'Pass-thoughts' may be security of the future

Researchers designed a wireless headset that can read brainwaves to authenticate users, potentially replacing traditional passwords.

Have trouble remembering passwords? Don't worry. Soon, your devices may read your mind to find your passwords.

Researches at University of California Berkeley School of Information say they were able to replace passwords with “pass-thoughts,” according to a study reported on the university’s website.

They used wireless headsets with EEG (electro-encephalography) sensors to read the brainwave signals of volunteers. The study says the devices were able to read customized "pass-thoughts" with 99 percent accuracy.

The researchers had 15 volunteers complete various mental tasks, then tried to see if they could identify people by their brainwave signals.

They found that "brainwave signals … can be used to authenticate users with high degrees of accuracy."

They believe a device costing about $100 could make use of brainwave signals for pass-thoughts.

The volunteers tended to choose tasks that were neither difficult nor boring as their pass-thoughts. This included things like imagining a song or imagining counting objects of a specific color.

Of course, security could be an issue with such a system. What if someone figures out the song you repeat as your pass-thought or the objects you imagine counting? So far, researchers don’t have an answer for that.

Still, the researchers believe their study shows that pass-thought systems can be developed "that are both useable and secure."

Related: Apps use brainwaves to guide, improve meditation


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