Eyeballs, a severed hand, or fingers carried in
ziplock bags. Back alley eye replacement surgery. These are scenarios
used in recent blockbuster movies like Steven Spielberg’s "Minority
Report" and "Tomorrow Never Dies" to illustrate how unsavory characters
in high-tech worlds beat sophisticated security and identification
systems

Sound
fantastic? Maybe not. Biometrics is the science of using biological
properties, such as fingerprints, an iris scan, or voice recognition,
to identify individuals. And in a world of growing terrorism concerns
and increasing security measures, the field of biometrics is rapidly
expanding.

"Biometric systems automatically measure the unique
physiological or behavioral ‘signature’ of an individual, from which a
decision can be made to either authenticate or determine that
individual’s identity," explained Stephanie C. Schuckers, an associate
professor of electrical and computer engineering at Clarkson
University. "Today, biometric systems are popping up everywhere – in
places like hospitals, banks, even college residence halls – to
authorize or deny access to medical files, financial accounts, or
restricted or private areas."

"And as with any identification or
security system," Schuckers adds, "biometric devices are prone to
‘spoofing’ or attacks designed to defeat them."

Spoofing is the
process by which individuals overcome a system through an introduction
of a fake sample. "Digits from cadavers and fake fingers molded from
plastic, or even something as simple as Play-Doh or gelatin, can
potentially be misread as authentic," she explains. "My research
addresses these deficiencies and investigates ways to design effective
safeguards and vulnerability countermeasures. The goal is to make the
authentication process as accurate and reliable as possible."

Schuckers’
biometric research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF),
the Office of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. She is
currently assessing spoofing vulnerability in fingerprint scanners and
designing methods to correct for these as part of a $3.1 million
interdisciplinary research project funded through the NSF. The project,
"ITR: Biometrics: Performance, Security and Societal Impact,"
investigates the technical, legal and privacy issues raised from
broader applications of biometric system technology in airport
security, computer access, or immigration. It is a joint initiative
among researchers from Clarkson, West Virginia University, Michigan
State University, St. Lawrence University, and the University of
Pittsburgh.

Fingerprint scanning devices often use basic
technology, such as an optical camera that take pictures of
fingerprints which are then "read" by a computer. In order to assess
how vulnerable the scanners are to spoofing, Schuckers and her research
team made casts from live fingers using dental materials and used
Play-Doh to create molds. They also assembled a collection of cadaver
fingers.

In the laboratory, the researchers then systematically
tested more than 60 of the faked samples. The results were a 90 percent
false verification rate.

By: Clarkson University

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