Your Brain Waves Could Replace Passwords

Researchers at Binghamton University have discovered that, with a bit of training, your computer can identify you based on the way your brain reacts to certain words. This means that instead of a password you could simply listen to a few words and unlock your super secret files.

From the release:

In “Brainprint,” a newly published study in academic journal Neurocomputing, researchers from Binghamton University observed the brain signals of 45 volunteers as they read a list of 75 acronyms, such as FBI and DVD. They recorded the brain’s reaction to each group of letters, focusing on the part of the brain associated with reading and recognizing words, and found that participants’ brains reacted differently to each acronym, enough that a computer system was able to identify each volunteer with 94 percent accuracy. The results suggest that brainwaves could be used by security systems to verify a person’s identity.

In short, you sit down with a brain scanner on and the computer gives you a few words. Depending on your reaction to those words it lets you into the super-secret computer system (or Facebook) or it rejects you. Obviously 94 percent accuracy isn’t ideal but it can be improved. Interestingly, these brainprints are as unique as fingerprints but actually malleable.

“If someone’s fingerprint is stolen, that person can’t just grow a new finger to replace the compromised fingerprint — the fingerprint for that person is compromised forever. Fingerprints are ‘non-cancellable.’ Brainprints, on the other hand, are potentially cancellable. So, in the unlikely event that attackers were actually able to steal a brainprint from an authorized user, the authorized user could then ‘reset’ their brainprint,” said Sarah Laszlo, an assistant professor of psychology and linguistics involved in the project.

Will we be connecting our logins to our brains any time soon? Probably not, but this could be an interesting solution for very high-security systems and/or your Twitter account.