News Article

Are peace sign selfies putting you in danger of cybercrime?

Published 10 February 2017 by

Until a few years ago, the term 'selfie' was relatively unknown. But nowadays, you can't scroll through your newsfeed on Facebook or Twitter without coming across a selfie or two.

While most people are aware of the dangers of posting sensitive or personal information on social media, sharing selfies is something that many of us wouldn't think twice about. But new research might change this.

Research by Japan's National Institute of Informatics (NII) revealed that selfies where you're holding your fingers up in a peace sign could pose a security threat, as fraudsters can recreate your finger prints. We explore how true this is.

Strike a pose

Posing with a peace sign is something that you see celebrities do all the time and is a constant feature on a lot of Instagram pages.

However, researchers at NII have found that it's possible to copy the fingerprints from photos taken up to three metres away – providing that the picture is clear and has good lighting. Professors say the quality of cameras in smartphones and tablets mean that someone could take fingerprint data from a selfie.

The Japanese team has created a transparent titanium oxide film that you can apply to fingertips to cover them in photos. But it might be simpler to just not show your fingertips in photos.  

What can fraudsters do with a fingerprint?

You might be wondering what a scammer can do with your fingerprint data. However, if they can recreate this information they might be able to access phones, computers and tablets.

Apple uses fingerprint recognition to unlock certain phones and even authorise purchases on iTunes store. And while it might sound farfetched, if a fraudster gets into your phone, they'll be able to find out personal information that could help them access your accounts and steal your money.

Fraudsters don't just need your fingerprint data to commit identity fraud – find out what a scammer can do with only your address and phone number.

Should I never take a selfie again?

We're not saying that you should completely avoid selfies altogether – just be careful about what you share in one.

Avoid taking a photo that clearly shows your fingerprints and be cautious about what you leave in the background. Don’t leave your bank card, bank statements or other sensitive information in shot so that someone can see it by zooming in. You should be careful about who can see your selfies as well – find out how to restrict the information that you give out on social media.

And taking a selfie could also have an impact on your insurance policy. Documenting your holiday in Spain could amuse your Facebook friends, but will highlight the fact that you're currently not at home. Your insurer might refuse to pay out if burglars break into your home as a result of this over sharing – leaving you to fork out for the loss or damage.

That’s not all – taking a dangerous selfie could impact your travel insurance.

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