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Farpoint Group Technical Note — November 2008

gerprint readers and the associated software and APIs, fingerprint recognition could become, as we noted above, the most common and even standard vehicle for identification, authentication, security, authorization, and access in mobile devices going forward.

Consider just a few examples of the use of fingerprint sensors in mobile applications, as follows (see Figure 1):

  • Device access – The most obvious application for fingerprint recognition in a mobile device is to authenticate the user and consequently allow access to the device itself. “Obvious”, however, might not be the right description of this application, as most peo- ple do not lock their handsets when not in use. A stolen or lost handset can, sadly, thus become an invitation to unauthorized usage charges as well as unauthorized access to potentially sensitive information stored on the device. It has been widely reported that tens of thousands of cell phones and other handhelds devices are left in the back of taxis in just the city of Chicago every year. Farpoint Group, then, always recommends that all mobile computing and communications devices be secured so that only an authorized user has access. But such authorization on a handset, for example, is often limited to a personal identification number (PIN) code, which is rarely used due to the inherent in- convenience here, and which is often easily compromised. Using a fingerprint-secured device thus increases the likelihood that the user will actually lock the device (or that it will automatically lock with subsequent simple unlocking) and makes it very difficult for the unauthorized to gain access.


Local applications



and data




Server-based Applications and Data

Figure 1: Fingerprint recognition can be used to authenticate, encrypt/decrypt, and otherwise unlock access to all elements of the mobile network value chain. Note that various combinations of fingerprints and ordering can be used to implement a wide variety of authentication and access possibilities. Source: Farpoint Group.

Note that Farpoint Group believes that this lack of mobile device security, even while widely publicized, has been and continues to be exploited with untold damage to corpo- rations and individuals. The widespread use of BlackBerrys and other smartphones

Fingerprint Recognition and Mobile Security


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