Fingerprint technology

A few years ago, I was at a retired detective social event and met a chap in his nineties called Ted “Fingers” Bentley.  Ted’s nickname came from the fact that he was the first police officer in the country to detect criminals by way of using fingerprint evidence.  With a magnifying glass, pencil and a sheet of paper, he managed to identify criminals in this laborious fashion.  This reminded me of how fingerprint technology has developed over the years.  When I first joined the police in 1991, recording people’s fingerprints involved rolling their fingertips against an ink block and then rolling on a piece of paper. Since then, fingerprint technology has moved on and sensors are used which take a digital image of the fingerprint.  They have also become an integral part of mobile phone security.

The next stage of fingerprinting doesn’t involve touching anything at all.  So-called contactless fingerprinting technology uses your phone’s camera and image processing algorithms to capture people’s fingerprints. Hold your hand in front of the camera lens, and the software can identify and record all the lines and swirls on your fingertips. This sounds great and futuristic, like something you would see in the Minority Report; however, what does this mean in the real world and, more importantly, the security world?

For starters, providers will not only potentially have access to your data on devices, but they will also now have biological information about you (whether it’s prints or facial recognition). Now we all know password compromise is an issue; however, this will not stop the attacks from occurring but instead increase them. Spoofing a fingerprint has been done many times. My colleague Gurpreet spoke about looking at the swipe pattern in the early days of android, and he was able to figure out using a UV light what direction the swipe was. This was some time ago, so tech has changed, but hopefully, you get my point.

Technology is there to aid us but creating awareness about the pros and cons of technology is the absolute key. If you know the threats, look at ways to protect yourself against them.  If you need any advice, please contact us at or 02074 999 323.

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