TECH

Your Brainwaves Could Become Your Next Password, But There's A Catch

This isn't even slightly creepy.

20/01/2017 11:47

Passwords are the bane of our digital lives.

Trying to remember the precise combination of letters, numbers and which childhood pet we used on each platform, we end up spending more time resetting them than accurately recalling them.

But what if we could use telepathic brainwaves to break the digital locks on our accounts? 

DaniloAndjus via Getty Images

Brainwave authentication, using ECG technology, is one of many futuristic biometric measures being explored as the way forward for online security. 

Instead of looking for a written response, the computer would register the response from an ECG headset worn by the user.

And because ECG signatures are unique, they are harder to hack.

Sounding promising so far, especially as studies have shown accuracy of around 94 per cent (far higher than we seem to manage relying on our memory).

However, there does seem to be one small hiccup.

Your brain waves are affected by external influences of things like caffeine, opioids, alcohol, and even exercise, meaning it becomes much harder to verify the user.

Tommy Chin, a researcher at consultancy firm Grimm, told the Shomoocon security conference: “This manipulation makes it a significant challenge to verify the authenticity of the user because they drank an immense amount of alcohol or caffeinated drink.”

In fact, the authentication accuracy could drop from the standard 94 per cent down to as low as 33 per cent if you are getting drunk.

And while being unable to access some apps might in fact prove a useful feature when we’ve had a few too many, it is still a stumbling block that might need ironing out. 

Scientists aren’t only using brainwave authentication to protect us from hackers, but are also investigating the possibility of using it to communicate with people who are paralysed.

American researchers from the University of California discovered that they’re able to ‘decode’ unspoken words that are going on inside a person’s head. 

Professor Robert Knight, one of the researchers from the study, said: “This is huge for patients who have damage to their speech mechanisms because of a stroke or Lou Gehrig’s disease and can’t speak.”

Researchers made their discovery after enlisting the help of people undergoing brain surgery to investigate the cause of untreatable epileptic seizures.

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