BrainPrint : The new unhackable brain scan may some day replace password

Passwords and PINs are outdated these days, as they are difficult to remember, easy to crack, and provide a relatively simple way for other people to get hold of your sensitive data. That’s why technology firms and scientists are working hard on alternative solutions that are based around biometrics.

However, now scientists working at the Binghamton University think that they have found a suitable replacement for the password, fingerprints and facial recognition: a brain scan. Using brain imaging and a series of words and images, it will scan your mind to figure out if you are really you. The system works almost flawlessly and cannot be fooled, which would mean hackers would have a much tougher time cracking your systems.

The system developed by the scientists called Brainprint, is a device that uses an electroencephalogram (EEG) cap and then presents a succession of 500 images including words, celebrity faces and simple stock photos to the user at the rate of two per second. The brain’s responses to these pictures create unique readouts. For instance, if a bee flashes on the screen, a person who is strongly allergic to bee sting will probably have a different reaction than a person who keeps bees for a living. As the number of images and reactions add up, the chances of faking an identity go down. As a result, the associated software can now pick one person out of 30 with 100 percent accuracy.

“When you take hundreds of these images, where every person is going to feel differently about each individual one, then you can be really accurate in identifying which person it was who looked at them just by their brain activity,” lead researcher Sarah Laszlo said.

In order to test the security of Brainprint, the researchers have been trying to fool it. One of the method used to trick it was using flashing light at the same frequency at two people to see if their brains would become more ‘synchronised’ in the way they thought. However, the test was unsuccessful. For the time being, Brainprint remains unhackable. The theory is that if you were being forced to use the system at gunpoint or under threat, the activity of your brain would change and you would not be able to gain access.

“The key idea is that we want to identify and recognise the individual person based on their inside thinking,” said one of the team, engineer Zhanpeng Jin. “Inside-brain activity is not visible to anyone else. Even more exciting is that we want to use a non-volitional response. That means even the user cannot be aware of it.”

The accuracy of Brianprint is definitely impressive and an interesting development in biometrics. It could actually lay the groundwork for future solutions that can be integrated into devices more easily.

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