Thanks to radical improvements in the quality of digital cameras in recent years, it’s possible to take crisper, clearer digital photos than ever before. This, combined with the fact that high quality cameras are cheap, and built into the now-ubiquitous smartphone is the first piece of the puzzle.
The second piece is the explosive growth of image-oriented social media like SnapChat and Instagram, which has fostered the “selfie” craze. More and more people are taking pictures of themselves and posting them to various social media outlets than ever before, and the combination of these two factors is what has opened the door.
Thanks to the ultra-high quality of these pictures, hackers can actually zoom in close enough to digitally reproduce your fingerprints. If you have taken a selfie and you’re flashing the “Peace sign” for example, your fingerprints are visible at sufficiently high resolution, and can be copied.
Enterprising hackers are doing exactly that, and armed with a digital copy of your fingerprints, they have everything they need to steal your identity. They could get a driver’s license and “replacement” social security card, then use those things to open credit cards in your name and go on a spending spree at your expense.
They can also use the digital fingerprints to unlock your phone if you’ve got it locked in that manner.
Security researchers have verified that fingerprints can be stolen in this manner from a photo taken as far as nine feet away, which is a truly terrifying thought.
If you make regular use of social media, it might be a good idea to review the pictures you’ve made visible to the public and begin selectively culling or editing them, just in case.