People are familiar with the idea of hackers getting ahold of personal information in the digital world, but you may be surprised that it may be possible to perform similar tricks on your brain.
Scientists at the University of Geneva and the University of California are studying technology that may be able to essentially hack someone’s brain, pulling out vital information such as PIN numbers, passwords or your social security number with a low-cost device.
This device is known as the Emotive brain-computer. It is a wireless headpiece that people can use to track signals being sent in the brain. When the brain sends a familiar message, the computer will track the signal back to its source and retrieve the information. For example, scientists have asked test subjects to put on the device and sit in front of a computer. Then the subjects visited a variety of sites, including mapping sites, banking pages or social media networks. Once the login screen appeared, a signal known as a P300 was sent in the brain. This essentially means the brain sent a signal that they recognized the message as being familiar. This data point helps the researchers narrow down the points in the brain where they would need to search for the information they were looking for.
Using this device and this mapping technique, researchers have been able to retrieve personal information from clients at a rate that is 15-40 percent more accurate than the average hacker attempting to guess a person’s vital information. Though this is the first attempt at studying such a device, the science is likely to provide solid results. Should further studies show similar achievements, it may be possible that we would see this type of device become standard for a variety of purposes.
The intended use of the Emotiv brain computer would be to help people retrieve their lost data and personal information. Imagine a world where you could simply pop on a headpiece and be able to retrieve your lost password or PIN number, simply by looking at the screen. It would certainly make life a lot easier for forgetful folk. Because current models require the user to wear the device in order for it to be successful, there is a bit of security built in that helps prevent the technology from falling into the wrong hands.
On the other hand, there are some serious implications here. If such a device was to become commonplace, what would be done to ensure that it didn’t get misused or fall into the wrong hands? How could users know that outside agencies weren’t picking their brains without any knowledge or permission, and how could users make sure that personal, private thoughts stayed in your head where they should be? When any new type of technology advances or is invented, the question of ethics needs to be addressed. It will be interesting to see how this particular case turns out as the ability to read and map the mind continues to grow.