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Biometric Authentication at Risk: Hackers Can Recreate Your Fingerprints Through Photos

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If you have a few pictures of your hands showing your fingers on your Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr, one major group of hackers claims it can fully reproduce your fingerprints.

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The group behind the project is Chaos Computer Club, also known as Europe’s largest hacker association. Jan Krissler, also known as “Starbug,” explained at their 31st annual convention how he copied the thumbprint of German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. Due to a few photos of his fingers Krissler found at public events, he recreated the thumbprint in full.

Using a commercially available software called VeriFinger to recreate the thumbprint. Because fingerprints are often used for biometric authentication, Krissler believed “politicians will presumably wear gloves when talking in public,” following his speech.

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The End of Biometric Authentication Before It Begins?

FingerprintWith passwords going by the wayside after increasingly being proven insecure, the internet is in search of a way to bring another level of security forth. One of the proposed solutions is biometric authentication, combining thumbprints with mobile technology to log into everyday websites.

Also read: Companies Are Trying to Get Rid of Passwords Entirely, and Launchkey Just Received $3 Million in Funding to Implement a Replacement

Whether or not it’s as easy as Krissler said to recreate fingerprints this way, the applications are still unknown. It’s common knowledge that hackers will continue to find ways around authentication methods as they get more and more sophisticated, but it takes time.

Passwords were never a perfect system, but they played their role for a time until the world found a way around them. Now with their major vulnerabilities exposed, a new technology needs to take over.

Biometric authentication may have found a vulnerability in their system, but not every hacker will be able to utilize it. The applications around the system still don’t exist, allowing there to be a time for biometric authentication to take over for passwords.

Biometric authentication will continue to play its part until hacking becomes even more sophisticated, and a new technology will take its place.

Images from Wikimedia Commons and Shutterstock.

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  1. Hitoshi Anatomi

    January 9, 2015 at 7:54 am

    There is an even bigger loophole. Threats that can be thwarted by biometric products operated together with fallback/backup passwords can be thwarted more securely by passwords only.

    Whether static, behavioral or electromagnetic, biometrics can theoretically be operated together with passwords in two ways, (1) by AND/conjunction or (2) by OR/disjunction. I would appreciate to
    hear if someone knows of a biometric product operated by (1). The users of such products must have been notified that, when falsely rejected by the biometric sensor with the devices finally locked, they would have to see the device reset.  (It is the same with the biometrics operated without passwords altogether. Only in this case can it be claimed that biometrics are used as an alternative to the password.)

    Biometric products like Apple’s Touch ID are generally operated by (2) so that users can unlock the devices by passwords when falsely rejected by the biometric sensors. This means that the overall
    vulnerability of the product is the sum of the vulnerability of biometrics (x) and that of a password (y). The sum (x + y – xy) is necessarily larger than the vulnerability of a password (y), say, the devices with Touch ID and other biometric sensors are less secure than the devices protected only by a password.

    It is really worrying to see so many ICT people being indifferent to the difference between AND/conjunction and OR/disjunction when talking about “using two factors together”.

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Breaches

Uber Is Paying Hackers to Keep Quiet

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Uber Technologies Inc. has reportedly paid hackers to delete scores of private data stolen from the company in a security breach that was concealed for over a year. The revelation provides further confirmation that, when it comes to cyber security, crime does pay.

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Massive Data Breach

According to Bloomberg Technology, hackers retrieved the personal data of 57 million Uber customers and drivers at some point last year. Nobody heard about it because the rideshare company paid the hackers $100,000 to keep quiet. A purge at the front office of Uber also ensured that the massive cyber breach was kept under wraps.

The compromised data was from October 2016 and included the names, phone numbers and addressed of 50 million Uber riders globally. About seven million drivers had their personal information accessed as well.

At the time of the cyber attack, Uber was inundated with a slew of legal issues stemming from alleged privacy violations. Rather than shine even more negative spotlight on the company, Uber executives decided to pay hackers to stay quiet.

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“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over as CEO in September, said in a statement that was published by Bloomberg. “We are changing the way we do business.”

Hackers have done a masterful job infiltrating companies and governments in recent years. As a reminder, recent cyber attacks levied against Yahoo!, Target Corp and Equifax Inc. dwarf Uber’s 57 million compromised accounts.

Various reports indicate that cyber attacks are bleeding the global economy dry. One report, issued by the World Economic Forum, suggests that cyber crime cost the world economy $445 billion in 2016. If cyber crime were its own market cap, it would exceed Microsoft Inc., Facebook Inc. and ExxonMobil Corp

The Fall of Uber?

Uber revolutionized the ride-hailing business over the span of seven years by giving more power to the consumer. Several missteps later, the company finds itself in legal hot water, with its future appearing less certain than it did just one year ago.

