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Clarkson professor develops fake fingerprint finding technology-


POTSDAM — A fingerprint, once considered an infallible method of identification, can now be easily faked — a problem that leaves researchers scrambling to find methods of detecting these false impressions.

Stephanie Schuckers, recently promoted to full professor of electrical and computer engineering at Clarkson University, believes she has found a method to thwart fingerprint fakers.

“People can take materials and make a fake finger and pretend to be someone else,” she said. “We have a piece of software that determines whether the fingerprint is fake or not.”

The technology has spun e into a business, called NexID. Ms. Schuckers explained that fingerprint scanners record an image of a person’s finger whenever they are used — fake fingers, however, leave images with different patterns.

“We use the characteristics of the image itself,” she said. “It can tell you whether it is a fake or a real finger.”

Ms. Schuckers said concern about fakes is increasing as the technology is proliferated.

“The information about how to fake a device is pretty readily known,” she said. “There have been cases where people have been caught. A scanner has no way of knowing if you’ve faked the device. We really don’t have a good sense of how often it’s happened.”

Until now.

Ms. Schuckers has delved into the field of biometrics, an identification method that focuses on biological traits like fingerprints, the patterns of an iris, or tone of voice.

“Biometrics is the use of physiologic or behavioral characteristics to recognize someone,” she said. “Often times automatically, that is one advantage of it.”

Biometric technology is already in place as people use fingerprints to punch timeclocks or access banks.

“Often it can be used to give you access to computers, to a bank account, to get across the border, other countries use it for their benefit systems like Medicare,” she said. “It is a way of verifying someone’s identity that makes it easy.”

While some people might view biometrics as an incursion into their private lives — or their bodies — Ms. Schuckers says people could also be liberated from having to memorize numbers and carry cards.

“In fact, a lot of that information about you is out there,” she said. “Where biometrics comes in is maybe it makes things easier for us.”

A switch to biometrics might not lead to a more secure world, said Ms. Schuckers, pointing out that fingerprints are already subject to counterfeiting.

“There are going to be vulnerabilities involved in biometrics,” she said. “We need to recognize what those vulnerabilities are and make a decision about what level of security we desire.”

Ms. Schuckers also serves as the director of the Center of Identification Technology Research, a federally-funded biometric research group based at Clarkson University.

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