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Researchers find a shockingly simple way to hack Samsung’s fingerprint scanners

Published Mar 8th, 2016 2:36PM EST
Samsung Galaxy S7 Galaxy S6 Fingerprint Scanner Hack
Image: Zach Epstein, BGR

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We all know that our phones’ fingerprint scanners are not completely secure and can be broken into fairly easily by hackers who know what they’re doing. That said, it looks like some researchers have figured out a shockingly easy way to beat Samsung and Huawei’s fingerprint scanner security protocols by using a plain old inkjet printer. Per Softpedia, researchers Kai Cao and Anil K. Jain from Michigan State University have figured out a way to take scans of fingerprints and print them in 2D using conductive ink on special AgIC paper that’s usually used for printing electronic circuits.

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In total, the researchers estimate that all the necessary components for this hack will cost somewhere in the $500 range. That investment could be worthwhile, however, if you can steal multiple smartphones that are linked with mobile payment accounts such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay.

Once you’ve printed out the spoofed fingerprint on special AgIC paper, you can just press it down on Samsung and Huawei’s fingerprint scanners and it will unlock the device and give you access to crucial financial information.

“This experiment further confirms the urgent need for anti-spoofing techniques for fingerprint recognition systems, especially for mobile devices which are being increasingly used for unlocking the phone and for payment,” the researchers write in their paper. “It is only a matter of time before hackers develop improved hacking strategies not just for fingerprints, but other biometric traits as well that are being adopted for mobile phones (e.g., face, iris and voice).”

You can read the researchers’ full methodology for their hack at this link (PDF).

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.

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