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So you think you can secure your mobile phone with a fingerprint?

No two people are believed to have identical fingerprints, but National Science Foundation-funded researchers have found that partial similarities between prints are common enough that the fingerprint-based security systems used in mobile phones and other electronic devices can be more vulnerable than previously thought. The vulnerability lies in the fact that fingerprint-based authentication systems feature small sensors that do not capture a user’s full fingerprint. Instead, they scan and store partial fingerprints, and many phones allow users to enroll several different fingers in their authentication system. Identity is confirmed when a user’s fingerprint matches any one of the saved partial prints. The researchers hypothesized that there could be enough similarities among different people’s partial prints that one could create a “MasterPrint.”

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