Samsung used the new Qualcomm ultrasonic fingerprint sensor in the Galaxy S10, touting higher security than a standard optical fingerprint sensor. Rather than using an image taken through the display, it uses ultrasonic waves to map the ridges of your fingers for better accuracy and security.
This move has come with some controversy, with people complaining of read errors and less than ideal access to the device with this new sensor tech. But it seems the claims of higher security might not even be all that impressive.
A reddit user by the name of /u/darkshark9 has managed to crack the fingerprint sensor with nothing more than a smartphone camera and a 3D printer. He took a photo of his fingerprint on a wine glass using a smartphone camera, did some editing to make it clearer, converted it into a 3D model and sent it to his relatively cheap AnyCubic 3D printer. The resulting sheet of resin is able to unlock his Galaxy S10 fairly reliably, all with a simple 13 minute print.
The implications go deeper than a user doing this for himself. A photo of your fingerprint can be taken from quite a distance with a DSLR and a zoom lens, and your fingerprints are everywhere and hardly private. If someone wanted to get into your phone, this quick and easy method is already relatively cheap and may become more common with time.
But security issues with fingerprint sensors aren’t exactly new. Biometrics present a problem: You can’t change your fingerprint, or your iris, or any such feature. Once it’s compromised, that’s it. Nothing is more secure than a proper PIN or alphabetical password.
Many different fingerprint sensors have been easily compromised, so the Galaxy S10’s fingerprint sensor isn’t any less secure than others. This is no bash on Samsung. However, the ease of this process is quite scary.
Unless you’re someone important, you likely have nothing to worry about. The likelihood of someone going through this to steal information from the average person is minuscule, and a fingerprint is plenty secure to keep out prying eyes. This shouldn’t concern the average person. However, the process and results are incredibly interesting. Check out the full album and explanation here.