Remembering passwords could be a thing of the past, thanks to a new study by Binghamton University researchers.
In the study, published in the academic journal Neurocomputing, two BU professors found that when prompted by a certain word, the signal given off by the brain, or “brainprint,” was unique to each person. According to researcher Zhanpeng Jin, these findings can be used to create a new approach to verifying identity.
“Brainprint will provide even higher security protection than existing popular biometrics,” Jin, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, wrote in an email. “We seek to explore and verify the uniqueness of intuitive human brain responses, specifically the brainwaves in response to certain external visual stimuli.”
The study, conducted by Jin and assistant professor of psychology Sarah Laszlo, used a group of 45 volunteers and analyzed their brains’ responses to 75 different acronyms, measured by sensors attached to the scalp. Each participant’s signals were different, to the point that they could be distinguished from each other with 94 percent accuracy.
“We were so excited and surprised to see that our brainwave-based individual identification approach has a very high level of accuracy and such accuracy remains quite stable over the time,” Jin wrote. “We conducted multiple experimental sessions on the same group of human participants over a certain period of time, one week, one month and half of a year.”
Unlike current types of physical identification such as retina or fingerprint scanning, the password can be “reset” simply by changing the prompt word. This would elicit a different “brainprint” due to each person’s unique associations with it.
“The unique memory and knowledge base of one individual won’t change significantly as long as the user is gradually building new memory and gaining new knowledge,” he said.
Laszlo and Jin came across the concept when discussing current technology that utilizes brain-computer interactions.
“We came up [with] an new idea about if the brain responses are unique among different persons, that kind of characteristics can be used as a new biometric for individual identification,” he wrote.
According to BU’s Vice President of Research Bahgat Sammakia, these findings are innovative and useful beyond password protection. The new approach to verifying identity could also mean strengthened cyber security, especially in light of recent high-profile hacks happening around the world.
“It offers another tool in the cyber security war, one more thing that helps us protect information and protect people’s finances and identities,” he said. “Cyber security is becoming a major issue across the nation and globally, where people are getting access to our information.”
Sammakia said he foresees this discovery being used on a worldwide scale, including banks and other financial institutions.
“Ultimately, that’s exactly who the customers will be,” he said. “You can create a service where everybody can be verified based on their brainprints, this physical verification. It’s completely unhackable.”