The rideshare company faces at least five U.S. probes ranging from bribes to illicit software and right up to unethical pricing schemes. According to another Bloomberg report, Uber is under investigation for violating price transparency regulations, not to mention the alleged theft of documents for Google’s autonomous cars.

Some governments are sensing weakness in the ride-hailing service, and are moving toward banning the Uber app entirely. London is the most prominent example of a city that has taken definitive steps to outlaw the service over a “lack of corporate responsibility.”

Even with its legal troubles, Uber is a revolutionary technology that has influenced a bevy of other innovations aimed at improving the human experience.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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Ethereum Notches Two-Month High as Bitcoin Offspring Triggers Volatility

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Digital currency Ethereum climbed to a two-month high on Monday, taking some of the heat off Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, which have slumped since the weekend.

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Ethereum Forges Higher Path

Concerns over Bitcoin created a favourable tailwind for Ethereum (ETH/USD), which is the world’s No. 2 digital currency by total assets. Ether’s price topped $340.00 on Monday and later settled at $323.54. That was the highest since June 20.

At its peak, ether was up 10% on the day and 70% for the month of August.

The ETH/USD was last down 2.2% at $315.02, according to Bitfinex. Prices are due for a brisk recovery, based on the daily momentum indicators.

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Fractured Bitcoin Community

Bitcoin and its offshoot, Bitcoin Cash, retreated on Monday following a volatile weekend. The BTC/USD slumped at the start of the week and was down more than 3% on Tuesday, with prices falling below $3,900.00. Just last week, Bitcoin was trading at new records near $4,500.00.

Bitcoin Cash, which emerged after the Aug. 1 hard fork, climbed to new records on Saturday, but has been in free-fall ever since. The BTH was down another 20% on Tuesday to $594.49, according to CoinMarketCap. Its total market value has dropped by several billion over the past two days.

Analysts say that a “fractured” Bitcoin community has made Ethereum a more attractive bet this week. The ether token has shown remarkable poise over the past seven days, despite trading well shy of a new record.

Other drivers behind Ethereum’s advance are steady demand from South Korean investors and growing confidence in a smooth upgrade for the the ETH network. The upgrade, which has been dubbed “Metropolis,” is expected in the next several weeks. Its key benefits include tighter transaction privacy and greater efficiency.

Ethereum Prices Unaffected by ICO Heist

Fin-tech developer Enigma was on the receiving end of a cyber-heist on Monday after hackers took over the company’s website, mailing list and instant messaging platforms. The hack occurred three weeks before Enigma’s planned Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for September 11.

In addition to defacing the company’s website, the hackers pushed a special “pre-sale” ahead of the ICO. While many users realized it was a scam, 1,492 ether tokens – valued at $495,000 – were directed into the hackers’ cryptocurrency wallet by unsuspecting backers.

The irony in all this is that Engima is a cryptography company that prides itself on top-notch security protocols. The company issued a statement that its servers had not been compromised.

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Ethereum Prices on Track for 35% Monthly Drop

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It has been a difficult month for ethereum. The world’s No. 2 digital currency has lost a third of its value over the past 30 days following a series of cyber breaches targeting vulnerable wallets and ICOs.

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Ethereum Struggles to Regain Momentum

Ethereum (ETH/USD) was trading near $197.00 Sunday at 6:30 BST, according to Bitfinex. That represents a decline of around 5%. At current values, ethereum’s market cap was $18.4 billion.

The ETH/USD exchange rate has struggled throughout July, with prices briefly falling below $160.00. The decline, which amounted to a 60-day low, lured bargain-hunters back into the market. After surging back toward $250.00, the ETH/USD has consolidated below the $220-mark, which continues to offer strong resistance. On the opposite side of the spectrum, major support is located at $180.00.

A price recovery may prove elusive in the short-term, with the Relative Strength Index (RSI) and Stochastic indicator signalling weak underlying momentum.

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Despite its recent decline, ethereum’s value has surged more than 2,200% this year.

Cyber Attacks, SEC Weigh on Market

The ethereum network suffered a large-scale cyber breach earlier this month resulting in the loss of tens of millions of dollars. A community of ethical hackers quickly banded together to “rescue” hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tokens.

Blockchain-based trading platform Coindash was also hijacked during an initial coin offering (ICO). The breach exposed Coindash’s ether wallet address, resulting in the loss of $7 million worth of ether.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has also taken an interest in the ethereum-based ICO market. Last week, the regulator concluded that a certain multi-million dollar token sale last year violated securities law. Although ICOs have been compared to crowd-sourcing, the SEC maintained that some tokens were in fact securities.

Analysts say the SEC ruling could impact the future of ICOs, although it remains unclear how the regulator is pursuing this market. The SEC’s July 25 press release cautions investors about ICOs in general.

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