Masterprints: synthetic fingerprints that unlock up to 65% of phones (in theory)

Originally published at:


oops. guess I gotta get some new fingers now. oh wait i can’t.

Pro tip: The fingerprint scan will register any unique pattern on skin. You could use your elbow, the ridges on the first joint beneath your fingertip, the sides of your fingers, a knuckle, your nose, etc.

As a test, I let my daughter use my floppy hand to try an unlock my phone, and she couldn’t get in. She’s smarter than most border agents, too.


Oooh, my chest hair whorl.


Reading the article there’s this line, “The researchers did not test their approach with real phones”. So, this is positing theoretical failings and not actual failings in this particular report. As usual, the headline’s deceptive or just oversimplified.

It is easy enough to test with commodity fingerprint detection hardware or algorithms. The rest of the phone isn’t going to change anything, other than making testing difficult. Also it seems more informative to keep the tests general than to publish that their results apply only to a specific model of phone or several.


“But the attack described is theoretical for now, and has not been validated against real phones, an obvious next step.”

Wake me up when they actually try it, and have actual numbers of successes and not guesses. Until they actually test via experiment, this is not science.

Not saying my vasectomy scar is unique, but I wanna try it anyway.


One way to make those border crossings awkward.

“Sir, I need you to unlock your phone.”


“Yes, Sir, please comply.”

“Excuse me while I whip this out…”


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