A hacker stealing someone's fingerprint through a high-resolution digital photo seems like the premise of a scene from a sci-fi film. This is no movie, however, as German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen fell victim to precisely that kind of scheme in real life when her fingerprint was taken from a photo and reversed to be applied to security systems.
Who stole the fingerprint?
Jan Krissler - otherwise known as Starbug in some circles - used software to copy von der Leyen's fingerprint from a photo he took himself and another that was attached to a digital press release, according to The Guardian. Krissler joked that from now on, politicians will have to wear gloves as an extra security precaution. He's been at this before, since in 2013, he cracked Apple's TouchID sensors within 24 hours of the iPhone 5S's release.
But is this situation really a cause for concern? Fingerprints are not a very common password, but many imagine them to be the best security one could have. Rumors about fingerprint security come around as soon as a new iPhone is set to be released, and many have desired fingerprint or eye imaging as a password for their computers or phones. However, in actuality, fingerprints aren't very strong passwords.
"Fingerprints in themselves are not sufficient for strong security," an anonymous Datacard security engineer told The Register. "The best 'fingerprint' biometric systems only use a fingerprint as a reticule to align vascular system assessments [bloody vessel positioning], which are much more difficult to fake, but much more expensive to implement."
What all the fuss is about
Krissler himself actually agreed that fingerprints are not the best cybersecurity tactic.
"I consider my password safer than my fingerprint," he told Zeit. "My password is in my head, and if I'm careful when typing, I remain the only one who knows it."
Cybersecurity was a hot topic for 2014, and one has to wonder how big this news story might have been without the other cyberattacks in the headlines. For instance, Sony Entertainment suffered a huge breach that leaked multiple films and spurred controversy regarding the release of its film "The Interview." The company is facing backlash with its cybersecurity preparation and
All of these news stories have caused consumers to wonder how trustworthy some businesses are and prompted companies to worry about the reliability of their cybersecurity. Situations like von der Leyen's stolen fingerprint might not have been as big a year ago, but now that trust in cybersecurity is lacking, such issues are bound to quickly hit the headlines.
Thankfully, most businesses don't have to worry about fingerprints and wearing gloves to protect a passcode. However, cybersecurity should still be a high priority in the new year. Companies have the opportunity to gain back consumers' trust by implementing cybersecurity measures such as email encryption using a secure email service. Even though fingerprints have been proven to not be as safe, email encryption will always be a good idea for an enterprise.