Beat-Fingerprint-Security-By-Cutting-Off-Finger Trick No Longer Viable, Thanks To Sony

from the important-research dept

It’s becoming less unusual for devices like laptops, and even mobile phones, to feature fingerprint scanners for secure access. The idea is that only the owner’s fingerprint can unlock the device, so if it’s stolen, it will be useless to a thief. This tends to help with most of your garden-variety theft, but as anybody who’s watched a few action movies knows, fingerprint-based systems don’t pose a problem for the really motivated thief, who can simply cut off their victim’s finger and use it to access the device or secret lair or whatever. Cue some researchers from Sony, who will have screenwriters scrambling for a rewrite: they’ve come up with a system doesn’t use fingerprints, but rather an image of the capillaries (via Network Computing) beneath the skin of a person’s finger. The pattern in the image can only be captured when blood is pumping through the finger in question, so severing it from the rest of the victim would render it useless. Of course, this does little to stop thieves from beating their victims senseless, or otherwise “motivating” them to unlock the system with their finger, but hey, at least they get to keep their digits.

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Comments on “Beat-Fingerprint-Security-By-Cutting-Off-Finger Trick No Longer Viable, Thanks To Sony”

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Anonymous Coward says:


I can see a few flaws with this idea:

First, according to the patent, Sony assumes that the finger capillaries would loose their blood and deflate if the finger were severed. It would seem that all the finger thief would have to do would be to simply first apply a tourniquet to the finger before severing it to prevent this.

Second, capillaries are easily damaged. Any kind of bruising or clotting, even on a microscopic level, would seem likely to cause authentication failure.

bob says:

Authentec, a major chip maker in this space, has had similar technology for years. This is not news. Their chips read below skin level and sense the difference between a live finger and one the does not have warm blood surging though it.

If a thief is that desperate i am sure they will do what they currently do at ATM’s and just hold a gun to your head and make you access the device for them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Umm don’t be too impressed just yet.

Mythbusters successfully bypassed just about every current fingerprint technology less than a year ago.

Even to the point that making a photo copy of a finger print and holding it to the scanner worked.

Read more here:

And watch the clip here:

Dont’ believe everything a marketing company tells you, especially if it’s coming out of Sony’s arsehole.

John says:

Old News

Seems to me I read an article five or six years ago in Network Computing where they tested 6 fingerprint scanners and wanted to see how secure they were. I think they beat 4 of the 6 by using printer toner and tape to lift a fingerprint off of a table and used that on the fingerprint scanner. No severing of fingers required. The 2 which were not defeated had a pulse detector.

Quantum John (profile) says:

Cheap vs High Quality

The just-cut-the-finger-off in movies, and the photocopies would only work for the cheap systems that only scan the fingerprint. They’ve had systems for years that measure galvanic activity to ensure that the fingerprint is coming from a live finger. So your laptop might have the cheap reader, but it won’t work at high-security facilities.

Woot says:

1 Laptop with fingerprint reader.. $2500
1 Knife.. $5
1 Unsuspecting pedestrian with said laptop.. $-2500
1 Severed finger to unlock the laptop.. $messy

Not knowing how to reformat a computer and using a severed finger to unlock a stolen laptop….. Priceless

There are some thieves that use severed fingers to unlock laptops….. For everyone else, there’s General Computing Knowledge

(General Computing Knowledge would like to remind you that there are not actually any thieves who use stolen fingers to unlock laptops .. GCK .. Don’t be a noob)

Nasty Old Geezer says:

Re: Re:

Depends on what the thief is after: data, or hardware. THe brute force types are likley to be after the hardware for resale, don’t really care if it doesn’t work.

The data theives will just trick the victim into telling all, either a Trojan or simple social engineering.

Besides, I wouldn’t buy anything from Sony. Ever.

HahahaComedy (user link) says:


I love it how when there’s a post about new technology, people immediately think they are smarter than the company who developed the technology. As if your 5 seconds of brainstorming after reading the article resulted in a major design flaw the company, which spent millions in R&D, somehow overlooked. If only they talked to you first, they would have saved themselves the embarrassment of releasing such an elementary and obviously poorly planned product.

It’s like when they came out with those LED traffic lights, everyone was like, “What happens in the winter? The lights won’t generate enough heat to melt the snow, and people will get into accidents because they won’t be able to see the signals.”

Seriously, did you really think they didn’t think of that beforehand?

Wait… what is it? They didn’t? Oh… nevermind.

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