Researchers and students at Berkley are taking a more mental approach to security. The team has devised a technique where brain waves will be used to log in and authenticate user identities with the use of headsets with a built-in electroencephalogram (EEG).
With the availability of low cost sensors, the project gained speed, something that would have been impossible with older hardware that was invasive, and expensive. The UC Berkley team used the $199 Neurosky Mindset headset that looks like a standard pair of Bluetooth headphones with a single EEG probe attached to it. To their delight, a single sensor was able to generate quality brainwave signal to effectively authenticate users. After selecting custom thought patterns for different users and calibrating the headset for each user's "authentication threshold," - the system returned error rates below 1 percent.
The only obstacle to researchers now was determining what specific mental tasks would be ideally suited to this type of authentication. To determine the most suitable tasks, brainwaves of test subjects were measured performing seven different mental activities to authenticate their identity. Research revealed that the best tasks for this setup were the ones that were not mundane- the tasks needed to be easy but not too boring.
In order to implement such an authentication system, EEG hardware will need to become more common, however with the availability and low cost of newer sensors this system might soon be put into action.