Thursday, 28 May 2015

Brainwaves the Next Frontier of Biometric Identifications

While commercial outfits such as Apple and Microsoft are working feverishly on biometric identification involving fingerprints and eye recognition, Spain's Basque Centre on Cognition, Brain and Language is putting its efforts into a system that depends on brainwaves.  That's right; researchers at the institute are working on a system that would enable computer users to activate a machine simply by thinking about it.  Their technology relies on mapping the electrical signals produced by the brain during certain thought processes.

Researchers say that each human being possesses a unique brainwave signature that can be measured through the electrical impulses generated while the brain is active. They say this type of technology has been worked on before, but previous attempts utilised a broad spectrum of electrical signals that made it difficult to separate usable signals from noise.  The new research is focused on just one area of the brain responsible for what is known as 'semantic memory'.

To test their technology, the researchers worked with a group of 45 participants who volunteered to have brain impulses measured.  Electrodes were attached to their heads while the participants were exposed to a list of 75 common acronyms – like a DVD, for example.  Electrical impulses from the brain were measured and mapped during the exercise.  From those measurements, researchers were able to develop a map for each participant, using advanced software, to be used as a biometric ID.  The IDs proved 94% accurate when tested.

Although a 94% accuracy rating is impressive so early on in the research stage, it is not good enough for today's needs.  Nevertheless, as the researchers say, it is a good starting point.  If they can successfully come up with a system with near 100% accuracy, it would have implications for everything from IT services to cloud access to large-scale network security.

Hacker-Proof Technology

Biometric identification is being pursued as a means of beefing up security in a day and age where stealing usernames and passwords is commonplace.  As with everything else though, there are genuine concerns as to whether or not there is truly a hacker-proof identification method we have not yet found.  One need only consider a 2005 case from Malaysia where a man lost his finger to thieves who cut it off so they could steal his car.

The advantage of using brainwaves as a biometric identifier is that a person's brain cannot be stolen physically.  However, if scientists are capable of mapping brain waves to find a unique identifier, it is probably only a matter of time before hackers learn how to intercept those brain waves in order to come up with an accurate simulation.

Security management will continue to evolve as we look for new ways to protect our networks and identities yet it is a process that can never stop.  For every new technology we come up with, those who choose to engage in criminal activity will find ways around it.  It is one of the realities of the computer age.

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