Last year, when the Office of Personnel Management notified 22 million people that their personal information was compromised in a massive data breach, one in four received especially nasty news. For most hack victims, the sensitive personal data that was exposed included Social Security numbers, health and financial records, names of relatives, and past addresses. But 5.6 million people learned that their fingerprints were also stolen.
At the time of the announcement, OPM downplayed the importance of the stolen fingerprints. “Federal experts believe that, as of now, the ability to misuse fingerprint data is limited,” an OPM statement read. “However, this probability could change over time as technology evolves.”
That was in September. Now, researchers have developed a cheap and easy way to print out an image of a fingerprint with enough accuracy to fool commercially available fingerprint readers—using just a standard inkjet printer.
The method, outlined in a paper published last month, is certainly not the first one to produce fake fingerprints that are able to fool readers. But where earlier methods required more time and specialized materials, this new method is replicable in just about any home office.