Clarkson University Magazine: Safeguarding Privacy


schuckers1Today, more and more of the electronic world is secured by biometric verifiers,

like a fingerprint, voice or iris. Yet, even biometric security barriers aren’t foolproof. A facsimile fingerprint, for instance, has sometimes allowed hackers to beat the system.

Stephanie Schuckers, associate professor of electrical & computer engineering, is a biometric security specialist whose research focuses on developing computer systems that plug the vulnerabilities in biometric security and protect electronic identity. “Someone can create a fake fingerprint from a real fingerprint and spoof the system. But there are ways you can add additional security measures. We use software to analyze the fingerprint image. Even though it looks like a fingerprint, there are characteristics that allow us to tell the difference between a live print and a fake.”

One difference is sweat. Living fingers perspire, creating moisture patterns that phony fingerprints do not. Schuckers and her research team have made phony fingerprints from dental materials and Play-Doh, and then tested them on fingerprint-ID machines. The machines couldn’t tell the difference. The researchers then created a computer formula to look for tell-tale signs of perspiration and other characteristics of live images. When they added the new formula to the system, fewer than 10 percent of the phony fingerprints were able to fool the machine.

Schuckers and her team are currently working on research to improve iris recognition technology to make it more user friendly and to understand the  impact of contact lens on iris recognition. They are also developing benchmark datasets for the wider research community.

With Schuckers’ expertise in the area, the NSF designated Clarkson the lead site for its Center for Identification Technology Research (CITeR), one of NSF’s Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers.
CITeR advances identification technology by focusing on biometric systems and credibility assessment. The center performs research on emerging technologies, provides interdisciplinary training of scientists and engineers, and facilitates technology transfer to the private and government sectors through its affiliates.

Clarkson’s site focuses on Schuckers’ areas of expertise: biometric vulnerabilities and intelligence. West Virginia University, the center’s founding site, focuses on biometrics and related identification technology and systems. The University of Arizona focuses on credibility assessment systems.

[Top to bottom] Professor Stephanie Schuckers. Schuckers and graduate student David Yambey work with iris scans to develop algorithms to protect biometric identification systems. A fake finger provides a fingerprint that can fool a security machine. In the lab, eyes images are taken to authenticate identity.