4 comments

Bruce Schneier approvingly calls it “political activism.”

I think it’s a stark reminder that some biometrics- such as a person’s fingerprints- are reasonably easy to get. And, once compromised, the person can’t ring up a help desk and get a new one (like they can passwords).

The current story revolves around Germany’s interior minister, Wolfgang Schauble. He is apparently quite vocal about collecting and using biometrics to fight terrorism, including storing them in ePassports.

In the most recent issue of Die Datenschleuder, activists under the name of Chaos Computer Club (“Europe’s largest hacker group”) printed the image of, what they claim, is the fingerprint of his index finger.

The fingerprint, on a plastic foil that leaves fingerprints when it is pressed against biometric readers, is included in the 4,000 copies of the latest issue of the magazine. Schauble’s fingerprint was said to be captured off a water glass he used last summer while participating in a public discussion at a University in Berlin.

If a person’s fingerprints are “in the wild” then they are a far less reliable way to authenticate the person for his/her whole life. If enough fingerprints are similarly widely available- whether by accident or deliberately- it will be enough to make fingerprinting almost useless.


Entry filed under: biometrics, fraud, ID_cards, personal_info, privacy, security.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Own.petard.hoist() « Identity Blogger  |  April 1, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    […] a fashion that makes it fairly easy to impersonate him on today’s fingerprint readers (hat tip to Vikram Kumar).   I suspect the hacktavists are already planning to acquire and publish the fingerprints of […]

  • 2. Hackers Expose Leadership Vaccuum « code technology  |  April 3, 2008 at 4:02 am

    […] features of the German passport.  While this has previously been reported by the rather excellent Vikram Kumar blog, I could help but trot it out for my own […]

  • 3. NZ: Identity Month « Identity and Privacy Blog  |  April 4, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    […] The first event of the month was yesterday when the Biometrics Institute organised its 2008 Annual New Zealand Conference. I co-presented with a colleague about igovt and then was on the “Biometric Data Management and Data Security Issues” panel. The panel discussion gave me an opportunity to talk about the dangers of using static identifiers like biometrics and gave the example of Germany’s unfortunate interior minister. […]

  • 4. Hackers Expose Leadership Vacuum | Code Technology Corp.  |  December 30, 2014 at 9:13 am

    […] features of the German passport.  While this has previously been reported by the rather excellent Vikram Kumar blog, I couldn’t help but trot it out for my own […]


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