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Communications Security

Toshiba Puts Fingerprint Readers on Cell Phones 163 163

An anonymous reader writes "As if it wasn't enough to have fingerprint scanners on laptops, Toshiba has put them on two of its latest smart phones. The Toshiba G500 and G900 feature fingerprint scanners on the back of the handsets, allowing users to access their phone by simply sliding their finger over the scanner. This is supposed to provide a better level of security than using a code of some sort. Of course it also means that someone is more likely to chop your hand off if they desperately want your data."
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Toshiba Puts Fingerprint Readers on Cell Phones

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  • Nothing new! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by KNicolson (147698) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:41AM (#18021360) Homepage

    My wife's phone from three years ago had one. It also incorporated a dog game/simulator, and one of the ways to make the dog happy was to get your fingerprint swiped in order to pet the dog.

    Now, what is new and interesting is the 813SH for Biz [gearfuse.com] which has a remote control data destruct option, or even the slightly older P903i which comes with a wireless DES dongle [msn.com] that locks the phone once it gets out of range.

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:07AM (#18021434) Homepage Journal
    I asked this at a research conference once(it was about mobile phone security as well) and the researcher, who had drawn out all these equations showing how wonderful the fingerprint security was couldn't answer me. For a device like a mobile phone that tends to get tossed around and abused a lot, I wouldn't imagine that the scanner breaking would be all that rare of an occurence. However, the researcher just said that if the fingerprint scanning device was broken, then you could use a password instead, of course this was after he spent the first 5 minutes of his presentation telling us how passwords were insecure. Assuming that passwords are insecure, wouldn't the first thing an attacker does when getting the phone be to smash the fingerprint scanner? Then what was the point?
  • by cheros (223479) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:44AM (#18021624)
    Groan. Here we go again..

    I think Toshiba is breaking new ground with this phone and its release is likely to start a trend.

    I most certainly hope not, for reasons stated below.

    The need for security is actually higher for a mobile handset than for a laptop, as they get lost far more often.

    The need for protecting an asset has little to do with the frequency or potential for loss, more with the information that would be lost or compromised (different facets with different ratings) and that is a very personal assessment. The Paris Hilton hack was very dangerous because her Sidekick contained personal numbers for people that have to fight hard as it is to have some sort of private life and security, but a Mr Average phone is not going to hold data of sufficient value to offer up irreplacable body parts for. You can replace a phone, you can replace numbers but you can't replace a cut off finger (given the likely conditions under which the amputation would occur you can give up any hope on re-attachment as well).

    And despite the various comments about cutting off fingers and lifting fingerprints, have we seen much of that in the laptop world? No. Will it happen one day? Maybe.

    In laptop world the fingerprint scanner is (a) a relative new device and (b) not working so well, so thankfully most people don't use it. Also, most laptops are removed without the users' knowledge because it's often important to have some time before the theft is discovered (in case of targeted theft) and (using Windows) breaking into the unencrypted device is just a matter of booting up from a CD.

    Now imagine a world where biometrics are the ONLY way to gain access - at that point you will lose the option to give in under threat and provide a password - your finger WILL be used, with or without you inconveniently attached to it. It can get even worse: with passwords it requires on your collaboration so there's an interest in keeping you alive. With biometrics-only devices an assailant has the wonderful option of killing you first, then using your chopped off digit in the comfort of his own place with a nice cold beer. That's quite a handy option for them because it stops you from becoming a risk later.

    So, with implementing biometrics I would ask the Clint Eastwood question: "Do you feel lucky?".

  • Re:Better security? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jrumney (197329) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:47AM (#18021642) Homepage

    When biometric technology was new, it was expensive, and the only customers were military and other high security installations who are always looking for ways to increase the perception of security, if not the actual security. So technology to measure pulse, body temperature etc was built into the scanners from an early stage, to counter the sci-fi movie ideas of cutting off fingers, ripping out eyeballs etc to get around the biometric security.

    More recently though, there has been a drive to cut costs and minaturize the scanners so they can be included in laptops and phones. I wouldn't be surprised if these scanners were susceptible to some of these basic attacks, perhaps even allowing access to 2D reproductions of a fingerprint, which is the most likely exploit to be tried.

  • What if ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by toygar.ozturk (1058208) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:04AM (#18021720)
    my hands are dirty?

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