Selfies Reveal Your PIN

A German researcher known as Starbug has demonstrated that it is possible to extract a smartphone PIN code from a selfie image.

The German researcher Jan Krissler, aka Starbug, has demonstrated that it is possible to extract everyone’s smartphone PIN code from any selfie image … and much more!

Jan Krissler is a popular hacker, he was known because he hacked the Apple’s TouchID and recreated the Germany’s Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen’s thumbprint from a high-resolution image that he combined with other photographs to compose the final print.

Starbug and his colleagues have extracted the reflection of smartphone screens in the eye whites of “selfie” subjects, then they used an ultra-high resolution image techniques to extract the user’s PIN code.

Starbug presented his discovery at the Biometrics 2015 conference in London, the experts also revealed a method to take from long distance the iris images by using a high-resolution camera and recreate them using a common laser printer.

Below the image of the slide “corneal key logger” he presented.

corneal key logging selfie PIN extract biometrics

The expert showed how to use this technique to retrieve the German chancellor Angela Merkel’s iris data by using a photo taken at a press conference. He confirmed that it is possible to extract the iris data also working on a high-res image from a magazine. Once extracted the iris data, the image could be printed onto a contact lens and it is possible to use it to bypass biometric authentication systems.

Starbug confirmed that fingerprint and facial technology still suffer this kind of issues despite they represent “90% of the biometrics market value.”

“Everything is spoofable,” Starbug declared.

The expert was able to obtain the astonishing result with a digital SLR camera equipped with a 200ml lens, he explained that it is possible to take fingerprints that can be replicated from a distance as happened in the case of the German Defense Minister’s thumbprint.

When dealing with fingerprints, there are similar risks and the images taken from a distance could be used to build an ultra-thin dummy fingerprints that can be used to defeat this kind of biometric technology

“I can fool every fingerprint sensor in two hours”, claimed the researcher.

Speaking about facial recognition, Starbug explained that a simple photo of the users face is enough to bypass authentication systems.

Here “liveness detection is very important”, he said.

Starbug also outlined a method to bypass liveness detection that demands that makes users blink, and he closed his presentation defeating a 3D facial recognition by using a papier mache mask.

Starbug demonstrated that biometrics must be still improved, but he is sure that this is the future of the authentication.

Just as a curiosity, he admitted using Apple TouchID every day.


Pierluigi Paganini is Chief Information Security Officer at Bit4Id, firm leader in identity management, member of the ENISA (European Union Agency for Network and Information Security)Treat Landscape Stakeholder Group, he is also a Security Evangelist, Security Analyst and Freelance Writer. Editor-in-Chief at “Cyber Defense Magazine”, Pierluigi is a cyber security expert with over 20 years experience in the field, he is Certified Ethical Hacker at EC Council in London. The passion for writing and a strong belief that security is founded on sharing and awareness led Pierluigi to find the security blog “Security Affairs” recently named a Top National Security Resource for US. Pierluigi is a member of the “The Hacker News” team and he is a writer for some major publications in the field such as Cyber War Zone, ICTTF, Infosec Island, Infosec Institute, The Hacker News Magazine and for many other Security magazines. Author of the Books “The Deep Dark Web” and “Digital Virtual Currency and Bitcoin”.


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