One of the hallmarks of spy films is the advanced security verification techniques that grant a secret agent access to a cache of gadgets. Often, access is granted via a fingerprint or retinal scan.
Today, some of these methods permeate the layperson’s landscape. People can unlock their smartphones via fingerprint scans, rather than typing in a pincode.
But fingerprints can be lifted, and hackers have done so in the past, unveiling a flaw in the security method.
A research team of psychologists and computer engineers from Binghamton University are now looking to the brain as a way to provide access to high-security areas.
“Brainprint is a technique for identifying people with their brain activity,” said Sarah Laszlo, a psychology professor, in a video on the new research study, which appeared in The IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security.
In their study, the researchers recorded the brain activity of 50 people, who were wearing an electroencephalogram headset. Imagery included a slice of pizza, a boat, Anne Hathaway, and the word “conundrum.” Five-hundred images were shown to the participants.
These images “are designed to elicit various unique responses from person-to-person,” Laszlo said. “So when you take hundreds of those, where every person is going to feel differently about each individual one, then you can be really accurate in identifying which person it was that looked at them just from their brain activity.”
The difference in each participants’ brain activity was so different that the researchers’ computer system performed the identification task with 100 percent accuracy.
According to Prof. Zhanpeng Jin, who is with the university’s departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering, the brainprint is an example of a non-volitional response. A person is not aware of his/her own brain pattern, or what it might look like, he added.
Jin said brainprint security will likely be applicable to high-security physical locations, like the Pentagon or Air Force Labs.
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