It sounds like something out of the movie
"Johnny Mnemonic," but scientists have
successfully been able to "hack" a brain with a device that's easily
available on the open market.
Researchers from the University of
California and University of Oxford in Geneva
figured out a way to pluck sensitive information
from a person's head, such as PIN numbers and bank information.
The scientists took an off-the-shelf
Emotiv brain-computer interface, a device that costs around $299, which
allows users to interact with their computers by thought. The scientists
then sat their subjects in front of a computer screen and showed them
images of banks, people, and PIN numbers. They then tracked the readings
coming off of the brain, specifically the P300 signal. The P300 signal
is typically given off when a person recognizes something meaningful,
such as someone or something they interact with on a regular basis.
Scientists that conducted the experiment found they could reduce the
randomness of the images by 15 to 40 percent, giving them a better
chance of guessing the correct answer.
Another interesting facet about the
experiments is how the P300 signal could be read for lie detection. In
the paper that the scientists released, they state that
"the P300 can be used as a discriminative feature
in detecting whether or not the relevant information is stored in the
this reason, a GKT based on the P300 has a promising use within
interrogation protocols that enable detection of potential criminal
details held by the suspect," the researchers said.
This could only be the beginning of a new
form of fraud. Scientists say that a person with their guard lowered
could be "easily engaged into 'mind games' that camouflage the
interrogation of the user and make them more cooperative."