But having stripped the car [a $75,000 Mercedes], the thieves became frustrated when they wanted to restart it. They found they again could not bypass the immobiliser, which needs the owner's fingerprint to disarm it.
They stripped Mr Kumaran naked and left him by the side of the road - but not before cutting off the end of his index finger with a machete.
From the first time I heard of biometric security devices, I always thought of scenes like that for movies. The secret lab requires an iris scan for entry. One of the scientists who works there is kidnapped by terrorists, and in the next scene you see them sneak up to the door - and then pull the scientist's eyeball out and press it up to the scanner to get in.
In real life, I don't know if the iris gag would work, because I don't know how removing the eye from its blood supply would alter the iris's characteristics. (Also, some iris scanners look for pupil dilation.) But obviously, chopping off a digit works. And fingerprints are the least secure technology that I can think of to ward off determined, tech-capable thieves.
Already, ordinary inkjet printers can be modified to produce 3-D materials. Specialized printers can produce a copy of almost any object you can think of. It would be simple to print out plastic material with someone else's fingerprint on it - hell, if you could get an image of the whole hand, you could create a glove that makes your hand look like theirs. No scanner could stop you.
And if you could make the material thin enough and porous enough that your skin oil came through, or even if you just coated it in a reasonable substitute, then voila! Instant fingerprints. Think of the possibilities of framing people and faking evidence - everybody assumes fingerprints are conclusive proof, like an eyewitness - and we know how reliable they are.
Isn't technology wonderful?
(Via Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing.)