A biometrics system used to secure more than 1.5 million locations around the world – including banks, police forces, and defence companies in the United States, UK, India, Japan, and the UAE – has suffered a major data breach, exposing a huge number of records.

South Korean firm Suprema runs the web-based biometric access platform BioStar 2, but left the fingerprints and facial recognition data of more than one million people exposed on a publicly accessible database.

Privacy researchers Noam Rotem and Ran Locar discovered a total of 27.8 million records totalling 23 gigabytes of data, including usernames and passwords stored in plaintext.

Rotem told The Guardian that having discovered the plaintext passwords of BioStar 2 administrator accounts he and Locar were granted a worrying amount of power:

“We were able to find plain-text passwords of administrator accounts. The access allows first of all seeing millions of users are using this system to access different locations and see in real time which user enters which facility or which room in each facility, even. We [were] able to change data and add new users.”

The researchers claimed they were able to access data from co-working locations in Indonesia and the United States, a UK-based medicine supplier, a gymnasium chain in India and Sri Lanka, and a Finnish car park space developer, amongst others.

Perhaps most worryingly of all, however, was that it was possible to access more than one million users’ unencrypted fingerprints and facial biometric records (rather than hashed versions that cannot be reverse-engineered.)

The reason why a data breach involving biometric data is worse than one containing just passwords is that you can change your password or PIN code. Your fingerprints? Your face? You’re stuck with them for life. Good luck changing them every time (Read more...)