Last week, a slew of writers concerned with your selfie safety declared that the act of throwing a peace sign could be all hackers need to steal your fingerprints. Many of the stories cited a study from Japan’s National Institute of Informatics (NII), which claimed that "cyber thieves can lift your fingerprints from a photo in order to access your biometrically protected data." In other words, some crafty cyber thieves could get into your phone via tech like Apple's Touch ID and access all of your info. The truth is, you've got very little to worry about, because it's not only highly unlikely that this actually happens, it's pretty tough for hackers to get your fingerprint from a selfie. According to Jason Chaikin, president of Vkansee, a biometric verification company that produces hi-res fingerprint sensors for mobile devices, "There's no more vulnerability now than there was a year or two years ago. I'm guessing that the recent hype is because one organization wants to promote a solution to a nonproblem." Debunking website Snopes agreed, stating, "No evidence was presented to demonstrate that hackers are currently using photographs to duplicate fingerprints in order to commit crimes or steal identities." In fact, Snopes found that NII was marketing a clear film that would cover fingertips and prevent them from being photographed clearly, so it was all a thinly veiled marketing scheme.
Cosmopolitan and Teen Vogue both reported that researchers claimed "just by casually making a peace sign in front of a camera, fingerprints can become widely available," adding, "fingerprints could easily be recreated if the lighting was good, and the fingers were properly positioned." Chaikin says that we can all rest easy, because even though it is technically possible, it's really really hard. "To get finger ridges is really difficult," he explains. "9 out of 10 times, the focal point will be on your face and then forget it, your fingers will just look like blurs." According to Mashable, it would also require "molds and models [...] to recreate the actual thumbprint once they're digitally lifted." Basically, we're pretty far off from that scene in Charlie's Angels where Drew Barrymore and Co. create faux fingertips to get through a security door. So fear not, you can totally snap those peace-sign selfies with abandon. Instead of worrying about cybercriminals snagging your info via selfie, Chaikin offers some real-life tips that you can use if you're concerned: "Don't join free wi-fi networks or unknown wi-fi networks. People can intercept what your sending and capture photos of your screen. An anti-virus software can help protect you more. And don't open emails and click on attachments that you're not familiar with."