Hacker Shows Fingerprints Can Be Re-created Using Photographs

Reconstructing fingerprints using photographs could lead to biometric authentication being exploited. Pichi Chuang/Reuters

Law enforcement and criminals alike have been lifting fingerprints from surfaces (like smartphones and drinking glasses) to either solve crimes or steal identities longer than Law and Order has been on television. But extracting this biometric data is about to get even easier.

A member of Chaos Communications Congress (CCC), Europe's largest hacker association, claims he can re-create fingerprints using photographs of a person's fingers. Jan Krissler, also known by his alias "Starbug," presented his findings at the CCC's 31st annual convention in Hamburg, Germany this weekend.

Using commercially available software called VeriFinger, Krissler explained to the crowd how he was able to re-create the thumbprint of German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen using only a few public photographs, including a still from an October news conference.

Screenshot from YouTube video of Krissler's presentation.

The possible implications are far-reaching. Last year, for instance, the CCC showed that it was able to bypass Apple's TouchID using a photograph of the user's fingerprint. This new discovery shows yet another way in which biometric authentication could be exploited. Krissler believes it could even lead to politicians having to wear gloves in public.