Police 3-D-Printed A Murder Victim's Finger To Unlock His Phone

Michigan police went to unprecedented measures to access the phone of a murder victim who had also been a crime suspect before getting killed.

Police in Michigan took an investigation — and concerns about privacy — to the next level by 3-D printing a murder victim’s finger to unlock his Samsung Galaxy S6.

The law enforcement agency apparently approached Anil Jain, a professor at Michigan State University, earlier this year to reproduce a murder victim’s fingerprint from a prerecorded scan.

“If we can assist law enforcement that’s certainly a good service we can do,” said Jain, whose interest lies in biometric technology like facial recognition, tattoo matching and fingerprint scanning.

There isn’t much information about how successful they have been in accessing the phone as the investigation is still going on. 

Keeping in mind that the technique is quite similar to one that researchers have used in the past to recreate working fingerprint molds from scanned images, it might just work.

Police techniques for unlocking phones have drawn close scrutiny since the San Bernardino case. In May, Apple changed the way iOS manages fingerprint logins, requiring an additional passcode if the phone has been dormant for eight hours and the code has not been entered in the past six days.

Interestingly, the police found Jain from a video he had uploaded on YouTube, showing how hackers could make a 2-D print of someone’s fingerprint in order to break into their phone.

However, Jain is adament he doesn’t want the technology to be used for any criminal activities.

“We are not in the hacking business, we have been working in biometrics for 25 years,” he said.

Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters, Fabrizio Bensch

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