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A new kind of password: Brainprints could be the future of security

Given how disastrous Americans have proven to be in terms of picking decent passwords and setting secret questions to protect their private information, it may be time for a new technology to replace the not-so-effective current system. Enter “Brainprint,” a new study that relies on your neurological responses to certain words as a primary identification system. Say goodbye to alphanumeric passwords and even retinal scans — the future is all in the head.

The new study, which appears in the journal Neurocomputing, was conducted by scientists from Binghamton University in New York, who studied the reactions of 45 volunteers when they were read a total of 75 acronyms, like FBI and DVD. They found that participants reacted differently to different combinations of letters — so differently, in fact, that a computer system could differentiate among participants with a stunning 94 percent accuracy rate.

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So what makes this technology more special than say, a retinal scan? For one, it is quite literally impossible to steal. Whereas traditional passwords are easily stolen, and even retinas and fingerprints can be duplicated, brain scans are a different matter. Explained study co-author Laszlo, “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.”

Granted, technology like this probably won’t be implemented for the everyday user to set their email passwords, but with the recent string of cyberattacks on sensitive data, especially within government agencies like the Office of Personnel Management, having brainprints as another line of defense for high-ranking government and military officials may not be a bad idea.