How Safe is Your Biometric Data?

Recently, Japanese researchers at the National Institute of Informatics (NII) have managed to recreate fingerprints based on photos taken up to three metres away from the subject. High profile members of public, such as celebrities, would likely be at greatest risk of their biometric data being stolen this way, however, NII researcher Isa Echizen suggested that anyone’s fingerprints could be made widely available “just by casually making a peace sign in front of a camera”. As mainstream camera technology becomes more advanced, the practice of uploading pictures to social media will make more people susceptible to biometric data theft.  

The NII has proposed a thin titanium oxide film which would hide the prints of anyone wearing them, but will still allow users to interface with fingerprint security systems. However, this film will not be available for at least two years and requires users to know when they are going to be photographed in order to protect themselves.   

Traditional security systems have always relied on identifying users based on either what they know (passwords) or what they own (cards and tokens). If compromised, these can easily be replaced, but how do you change your fingerprint or retina pattern once stolen?

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