Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fingerprint Readers Don't Work

A while ago, I got annoyed at a friend's computer. It had a fingerprint reader, and I wanted to play a game on it before he woke up.

Fortunately, it turned out that my fingerprint worked just fine. It took a few tries, but I successfully logged in as him.

He did look a bit shocked when he woke up and saw me playing a game on his supposedly secure work computer. Too bad he wasn't in the IT department at his company. :)

How secure are fingerprint readers? I can't say that I'm impressed. Since you leave what is essentially your password on everything you touch, they can't be infallible.

Fingerprint readers are supposed to be intimidating. You're supposed to look at one and think to yourself that you'd have to do some kitchen trickery to defeat it. Intimidation might be most of the security they provide.

That would have worked for me. I don't make a habit of breaking into other people's work computers. Is intimidation all they've got?

It looks as though that might be true. If someone really wants to break in, they can. It's not always as easy as my attempt was, but even the most secure readers can be broken.

However, I'm not going to complain too much about fingerprint readers. It's really easy to login to a computer with one. It took about 5-10 seconds to break into my friend's. Imagine how easy it'd be if it worked the first time? Convenience is much more important than security to me on many of the computers that I use.

Incidentally, there's an interesting ending to this story. The friend whose computer I broke into was a researcher at HP Labs. After seeing me casually playing a game on his computer, he decided to do some research on alternate biometric input devices.

1 comment:

andy said...

check MythBuster's beating fingerprint security