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IARPA launching two programs aimed at making fingerprints more reliable biometrics


Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), the intelligence community’s research arm, will soon launch two programs designed to detect fake fingerprints and develop devices to collect fingerprint data without the aid of a human operator, according to a report by GCN.

The Odin program, which is scheduled to begin with four prime developers in early March, will develop detection technologies that can spot presentation attacks on biometric devices that attempt to spoof physical biometric samples, said Chris Boehnen, senior program manager at IARPA.

Boehnen said that prosthetic fingers, fake fingerprints made with wood glue and other tactics can dupe current fingerprint sensors.

These spoofing techniques aimed at tricking biometric sensors will become more prevalent as criminals increasingly adapt to the high-tech law enforcement toolkit, Boehnen said.

“The bad guys are intent on beating our [biometric] systems,” he said. “Biometrics security now is like internet security was back in the late ‘90s” when not many people thought to use firewalls to protect their computers.

IARPA is interested in funding research into detection technology because it plays a vital role in helping federal agencies screen terrorists who are attempting to evade detection or fraudulently gain access to other locations, Boehnen said.

Aside from being useful to the federal government, the technology can also be deployed to combat fraud in the civilian world, he said.

IARPA will also launch N2N, a $100,000 prize challenge for fingerprint vendors who have been developing advanced fingerprint capabilities.

N2N stands for “Nail-to-Nail” fingerprints, which offer more details than a typical surface “slap” fingerprint.

This additional detail can be used to identify “latent” or partial fingerprints at crime scenes as well as for other applications, Boehnen said.

N2N could also tap into contactless fingerprinting technology. However, since an expert is required to obtain N2N fingerprints, wholesale collection can be a significant challenge.

Although contactless and nail-to-nail fingerprinting technologies are being rapidly developed in the commercial world, they lack certification for government use.

N2N provides a forum in which the IARPA can see if the technologies work without having to devote a significant amount of federal research and development money to the cause.

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