Passwords are so last season, ‘pass-thoughts’ let you log in with your mind


We try to make our passwords as secure as possible, but sometimes even complicated character strings can be vulnerable. That’s why companies, researchers, and organizations continue to search for ways to make accessing devices and accounts more secure. Google, for one, wants to replace passwords with USB sticks and smart rings. A team of researchers from the UC Berkeley School of Information, on the other hand, devised a way to unlock gadgets and accounts with brain waves. 

To be able to use “pass-thoughts,” as the team calls them, instead of passwords, the team took an affordable and readily available Bluetooth headset with built-in electroencephalogram (EEG) called Neurosky Mindset. Previously, using pass-thoughts would’ve been considered unfeasible because EEG devices are very expensive, but a $199 headset might make using pass-thoughts a reality. The team used Neurosky on test subjects and found that in order for the headset to provide enough brainwave signal, they had to make users perform seven mental tasks and then calibrate the headset for each one of them so nobody else’s thoughts can unlock their devices and accounts.

The team determined that the most effective way to implement pass-thoughts is to ask users to perform a mental task that’s not too complicated or boring. According to tests conducted, users were bored by imagining their fingers sliding up and down to unlock something, but when they were asked to make up their own pass-thoughts, they came up with something too complicated and hard to recreate. The tasks researchers found most effective are singing a song of one’s choice, counting objects with the same color, and focusing on one’s breathing. Calibrating the headsets and using these mental tasks to serve as one’s pass-thought returned error rates of less then 1 percent. 

The team presented their findings at the 2013 Workshop on Usable Security at the 17th international conference on Financial Cryptography and Data Security in Japan in early April. While the UC Berkeley team’s method sounds very promising, more research needs to be done, and companies must be willing to make the investment in EEG-enabled headsets before pass-thoughts become widely used.

[Image via UC Berkeley School of Information]


New ‘Battlefield V’ patch gives Nvidia’s ray tracing support a chance to shine

‘Battlefield V’ is the first game to use Nvidia’s ray tracing support, now available with the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti graphics cards. The feature can, in an ideal scenario, make the game look better, but the performance hit may not be…

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.

Having enough RAM is important, but stick to these guidelines to save some money

Although not quite as exciting as processors and graphics cards, RAM is one of the most important parts of your PC. Not having enough can hurt performance. So, how much RAM do you need?
Emerging Tech

How to register your drone with the FAA

Before you take to the skies with your new drone, you need to make sure it has been properly registered with the U.S. government. Check our guide for registration requirements and easy, step-by-step instructions on how to complete your…

Changing file associations in Windows 10 is quick and easy with these steps

Learning how to change file associations can make editing certain file types much quicker than manually selecting your preferred application every time you open them. Just follow these short steps and you'll be on your way in no time.

Intel's dedicated GPU is not far off -- here's what we know

Did you hear? Intel is working on a dedicated graphics card. It's called Arctic Sound and though we don't know a lot about it, we know that Intel has some ex-AMD Radeon graphics engineers developing it.

Edit, sign, append, and save with six of the best PDF editors

There are plenty of PDF editors to be had online, and though the selection is robust, finding a solid solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here, we've rounded up best PDF editors, so you can edit no matter your budget or OS.

How to easily record your laptop screen with apps you already have

Learning how to record your computer screen shouldn't be a challenge. Lucky for you, our comprehensive guide lays out how to do so using a host of methods, including both free and premium utilities, in both MacOS and Windows 10.

From beautiful to downright weird, check out these great dual monitor wallpapers

Multitasking with two monitors doesn't necessarily mean you need to split your screens with two separate wallpapers. From beautiful to downright weird, here are our top sites for finding the best dual monitor wallpapers for you.

Capture screenshots with print screen and a few alternative methods

Capturing a screenshot of your desktop is easier than you might think, and it's the kind of thing you'll probably need to know. Here's how to perform the important function in just a few, easy steps.

These cheap laptops will make you wonder why anyone spends more

Looking for a budget notebook for school, work, or play? The best budget laptops, including our top pick -- the Asus ZenBook UX331UA -- will get the job done without digging too deeply into your pockets.

Vanquish lag for good with the best routers for gaming

Finding the best routers for gaming is no easy task. With so many out there, how do you know which to pick? We've looked at the many options available and put together a list of our lag-free favorites.

Stop your PC's vow of silence with these tips on how to fix audio problems

Sound problems got you down? Don't worry, with a few tweaks and tricks we'll get your sound card functioning as it should, and you listening to your favorite tunes and in-game audio in no time.
Product Review

It's not the sharpest tool, but the Surface Go does it all for $400

Microsoft has launched the $400 Surface Go to take on both the iPad and Chromebooks, all without compromising its core focus on productivity. Does it work as both a tablet and a PC?