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Fingering frauds

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Silicon Valley isn’t the only place producing cutting-edge solutions.

Apple Inc. last month unveiled its latest iPhone, the 5S. The release was greeted with the typical adulation of longtime users of the technology giant’s products, giving it an edge over rival Samsung.

The iPhone 5S uses biometric technology, which scans and reads fingerprints to unlock the phone and enable its usage. Biometric technology has been used for years as an alternative to providing passwords in accessing confidential records.

In addition to fingerprints, biometric technology can identify other personal characteristics found in a person’s voice or their eyes. Passwords can be guessed or stolen, but these biological markers are unique to individuals.

People determined to steal sensitive information, however, have found ways around these safeguards. While fingerprints cannot be replicated from scratch, they can be copied.

And this is just what some hackers from Germany did to an iPhone 5S. They lifted a fingerprint from the owner and used it to unlock the device.

This poses a problem for iPhone 5S owners in more ways than one. Hackers don’t merely want to unlock a cellphone so they can make calls at no cost to them. The biometric technology also enables people to use their phones for other services requiring passwords such as banking.

Naturally, a fix is required to correct this problem. And a company begun by a cyber-security expert at Clarkson University in Potsdam has marketed a solution.

Stephanie Schuckers started NexID Biometrics in Potsdam in 2005 with her husband, Michael E., and electrical engineer Bojan Cukic. She is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Clarkson.

After the iPhone 5S was introduced with its fingerprint security, NexID Biometrics saw an increase in inquiries in what it does. And what it does is provide software that can detect when a print is coming from a live finger and when it’s coming from fraudulent means.

“Dr. Stephanie Schuckers is one of America’s top experts in biometric computer security — the formula for knowing exactly who you are when it comes to proving and protecting electronic identity,” according to a profile on Clarkson’s website. “More and more of the cyber world is secured by biometric verifiers: your fingerprint, your voice or the iris of your eye. Hackers work to beat the system; Dr. Schuckers and her researchers work to beat the hackers.”

Mark J. Cornett, NexID’s chief operating officer, said he believes the company may triple the size of its clientele within the next few months.

This is a wonderful example of the technological innovation occurring on colleges and universities all across the country that’s being converted for practical uses. The creativity unleashed through the kind of research conducted for years in academia finds its fulfillment when it can solve problems on a grand scale.

And America’s free market system is one of the best ways to see these technological developments put to their greatest potential. That is exactly what Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has proposed exploiting across the state with his START-UP NY program, which will provide tax incentives to business taking advantage of New York’s public and private university knowledge base.

Continued research like this will lead to more innovation and greater economic growth. Here is how a community institution like Clarkson University has once again proven itself to be a tremendous national and community asset.

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