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Biometric Security Can Be Hacked, but It's Really Hard to Do

January 04, 2019 / Wayne Rash

At the end of December 2018, security researchers in Leipzig, Germany, demonstrated at a security conference their method of hacking a biometric security system that depends on reading the pattern of blood vessels in the palm of the hand. This method of vein authentication involves reading the details of the veins just below the skin in a person’s hand and comparing that to an already recorded image of those veins. Vein authentication is considered secure because no two people have exactly the same pattern. The readers shine near-infrared light on a person’s palm, which reveals the vein structure to a special camera, which then takes a digital photograph of those veins. Such a means of identification is considered more secure than, say, fingerprints, because the subject doesn’t have to touch anything to have their veins read. Instead, they can simply hold them above the reader briefly while the scanning happens.