Biometric 'Brainprint' Is Now 100 Percent Accurate

Fingerprints, irises, and facial recognition software can't touch a new biometric identification that analyzes brainwaves. Continue reading →

Strap in, because your brain is going for a biometric identification ride. A technique that can tell people apart by their unique "brainprints" is reported to be 100 percent accurate.

Fingerprints, irises, and facial recognition software can't touch a new biometric identification that analyzes brainwaves.

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Scientists have been hot on the trail of brainprints for a while, but a collaboration at Binghamton University in New York is making this novel ID method seem less like sci-fi and more like a realistic high-tech security measure.

The approach, led by assistant professor of psychology Sarah Laszlo and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering Zhanpeng Jin, is based on the premise that each person has unique memory and knowledge. That's not just a sweet cross-stitch pillow - it's quantifiable.

In order to develop their biometric identification protocol, called CEREBRE, the team had subjects each don an electroencephalograph headset that measured their brain responses to images.

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Then they flashed selected images from a set of 500 potential ones, KurzweilAI reported. They included photos of celebrities, pictures of food, and words like "conundrum" to elicit responses from multiple systems in the brain.

The protocol measured the resulting brain activity, which formed a unique brainprint. Although you'd think some of us would have identical reactions to a photo of Kim Kardashian, turns out that nobody in the study actually did.

Applying the CEREBRE protocol to a pool of 50 users, the researchers found it had 100 percent identification accuracy. An earlier version of the protocol created last year only had 97 percent accuracy. The team recently published details about the latest one in the journal IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security (abstract).

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Most past attempts at ‘brainprinting' were made by engineers, Laszlo says in a university video describing their approach. " collaboration has been really fruitful because it crosses cybersecurity and biometrics and cognitive neuroscience and psychology," she said. "I think it's why our brainprint protocol is more accurate and faster than any of the existing protocols." Here's the video:

click to play video

Unlike fingerprints, brainprints aren't easily stolen. Forcing someone to do one at gunpoint wouldn't work because stress would alter the response, according to the university. Plus, unlike other forms of biometric identification, brainprints are potentially "cancelable," meaning they could be reset if there's ever any issue.

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The Binghamton team pictures their protocol being used for accessing very high security locations like the Pentagon. They suggest that it represents the next generation of biometrics. Humans can fake a lot of things. We can even trick our brains sometimes, but it's looking like our brainprints don't lie.


A new


from security researcher Brian Krebs said that 40 million people who shopped at Target stores in the three days following Thanksgiving this year may have had their information stolen. According to Krebs, "The type of data stolen -- also known as “track data” -- allows crooks to create counterfeit cards by encoding the information onto any card with a magnetic stripe."

He also said that if the hackers intercepted PIN data for transactions, they could reproduce stolen debit cards and use them to withdraw cash from ATMs. In the meantime, the data breach is being investigated by the Secret Service. But that doesn't help the millions of people who have been the victims of fraud. It begs the question, how much longer do we have to put up with credit card number theft?

Thankfully, researchers are coming up with many new ways to pay for products and services that, in the future, won't require a credit card. Here are just a few.

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Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have come up with PayTango, a new payment system that uses a fingerprint scanner to identify shoppers and provide them with one easy way to check out. If Target stores had this technology, the customer could press their finger on the payment pad instead of entering a PIN. Since a fingerprint cannot be duplicated, only the credit card owner would be authorized. It takes 20 seconds to sign up with PayTango, and is a good way to consolidate your bank, ID and gift cards into a one thing you'll never leave the house with: your finger.


You also never the leave the house without your face. This technology from Uniqual scans unique features of your face to identify you and authorize a payment from an account you've created. To make your purchase, just smile at the camera.


Researchers at MIT wanted to use off-the-shelf technology to develop a creative method for making a payment. They developed the Sesame Ring, which give commuters access to the subway in Boston. The ring was 3-D printed and embedded with a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip compatible with the city’s MBTA CharlieCard, a rechargeable fare card. To catch a ride, just tap and go.


As part of campaign by Russia's 2014 Olympic Committee to "add elements of sport into daily life," vending machines installed in Moscow subways give away a free ticket to anyone who can do 30 squats. Here, Olympic champion gymnast Yelena Zamolodchikova gets a ticket, no problem.


The ability to pay by phone is extremely popular throughout Asia and Africa, where tap-and-go technology allows people in Tokyo, for example, to touch a phone to an NFC wireless pad and instantly make a purchase. In Africa, people routinely make payments via text message. In the United States, paying with a phone is slowly gaining ground with apps that work on both iPhone and Android smartphones. The phones need to be equipped with the wireless NFC chip and only work at cash registers equipped with a compatible NFC pad.


An Apple patent granted in 2011 details an “ad-hoc cash-dispensing network that allows users to efficiently exchange cash.” The idea is that a cash-strapped you would summon your app, which would use the location service on your phone to locate others in the area willing to part with a few bucks for a fee. Once you rendezvous, the transaction can be made. The human ATM would get reimbursed through an online account that both of you have signed into.


The Coin card combines all of your swipe-able cards (credit cards, debit cards, gift cards) into one handy place. A card-swipe dongle ships with the device and you must download an app to combine all of your cards onto the Coin. But once all of the information is stored on Coin all you need to do is tap a button on the card, toggle through your payment choice and select the appropriate method. Credit or debit?


Lately, how you pay is almost as important as what you pay with. The distributed peer-to-peer digital currency bitcoin functions without the intermediation of any government or central authority. One can purchase bitcoins using U.S. dollars and hold onto them as they gain value. Bitcoin payment processing fees are lower than those of credit cards and so there are incentives to spend them. In this photo, a man buys bitcoins from the world's first bitcoin ATM, owned by the company Bitcoiniacs, which went live inside a downtown Vancouver coffee shop.