Optical fingerprint sensors: Q&A with Jason Chaikin of Vkansee

November 13, 2015 - 

Last summer, fingerprint sensor firm Vkansee posted a video demonstration exposing an overwhelming vulnerability of today’s current sensory technology in some of the most popular devices, including Samsung S6 as well as Apple iPad and iPhone 6.

The video showed how easily anyone could breach the fingerprint authentication feature of the devices by producing a fake fingerprint using a mold out of rubberized conductive materials.

Vkansee used the video as an illustration of how its own optical fingerprint sensors can provide a far greater performance, capturing fingerprints at a resolution of 2000 dpi.

The 1.5mm thin optical sensors offer four times the resolution and a 300% greater efficiency rate over current iOS and Samsung fingerprint sensors.

In an interview with BiometetricUpdate.com, Vkansee president Jason Chaikin discussed the company’s powerful new optical fingerprint sensors, the spoofing method that successfully hacked the capacitive fingerprint sensors embedded in Apple and Samsung devices, and the future of fingerprint recognition in the biometrics market.

How are Vkansee fingerprint sensors 300% more efficient than Apple and Samsung embedded devices?

Jason Chaikin: Capacitive fingerprint sensors scan at 500-600 dpi, but our innovation is being able to take optical fingerprint sensors that have been used for several years and miniaturize them by using patented pinhole imaging technology. Because of that, they’re able to capture at 2000 dpi. With that resolution we’re able to see deeper into the details of the fingerprints. Not just the pattern and minutiae — level one and level two — but level 3, where you you can tell the rich details and textures. We use micro features that are beneficial to identify someone, especially when you have something smaller like a mobile device.

Vkansee recently demonstrated in a video how easily it is to hack into a Samsung S6 and iPhone 6. Can you describe this process?

Since all these capacitive sensors are only capturing at 500 dpi, it means that mold created from the fingerprint and taking a rubberized conductive material inside that mold and letting it dry, allows you to penetrate it very easily. And there’s a lot of press about it, for instance, the Chaos Computer Club — a hacktivist group out of Germany — were the first guys to hack the iPhone 5s when it came out in 2013. Later on, they came out with another penetration spoof where they took the fingerprint of the German Minister of Defense, and they got it from a latent photograph from the web. They just zoomed in on that photograph, got a fingerprint, and created a mold. It became a very public problem that they were able to penetrate the fingerprint sensor just from a latent print off the internet.

And how does Vkansee’s fingerprint technology prevent these kinds of spoofing attacks?

For us, it’s quite difficult to do that. With 2000 dpi you can’t really maintain the third level details in a mold. You can definitely get the first and second level when you put your finger in wax or something like this. But when you try to get the textures and rich details of a level three, it becomes a whole other matter. Our ability to be resistance to fake fingerprint attacks are far greater just because of the resolution.

Where do you see the future of biometrics industry, as a whole, heading?

Having been in the biometrics industry for almost 20 years, I’m very excited. Finally, we’re moving from niche markets to the mainstream market. The questions that we’re getting from the large OEM’s are not, “Does it work” or “What’s your false reject rate?” Those questions are there, but they’re not challenging you on that. They’re asking you more private questions. They’re asking, “How fast do you work” and “Can you make so many million per month?” So it’s moving from a niche technology to a widely-accepted technology. I think it’s going to go beyond.

Fingerprint recognition certainly seems to have a leg up on other biometric modalities. Why do you think that is?

Right now, fingerprinting is the most prevalent because it’s the most reliable, whether you’re inside or outside, it works almost all the time, where as other biometrics like face, voice and iris still need time for R&D to perfect the capture. The algorithms behind all those other modalities are really good, but that ability to capture that image or biometric sample is still not to the level of fingerprinting. So until those other biometric modalities began to have the same ease of use associated with fingerprinting, in all conditions, then customers will have more choices.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.