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Alert: Duplicating fingerprints to access smartphones

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Some hackers are using pictures from photos to replicate a fingerprint to get into secure phones. (Source: 3TV) Some hackers are using pictures from photos to replicate a fingerprint to get into secure phones. (Source: 3TV)
Experts say crooks are using photos of people doing the peace sign to get fingerprints. (Source: 3TV) Experts say crooks are using photos of people doing the peace sign to get fingerprints. (Source: 3TV)
(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

When fingerprint recognition came out, a lot of people thought it was the wave of the future. But now we're learning there could be a security hole.

Ken Colburn is a technology expert with Data Doctors.

"People that are interested in stealing your identity, stealing your information, they're going to constantly look at ways to try to exploit you," Colburn said.

And now, hackers just might have found a new way at least for people who display peace sign selfies.

"We heard the first time about this type of exploit back in 2014," Colburn said.

Colburn is referring to a warning that first surfaced a few years ago where a German politician’s fingerprint was replicated from photos, and a 3-D mold of that fingerprint was reportedly made to unlock a secured phone.

Now, a Japanese professor claims with new technology, it is, in fact, possible to duplicate fingerprints from selfies that show your fingers.

"We're still looking at what we call proof of concept exploits. In other words, these researchers are proving this can be done," Colburn said.

So why is this important? Well, these days Touch ID fingerprint technology is pretty common when it comes to unlocking smartphones or even bank apps by applying your fingerprint. If compromised, it could lead to identity theft.

Colburn says it is worth keeping an eye on.

"This is an area we're all going to have to watch. As safe as fingerprint recognition might seem to you and I, the one problem with fingerprint recognition is unlike a password, if your fingerprint gets stolen, you can't change it. It is your fingerprint," Colburn said.

Colburn says that most of the images posted on social media are compressed photos and not original high-quality images that hackers would need, but that's not all.

"Most of the fingerprint detection systems require heat, that prove you're a human being so that you can't put an inanimate object up there," Colburn said.

In the meantime, if taking peace sign selfies where your fingerprints are exposed is want you really want to do, Colburn offers a tip to help ease your concerns.

"If you are going to be taking selfies and you want to give the peace sign, the security researchers are saying, use a glove," Colburn said.

Copyright 2017 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

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Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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