Will 'Passthoughts' Replace Passwords?

Researchers from U.C. Berkeley say brain scan authentication is reliable enough to replace traditional passwords.

by / April 10, 2013

A new form of biometric security using brain waves to authenticate users has been developed by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley.

Rather than a using a password to gain access, a user would submit a “passthought,” generating a unique signal from brainwaves that may or may not prove difficult to duplicate by a hacker, Phys.org reported. The recent commercialization of external electroencephalogram (EEG) devices -- the researchers used a Neurosky MindSet, which connects wirelessly via bluetooth and costs about $100 -- makes this technology plausible.

The research, conducted by John Chuang, Hamilton Nguyen and Charles Wang, included measuring brainwaves while subjects performed various mental tasks. Sometimes all subjects were asked to perform the same task, such as visualizing a bouncing ball; other times the subjects were asked to visualize a mental image or perform a mental image that only they knew of.

In all the tests, researchers were able to differentiate between users. In fact, researchers found there was little difference between the tests where users were all asked to visualize the same thing and those in which users chose their own secret images.

Chuang, Nguyen and Wang say their technology is secure, and could someday be used to replace traditional passwords. 

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