Brainprints will make gadgets hack-proof


Will the next generation of smartphones use brainprints instead of fingerprints? That could be the eventual application of new research that identifies individuals with a 100-per-cent accuracy rate.

Researchers from Binghampton University in New York found that responses to different stimuli, such as different foods, celebrity crushes and unusual words, can get users into heavily-restricted areas such as the Pentagon.

Brain biometrics, or measurable biological characteristics that are linked to the brain such as brain waves, could replace present security measures such as fingerprints, the reserachers say.

Brainprint experiment

Fifty people were asked to wear an electroencephalogram headset – the kind you’d wear if you’ve had to have an EEG test – and each person was shown a series of 500 images. These included a boat, a slice of pizza, actress Anne Hathaway and the word conundrum.

Each person reacted totally differently, so that a computer was able to accurately determine which volunteer generated which brain pattern. The research was published in the journal Neurocomputing.

They say brain biometrics are stronger than existing biologically linked security forms because they cannot be stolen the way a finger or retina can.

Cognitive neuroscientist Sarah Laszlo, who led the study, was looking at how to measure children’s brain activity while they were reading in order to predict if they might develop reading problems such as dyslexia. The findings caught the attention of Zhanpeng Jin, a bioengineer on the same campus.

“It’s a big deal going from 97 to 100 percent because we imagine the applications for this technology being for high-security situations, like ensuring the person going into the Pentagon or the nuclear launch bay is the right person,” Laszlo said.

Easy to change

Even better, users can choose to delete their brainprints at a later date. “Fingerprints are non-cancellable,” Lazlo added. “Brainprints, on the other hand, are potentially cancellable. So, in the unlikely event that attackers were actually able to steal a brainprint from an authorised user, the authorised user could then ‘reset’ their brainprint,” Laszlo pointed out.

Zhanpeng said the new system can have important security applications. “We tend to see the applications of this system as being more along the lines of high-security physical locations like the Pentagon or Air Force Labs where there aren’t that many users that are authorised to enter,” Jin said in a paper published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security, IANS reported.



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