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Researchers Playing Head Games With Newest Password

Posted on August 22, 2019

What’s on your mind?

None of your business.

That’s a common exchange most of us have encountered, but it could change. Businesses soon could be using what is on their employees’ noggins to increase protection from cyberattacks.

Researchers are developing “brain passwords.” This innovation measures a person’s brain activity while looking at a series of images. It’s a passport into facilities, workstations or smartphones that could be unbreakable and deliver a major blow to cyberthieves.

Brain passwords originated at Binghamton University in 2015. Scientists observed brain signals from 45 volunteers while they were reading a list of acronyms. They found that a person’s brain reacted differently to each acronym. A computer system was able to recognize each volunteer with a success rate of 94 percent.

“You can’t grow a new fingerprint or iris if that information is divulged,” University of Buffalo professor Wenyao Xu said in a tribuneindia.com story. “That’s why we’re developing a new type of password – one that measures brainwaves in response to a series of pictures. Like a password, it’s easy to reset; and like biometric, it’s easy to use.”

Brain passwords work congruently with traditional biometric passwords. For example: A person wishing to enter a building initially would have his/her fingerprints or face scanned. Once confirmed that person would have a headset placed on his/her head. Embedded electrical sensors would read that person’s thoughts while viewing photos and text messages. The sensors record brainwaves and the person is authenticated.

Future visits would require that person to put on the helmet and view a sequence of photos. Those brainwaves would be compared against what had been initially stored and access would be granted. The Binghamton University report read that this process would take no more than five seconds.

This technology remains in its infancy and could take years before becoming mainstream. Requiring users to put on a headset each time they need to log in to their smartphones or enter buildings isn’t realistic. Researchers likely need to find a way to read brainwaves without forcing persons to wear headgear.

Once that is resolved password theft could become extinct. An infinite amount of photos results in a vast array of combinations, leading brain passwords to become endlessly resettable.

So, what’s on your mind?


To discuss security strategy, contact Security Analyst Frank Verdecchia at fverdecchia@apogeeits.com.

Tagged Security Threats, Cyberthieves, Cyber Security, Safety, password

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