Should you ever feel the urge to flash a peace sign when having your photo took, it’s probably best that you ignore it. Striking the pose isn't always a good look, and you also risk having your biometric data stolen.
That’s the opinion of researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Informatics (NII), who warn that the increase in high-quality cameras, smartphones, and social media sites mean someone could scan fingerprints from an image and use them for nefarious purposes, such as accessing devices, entering secure areas, or stealing identities. Until modern camera technology arrived, this method was only possible using close-up photographs of a person’s prints.
The team at NII said fingerprints could be read even if when someone was up to 10 feet away from the camera, as long as the index finger and middle finger are clearly visible. “Fingerprint data can be recreated if fingerprints are in focus with strong lighting in a picture," researcher Isao Echizen told the Sankei Shimbun newspaper and broadcaster Yomiuri TV (translated by International Business Times).
Echizen added that advanced technology was not necessary and anyone could easily copy fingerprints.
The NII researchers have developed a solution for selfie takers who love showing off peace signs: a transparent film containing titanium oxide printed with a specific pattern. These can be placed over the end of a finger, band aid-style, showing only fake fingerprints that will fool criminals. They also come with an authentication device so you don't have to keep peeling them off when you want to use your real fingerprint.
Stealing fingerprint data in this way isn’t new. Back in 2014, Chaos Computer Club member and biometrics researcher Jan Krisller claimed he reproduced the fingerprint of German Federal Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen by photographing her fingers from different angles.