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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Attendance in Govt Offices - bio metrics and faking finger prints !!

Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen,  is a German politician who has been the Minister of Defence since 2013, and is the first woman in German history to hold that office. A physician by trade, she previously also served as the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs.  Ms Ursula is tipped as a possible future successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel and she regularly polls among the most popular politicians in Germany.

In good olden days, in sophisticated Offices, the Security Guard would open the entry gate, wishing the employee.  The regular scene in movies was – all employees getting up to greet the boss, who would walk fast not paying much attention to them !  then came swipe cards restricting entry only to authorised people – soon to replaced by biometric attendance.  It is not Office alone, it could be the use of equipments including mobile and laptops too.  Remember, the voice recognition to that famed laptop of Rajnikant  in ‘Sivaji the Boss’.  Biometrics refers to metrics related to human characteristics used to identify individuals in groups that are under surveillance. Now in many Offices, entry, exit and movement at gates is by biometric – one places the finger on the equipment installed at the gate, upon reading and authenticating, the door would open and allow the person’s entry or exit. Taking a cue, the Govt is launching a new initiative which will allow anyone to track the employee attendance numbers in government organisations. A new Biometric Attendance System (BAS) has been launched for government employees which will make use of the UIDAI’s Aadhar card and the attendance data visible on the portal attendance.gov.in 

Crime novels are always interesting ….the hero (a Police Officer or Lawyer) would unravel the mysteries logically reasoning out how they got the offender….. in good olden days, in many stories, it used to be the shirt of the offender  at the scene of the crime; in some the label of the tailor would provide vital clues.  In ‘Nylan Kayiru’ of Sujatha published in Kumudam in 1968 – the Investigating Officer would re-enact, by reaching the probable place from where the criminal would have come and murdered by working on probability of the distance, time taken to travel, the building from which he could have walked calculating the availability of taxis and more …..

As one would have seen in Cinemas [and in some real crime scenes], Police would take out the ‘fingerprints’ at the scene of offence, which would provide vital clues.  A fingerprint in its narrow sense is an impression left by the friction ridges of a human finger. The recovery of fingerprints from a crime scene is an important method of forensic science. Fingerprints are easily deposited on suitable surfaces (such as glass or metal or polished stone) by the natural secretions of sweat from the eccrine glands that are present in epidermal ridges. Deliberate impressions of fingerprints may be formed by ink or other substances transferred from the peaks of friction ridges on the skin to a relatively smooth surface such as a fingerprint card. Human fingerprints are detailed, unique, difficult to alter, and durable over the life of an individual making them suitable as long-term markers of human identity and may be employed by police or other authorities to identify individuals who wish to conceal their identity, or to identify people are incapacitated or deceased and thus unable to identify themselves, as in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

Sometime back there was news of University of California scientists having developed  a novel method for detecting fingerprints based on the chemical elements present in fingerprint residue. Known as micro-X-ray fluorescence, or MXRF, the technique has the potential to help expand the use of fingerprinting as a forensic investigation tool. This news in BBC reports of technology adapted at a very different plane.  According to the news, a member of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) hacker network claims to have cloned a thumbprint of a German politician by using commercial software and images taken at a news conference.

Jan Krissler says he replicated the fingerprint of defence minister Ursula von der Leyen using pictures taken with a "standard photo camera".  Krissler had no physical print from Ms Von der Leyen. Fingerprint biometrics are already considered insecure, experts say. Mr Krissler, also known as Starbug, was speaking at a convention for members of the CCC, a 31-year-old network that claims to be "Europe's largest association" of hackers.  He told the audience he had obtained a close-up of a photo of Ms von der Leyen's thumb and had also used other pictures taken at different angles during a press event that the minister had spoken at in October.

"Biometrics that rely on static information like face recognition or fingerprints - it's not trivial to forge them but most people have accepted that they are not a great form of security because they can be faked," says cyber security expert Prof Alan Woodward from Surrey University. "People are starting to look for things where the biometric is alive - vein recognition in fingers, gait [body motion] analysis - they are also biometrics but they are chosen because the person has to be in possession of them and exhibiting them in real life."  In September this year Barclays bank introduced finger vein recognition for business customers, and the technique is also used at cash machines in Japan and Poland.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

30th Dec 2014.

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