Counter-Terrorism: Fingertips, Part 2


May 18, 2010:  For over a year now, Japan has been having problems with people defeating its new biometric immigration control system. The first known incident occurred two years ago, when a South Korean women, who had been deported in 2007 for overstaying her visa, slipped back in. She has been barred from returning for five years. She successfully got past the fingerprint system by purchasing a forged passport in South Korea, and getting with it a clear tape to put over her finger. The tape contained a fingerprint of someone who was not in the Japanese database. The tape worked, just as it has been shown working on TV shows and movies for years. The woman was later picked up inside Japan, and police figured out how she had evaded the immigration controls. Since then, police have found eight foreigners who have used this scam.

While Japan has halted over a thousand unwelcome foreigners using the fingerprint system, they are unsure of how many others made it through illegally, using the tape technique. While the biometric system is mainly for keeping out common criminals or those who are, for whatever reason, not welcome, it is also used to keep terrorists out. This won't be the case as long as passport forgers can also get away with the "fingerprint on a tape" trick.

Some biometric systems are designed, in theory, to detect the use of tape. No word yet on whether those systems have been deceived as well. The Japanese have found and arrested one man who was producing the tapes. But there are believed to be several others. Many other nations use fingerprints to screen foreign visitors, and terrorist groups are aware of the tape scam, and the technology is difficult, but not impossible, to obtain and use. The only defense is having security staff glance at fingertips before the visitor places their fingers in the fingerprint reader. Japan has implemented this procedure, but it is still believed that people are getting through by applying the tapes carefully and showing their fingers quickly enough, to a harried inspector, to get away with it.





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