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Biometric device taught to fight fraud better

Biometric security systems that rely on fingerprint recognition have always had an easily exploited weakness in that they can be fooled by anything bearing a copy of the expected fingerprint. Now, a new development from Japan eliminates that flaw.

NTT's breakthrough allows fingerprint sensors to determine whether or not they are in contact with a real human finger by passing electricity across two electrodes [Subscription link].

Plastic fingers rejected

The conductivity of a flesh and blood digit is easily recognised and can be distinguished from a plastic copy that contains the same fingerprint pattern.

NTT plans to add the relatively simple technology to its sensors with a view to regaining some of the market share lost to finger- and palm-vein readers over the last couple of years.

In Japan, many bank ATMs use a biometric scanner to verify account holders' identity, which goes a long way to creating a market that will be worth around ¥40 billion (£200 million) there in 2010.