TECH

'Brainprints' Could Become The Password To Beat All Passwords

03/06/2015 16:05 | Updated 03 June 2015

Passwords have become a common cause of woe in our hyper connected world of multiple accounts and devices, partly because of our inability to remember them and predominantly because words can always be guessed.

When fingerprints and iris scanners came along most thought it was the ultimate form of failsafe security until a gang in Malaysia chopped off a man's finger to break into his car's security system.

Now scientists believe they have found the ultimate passwords: our brains.

sarah laszlo an assistant professor of psychology

Since they are fairly hard to access without permission and require zero effort to remember, brain waves could be the password to beat all passwords.

Researchers from Binghamton University, New York observed the way 45 people responded to acronyms and found that each person had a unique 'brainprint' that a computer could then use to identify specific individuals.

The findings were published in the journal Neurocomputing.

Co-author Sarah Laszlo explained the significance of the results saying:

"If someone's fingerprint is stolen, that person can't just grow a new finger to replace the compromised fingerprint -- the fingerprint for that person is compromised forever. Fingerprints are 'non-cancellable.'

Brainprints, on the other hand, are potentially cancellable. So, in the unlikely event that attackers were actually able to steal a brainprint from an authorized user, the authorized user could then 'reset' their brainprint."

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One of the drawbacks of using the brain as a password is that the technique is not always spot on. The computer in Laszlo's study only recognised each volunteer with 94 percent accuracy.

Kevin Bowyer from University of Notre Dame in Indiana told New Scientist that 'brainprints' are still not a viable alternative to fingers and iris scanners because of its inaccuracy and the inconvenience of recording one - you'll need to have your scalp wired up to electrodes.

While we're all hoping that science will give us a reason to eliminate the need for passwords, Zhanpeng Jin assistant professor at Binghamton University's departments of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering, doesn't think 'brainprints' will be used for 'low-security' applications such as email and Facebook.

Jin said: "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, and those users don't need to constantly be authorising the way that a consumer might need to authorise into their phone or computer."

Well, we can only hope that this doesn't stay true for long.

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