The White House says 5.5 million fingerprint records have been stolen from the Office of Personnel Management.
The White House says 5.5 million fingerprint records have been stolen from the Office of Personnel Management. - 
Listen To The Story
Marketplace

Five and a half million. That’s how many fingerprint records the White House says hackers have stolen from the Office of Personnel Management. Biometrics – fingerprints, iris scans, facial recognition — are supposed to be the more secure future of identification. So what happens when your fingerprints get hacked?

It might not be as scary as it sounds, said Marios Savvides, director of Carnegie Mellon's CyLab's Biometrics Center. He says mere pictures of fingerprints can’t do much.

“It’s not enough just to make the exact same fingerprint. Sensors are now getting smarter,” he said, adding that there is technology that can detect things like veins and reflexes to make it easier for machines to tell whether they're scanning a real finger or a real face. 

Cameron Camp, a security researcher with ESET, an IT security company, agrees that biometrics can improve security, especially when combined with a password. But even that doesn’t guarantee protection. Say a bad app gets onto your smart phone.

“The app itself can hack the smart phone and get your biometrics off of there. It can make fake payments that are supposedly very trustworthy,” he said. 

Which leaves developers of new technology stuck with an old problem: how to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.