Researchers are using brainwaves to create hacker-resistant computer security


Passwords in and of themselves are generally insecure. Unfortunately, passwords, even those with letters, numbers and symbols, are relatively easily hacked.

To combat this problem, biometrics has been taking the place of insecure passwords. By using fingerprints, facial recognition and retina scans as a way to log into computers, smartphones, and other common devices, those devices are inherently more secure.

Unfortunately, while they’re more secure than passwords, securing devices with biometrics comes with a fatal flaw. If the biometric credentials are compromised in a data breach, there isn’t really a way to reset our identifiers. We can’t just switch up our fingerprints or retinas.

So how can we keep devices secure? The brain may be the answer.

Researchers from the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York and the University of Colorado Denver have been working with collaborators of other institutions to invent a new type of biometric that works to be both tied to a single human being, but that can also be reset if needed.

The way it works is through the brains response to outside stimuli. For instance, when a person looks at a photograph or hears a piece of music, their brain responds in ways that researchers or medical professional can measure with electrical sensors that have been placed on the scalp of the individual.

What was discovered is that every person’s brain responds differently to an external stimulus, so that even if two people look at the same photograph, the readings of their brain activity will be different.

The brain response process is automatic and unconscious, so it’s impossible to control what brain response happens. Every time a person sees a photo of a particular celebrity, their brain reacts the same way – though differently from everyone else’s.

That unique brain response presents an opportunity for a unique combination that can serve as what is being called a “brain password.” Instead of using a physical attribute of a person’s body, like a fingerprint or retina scan does, it uses a mix of the person’s unique biological brain structure and their involuntary memory that determines how it responds to a particular stimulus.

Researchers have found that making a person’s brain password is simple and requires the person to look at a series of pictures while the digital reading of their brain activity is recorded. All the person would have to do in order to have their brain activity recorded is to put on a soft, comfortable hat or padded helmet with electrical sensors inside. Then, they just look at a series of pictures and/or text.

The sensors record the person’s brain waves and voila.

The researchers have confirmed that viewing a group of pictures would evoke brain wave readings that are unique to a particular person and consistent from one login attempt to another.

In order to login, the user simply has to put on the sensor hat and watch the images again. All in all taking about 5 seconds to log in, not much longer than entering a password or typing a PIN into a number keypad, yet considerably more secure.

Of course, as stated above, resetting the brain password is really what makes brain passwords advantageous, as all that is needed is to look at a new set of images.

Brain passwords are endlessly resettable thanks to the vast array of photo combinations that can be made.

As with all passwords, privacy can also be a concern. Thankfully, researchers worked to figure out how to take only the minimum about of readings to ensure reliable results and proper security, without needing so many measurements that a person might feel uncomfortable. In the end, they found that only three sensors would be needed to take the non-invasive brain scan.

The small amount of sensors needed to read or create a brain scan means that the sensors could fit into something as small as a hat and allow for any number of uses. For example, a person wearing smart headwear could easily unlock doors or computers with brain passwords. Another potential use could be to counter against car theft by having the driver put on a smart headwear hat and look at a few images displayed on a dashboard screen.

Either way, this exciting discovery has the potential to advance security innovations across a number of devices. This is definitely one invention to keep an eye out for.

As always, if we can be of help with your network or computer, give us a call here at RHYNO Networks. (855) 749-6648