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Log In To Accounts Using Brainwaves Instead Of Passwords

Researchers explore the possibility of a computer authentication system that is powered by the mind.

Leah Gonzalez
Leah Gonzalez on April 9, 2013. @leahgonz

It looks like passwords will soon be replaced by ‘pass-thoughts’ according to the researchers over at the University of Berkeley School of Information. The project explores using brainwaves as a substitute for typewritten passwords or even biometrics.

The research is led by John Chuang, a professor at the School of Information, Hamilton Nguyen, an electrical engineering and computer science undergrad, Charles Wang, first year student at the School of Information, and Benjamin Johnson, former postdoctoral scholar at the School of Information. The group has already presented their findings at the Seventeenth International Conference on Financial Cryptography and Data Security and at the 2013 Workshop on Usable Security in Okinawa, Japan.

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The researchers made use of the NeuroSky MindSet, a $100 brainwave sensor that connects to a computer through bluetooth, to capture the electroencephalograms (EEGs) or brainwave measurements during their experiments. The purpose of their experiments was to find out if certain mental tasks create a brainwave pattern that is unique to the individual and can therefore be used as authentication. The researchers gave participants seven different mental tasks and it was determined that all seven tasks gave enough unique information that could be used for authentication.

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The next focus of the researchers is to find a mental task that people won’t mind doing everyday as some of the participants found tasks too boring or difficult to do.

Although the research still has a long way to go, it does show that using thoughts as passwords is not as far-fetched as we once might have thought.

University of Berkeley

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