The process, say the researchers, is yet another step toward assessing the viability of MasterPrints against real devices, which the researchers have yet to test. In addition, because these images replicate the quality of fingerprint images stored in fingerprint-accessible systems, they could potentially be used to launch a brute force attack against a secure cache of these images.
"Fingerprint-based authentication is still a strong way to protect a device or a system, but at this point, most systems don't verify whether a fingerprint or other biometric is coming from a real person or a replica," says doctoral student Philip Bontrager, lead author of a paper on the study. "These experiments demonstrate the need for multi-factor authentication and should be a wake-up call for device manufacturers about the potential for artificial fingerprint attacks."
The research has applications in fields beyond security, say the researchers. For example, the "Latent Variable Evolution" method used in to generate the synthetic fingerprints can also be used to make designs in other industries - notably game development. The technique has already been used to generate new levels in popular video games.