In a new and rather scary discovery, researchers have found that common fingerprint sensors used on Huawei and Samsung smartphones can easily be fooled with a mere inkjet printer.
The experts, Kai Cao and Anil Jan, based at Michigan State University from the department of computer science and engineering, used last year’s Samsung Galaxy S6 and the Honor 7 in their tests, successfully unlocking the two devices with the help of a fingerprint printed on a regular inkjet printer using special ink and paper.
Easy as ABC
To go through with the “hacking” of the Galaxy S6 and Honor 7’s fingerprint sensors, the researchers had the simplest of tasks. They only needed to get a few scans of several fingers and print them on paper in the usual 2D and with the help of a conductive ink (ink that is capable of conducting charges). However, the paper used is somehow special, the type normally used to print electronic circuits and related charge-conducting systems.
The scary part of this story is that it only needs about 15 minutes to come up with a duplicate of one’s fingerprint. Before this, hackers had to model a print in rubber or wood glue, something that took more than 30 minutes, required special equipment as well as some manual manipulation skills. With the growing number of mobile devices using fingerprint sensors as a security tool as well as authentication platform in Android Pay and Samsung Pay, among other online services, there is urgent need for responsible parties to take care of this flaw.
Mobile devices have become tools for making payments. They also carry lots of personal information. With this kind of protection, it would be hard to trust any device from Huawei or Samsung as far as the fingerprint sensor is concerned. This problem will likely affect many other devices using the same technology, for instance, LG G5.
Good news for law enforcing agencies, bad news for hackers
While this might seem less helpful to hackers given that they will have to obtain a clear, high resolution scan of your print in order to unlock the phone, government and law enforcing agencies will relish this discovery. For them, it presents an easier way of getting into a suspect’s Samsung Galaxy S6 or Huawei Honor 7 with no need for backdoor entries.
This discovery may also prove to be less helpful to hackers as they will also need to have access to your phone in order to unlock it using the printed fingerprints.
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