Watch CBS News

Experts Warn Fingerprints Easier To Hack Than Old-Fashioned Passwords

STUDIO CITY ( — Millions of security systems, smartphones and tablets use a fingerprint instead of a password for security.

It's supposed to be uncrackable, but it now appears fingerprint technology is easily hackable.

Photos - with clear views of hands and fingers - can now be used to re-create a fingerprint.

Jan Krissler, know to hackers as "Starbug," did just that.

He says pictures of German Defense Minister Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen were taken with a standard camera from about 10 feet away; and he was then able to zero-in on her fingerprints and reproduce them using readily-available software.

"The whole security of the system relies on keeping something secret that isn't secret," he says.

Krissler has been exposing what he calls flaws in biometric security for years.

Days after the finger-scanning iPhone 5S was released, he successfully unlocked a phone by re-creating a "dummy finger" using glue to make a mold from a photocopied fingerprint.

Krissler says fingerprints are even less secure than standard passwords because once they're stolen, they can't be changed.

"This would be a very targeted thing," security expert Kevin Mandia says. "You have somebody, their photos are publicly available, they're an important person and the rewards outweigh the risks."

There are other options. A company called ViewSonic is reportedly working on a new smartphone which scans users' eyes to gain access.

Until then, experts say it's best to stick with the old-fashioned password, or to use it in addition to fingerprint technology.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.