Hackers Can Now Steal Your Fingerprints From High-Quality Images You Post Online

Photos that show your hands could reveal your identity to hackers. Kevin Dooley [CC by 2.0]/Flickr

As if you didn't already have enough to worry about concerning identity theft, new information recently revealed at an international hackers convention in Germany suggests that your fingerprints can now be stolen from public photos you post online, reports Venture Beat.

The finding was discussed at the 31st annual Chaos Computer Club convention in Hamburg, Germany. The club, Europe’s largest association of hackers, advocates for more transparency in government, freedom of information, and the human right to communication. During this year's talks, a hacker named Jan Krissler (aka "Starbug") showed how he recovered the thumbprint of German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen using press photos found on the Internet.

With cameras now producing higher-quality images, more details can be picked out of photos, even when the photos are taken from a distance. This is the first time that fingerprints have been knowingly pulled from public officials simply from press photos, however. Not only can your fingerprints be identified from public photos that show your hands, but they can potentially be stolen by anyone in possession of a simple camera. Krissler also explained how fingerprints can be snatched from a person at public events by simply showing up with a "standard photo camera" and snapping away.

The hacker believes that after his talk, "politicians will presumably wear gloves when talking in public." Given that fingerprint ID is becoming an increasingly common form of electronic security, such as with Apple's Touch ID which is installed in most new iPhones, this finding could be a big blow to an entire industry.

So does this mean you should start removing all the photos that feature your naked hands from Facebook? That would probably be an overreaction. This practice is not likely to be put to widespread use anytime soon — certainly not for scanning random people's public photos for good fingerprint shots, but it is something to keep in mind. As technology continues to improve, so must our security measures.

It might not be the best time to throw all your electronic security eggs into the fingerprint basket, however. If this hack does become a more widespread concern, it won't be long before fingerprint security becomes obsolete.