Researchers reveal 3D printed hands can fool fingerprint scanners
Two researchers from Michigan State University, Kai Cao and Anil K. Jain, have developed skin-like 3D printed hand replicas to standardize calibration of fingerprint scanners. However, the team found out that these 3D printed hands offer a relatively cheap and effective way to beat fingerprint readers. This means identity thieves can easily replicate a human hand – all they need to do is lift a fingerprint off of the fingerprint scanner, scan it, format it, and print out a copy.
If you’ve ever seen a spy movie, then you may have a general idea how these 3D printed hand models work. They just need a set of false fingertips and can easily let the criminals unlock the places with high-level security. Manufacturing one is indeed much more difficult than usually shown in the movies, but Michigan State researchers have created them using a fairly new technique that is still being refined.
How they did it
The process to build 3D printed hand replicas begin with collecting accurate information about the fingerprint to be reproduced. Once collected, a 2D synthetic fingerprint is created with the help of a specialized equipment, and further matched to a 3D printed finger. After scanning the entire object, the finger is then 3D printed again. This time the finger is incorporated with whirls, ridges, and valleys found in fingerprints.
Using a Stratasys Objet350 Connex 3D printer, the team has managed to fabricate a fingerless glove to cover the remainder of the hand. To create a whole hand, the researchers have divided the model into six components, including four individual fingers, the thumb, and the middle surface. Using these 3D printed hand replicas, they evaluated both contact-based and contactless slap fingerprint readers – but some major security loopholes were also revealed.
Just like optical devices, even fingerprint and hand scanners need standardized calibration, but currently, there is no standard method for calibrating them. However, the team of researchers is hoping to develop more secure and improved fingerprint readers and biometrics.
The intended application for these 3D printed hand replicas is to improve biometric security and the technology behind fingerprint scans. The potential implications of the technology are widespread, as fingerprint scanners are used in several security departments – from police departments and airport immigration counters to banks and other commercial or public buildings.
Although the vulnerability of the findings is already revealed, but the team is working with various agencies and manufacturers to develop fool-proof and more secure systems in coming years.
Check out the video below to see how 3D printed hands could fight identity theft.