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Fingerprint Identity Theft: How To Keep Devices Secure

What Can Scammers Do if They Steal Your Fingerprints?

We’ve all heard that our fingerprints are unique. No two people have the same pattern. So, it only makes sense that we would use them to secure our most sensitive accounts, devices, and information.

When you use your fingerprint to unlock your phone, you’re using what’s called biometric security. Unlike a password that can be hacked, given up in a phishing scam, or stolen and leaked to the Dark Web, biometric information is much harder to steal.

As far as types of identity theft go, fingerprint hacking is difficult to pull off. But it’s not impossible.

Hackers have found ways to bypass biometric authentication and even steal your fingerprints.

Once they do, they’re able to access your most sensitive and vulnerable information. This includes digital wallets and bank accounts, as well as your SSN, date of birth, and other data that can be used for identity fraud.  

In this guide, we’ll cover how hackers steal fingerprints, what can happen if they’re stolen, and how you can keep your devices and accounts secure and safe.

Is Your Fingerprint Really More Secure Than a Password?

Fingerprint ID uses a fingerprint scanner to verify your print against the fingerprint image stored on file. It’s sort of like a key in a lock. If the key you put in doesn’t match the shape of the lock, it won’t open. 

But unlike a key, your fingerprint is physically attached to your body. So you can’t accidentally lose it or have it stolen. Hackers can’t trick you into giving them up as easily as they can with passwords and other personally identifiable information (PII). 


Here are a few other reasons why a fingerprint is a secure way to safeguard your accounts and devices:

  • Your fingerprints are non-transferable. You can’t share your prints with friends, family, or work colleagues. This also means that you, and only you, are responsible for maintaining the security of your accounts.
  • Fingerprints are a single “code” for all your accounts. Many people don’t want to memorize long, complicated passwords, so they reuse the same one for all accounts. But this means if one account gets hacked, all your accounts are at risk. Your fingerprint is a single “code” that can be used across devices and accounts.
  • Fingerprint identification is an almost foolproof secondary identification method. If you enable fingerprint ID as part of two-factor authentication (2FA), it makes your accounts especially secure. Hackers need both a password and your fingerprint in order to gain access. 
  • Fingerprint authentication is simple. You’re more likely to use a security measure that’s easy to use. Only 56% of parents use passcodes to lock their mobile devices; 41% have passcodes on their children’s phones [*]. 

Fingerprints aren’t the only physical attribute you can use for biometric identification. You can also use facial recognition, iris scans, and in some cases, physical behaviors — like how you move or talk.

But the uniqueness of biometric technology is also its downfall. You can always update a hacked password. But if someone steals your fingerprints, they’re potentially compromised forever.

How Do Fingerprints Get Hacked?

No form of biometric authentication is entirely secure. If a hacker wants to steal your fingerprints, they have methods of getting them.

As long as a hacker has direct access to your fingerprints (either in person or from a data breach) and the right tools, they can duplicate your prints.

The good news is that the trouble of stealing your fingerprint data makes them a lower-value target than other sensitive data like your health care information, Social Security numbers, or bank account password.

It’s more likely that a hacker wants to target a specific individual to fulfill a very specific goal. For example, they may want to gain access to a specific device or building that uses a fingerprint scanner as a security measure.

So how do hackers “steal” your fingerprints? Here are the three methods they can use (and how to protect yourself):

1. “Spoofing” prints with a synthetic fingerprint

If a hacker has access to your fingerprint data they can potentially create a copy and “spoof” biometric security systems. 

The Kraken Security Labs team demonstrated how hackers can use a fingerprint photo to create a synthetic print. The only requirements for this technique are access to Photoshop, acetate paper, a laser printer, and wood glue. The kicker is that the team proved it only takes $5 to do this. 

What’s more, a majority of fingerprint readers only read partial prints. This is why smartphones take multiple photos when you first enable fingerprint verification. So, a hacker doesn’t need a perfect, complete print to hack a fingerprint reader. A partial fingerprint will often do the trick.

How to protect yourself: Unless you wear gloves constantly, it’s pretty much impossible not to leave fingerprints out in the world. But the good news is that this technique is time-consuming and often difficult to replicate. 

The hacker needs direct access to your prints, they can only target one individual at a time, and the prints have to be “clean” (i.e., undistorted).


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