Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Intelligent Machines

Changeable Fingerprint

If someone steals your fingerprint, “cancelable biometrics” software from IBM can issue a new one.

Your fingerprints are yours and yours alone, and that makes them a useful tool for confirming the identity of people doing things like conducting secure banking transactions or passing through corporate security checkpoints.

Trouble is, it’s theoretically possible for a hacker to break into the software of, say, an employer, steal a copy of your stored fingerprint, and later use it to gain entrance.

So researchers at IBM have come up with “cancelable biometrics”: if someone steals your fingerprint, you’re just issued a new one, like a replacement credit card number.

This story is part of our December 2005/January 2006 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

The IBM algorithm takes biometric data and runs it through one of an infinite number of “transform” programs. The features of a fingerprint, for example, might get squeezed or twisted. A bank could take a fingerprint scan when it enrolls a customer, run the print through the algorithm, and then use only the transformed biometric data for future verification.

If that data is stolen, the bank simply cancels the transformed biometric and issues a new transformation. And since different transformations can be used in different contexts – one at a bank, one at an employer – cross-matching becomes nearly impossible, protecting the privacy of the user.

Finally, the software makes sure that the original image can’t be reconstituted from the transformed versions. IBM hopes to offer the software package as a commercial product within three years.

Cut off? Read unlimited articles today.

Become an Insider
Already an Insider? Log in.
More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.