Could brainwaves replace the password?

As biometrics become more commonplace, the password is increasingly losing ground to the growing number of alternatives. The latest innovation in authentication isn’t in our fingerprints or retinas though, but in our brains, scanning the unique ways that our minds respond to certain words.

In a new study, ‘Brainprint,’ from researchers at Binghamton University, it was found that a sample of 45 volunteers could be identified by the way their brains responded to particular combinations of letters. As reported by, the research team read from a list of 75 popular acronyms including DVD and FBI, finding enough variation in the brainwaves of the test sample to identify them with 94 percent accuracy.

The results of the test suggest it may be viable to use brainwaves as a future password replacement, and the study’s co-author Sarah Laszlo believes it could have advantages over existing biometrics.

“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,” said Laszlo.

“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 brain print.”

As Gizmag notes, it’s highly unlikely that brainprint technology will be adopted by smartphones or consumer technology– for one, it requires wearing electrodes (as pictured above) just to gain access – but it could potentially be used for gaining entrance to high security physical locations which only a few users are authorized to enter.

Radical and unusual approaches to biometric authentication are becoming increasingly popular, even in the mainstream, with banks in Britain and Canada trialling heartbeat monitors to gain access to their services.

Image via Binghamton University

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