Brainprints Could Make Retina Scans, Fingerprint Data, Passwords Obsolete

Like something out of a sci-fi movie, researchers from Binghamton University just published a study on the use of brain signals to replace traditional means of logging into secure accounts, such passwords, fingerprint reading, and even fancy retina scans. What the researchers found is that your brain responds to certain words in unique ways.

The team focused on 45 volunteers who each read a list of 75 acronyms, like FBI and DVD. Researchers looked at the part of the brain that's responsible for reading and recognizing words, and surprisingly enough, there's enough of a difference to the way each person's brain reacted to the acronyms that a computer was 94 percent accurate in identifying each volunteer.


What has the researchers particularly excited about this compared to other means of security is that a brain's reaction, or "brainprint," as it's been dubbed, is far more secure.

"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," said Sarah Laszlo, assistant professor of psychology and linquistics at Bingham University and co-author of Brainprint.

Before you scoff at the idea of logging into your email account by reading an acronym, this isn't a technology that's likely to be implemented on a mainstream scale. Instead, the researchers envision it being used in locations where a higher level of security is required, like the Pentagon.