Texas Tech University researchers were able to tap into personal information using EEG-based authentication systems. (via TTU)
If movies taught us anything, it’s that nothing remains a secret or hidden for very long. Fingerprints, DNA and in some cases- thoughts, can be used to solve crimes or worse, for malicious intent. While being able to see or discern what a person is hiding in their mind might sound like science fiction, it has actually become a reality (somewhat) thanks to some researchers from Texas Tech University.
It’s known as EEG (electroencephalograph) Identification, which has been used before to authenticate a person’s identity using brainwaves, similar to identifying people using their fingerprints. As with most biometric data devices, this too has the possibility to be ‘hacked’ but not to gain access to digital data but rather detailed information about you and your secrets, including emotional state, learning ability, and personality traits.
TTU security researchers Abdul Serwadda and Richard Matovu recently tested whether personal information could be gleaned by using a pair of different portable EEG systems- a headphone-like device from Berkeley and the other from a team from Birmingham University and the University of Buffalo.
Both systems target different ‘markers’ of brain activity exhibited by people to identify them, such as how they identify a song by signaling out a specific instrument or medley at the beginning. The researchers then wanted to see if those brainwaves could be found in others as an identifier of certain behavior traits such as being an alcoholic. They were able to garner old EEG data from both alcoholics and non-alcoholics to match them against the participants in their study.
They then used machine learning software (AI) to look for patterns associated with alcoholism and found that 25% of the test subjects were found to have the same pattern, meaning those found to be alcoholics could no longer keep it secret, in other words an invasion of privacy (yes, they freely admitted that information for the test). What’s more, those brainwaves could be used to discern other private information as well such as mental illnesses, learning disabilities or even sexual fetishes.
Imagine finding yourself applying for a job in the near future, having to undergo an EEG Identification test and having your personal traits or disabilities become known. What’s even worse is that the TTU team does not yet have a way to secure such information, however they did find that compromising a tiny bit on the authentication accuracy did reduce the chances of the test subjects being identified as alcoholics.
UC Berkeley’s Magnetically Propelled Fish-Like Nanoswimmers may one day deliver drugs to specific parts of your body. (via UCB)
Continuing on the subject of intrusion but this time more beneficial than detrimental- UC Berkeley researchers have designed a nano-sized fish-like robot that will one day be able to deliver drugs to any part of the body that needs it. The Nanoswimmers look more like sea snakes but actually mimic the way fish swim and do so using an ingenious method and design, which includes using an oscillating magnetic field.
The Berkeley team designed their Nanoswimmers using several different metals with gold for the head and tailfin connected together using a nickel body with silver hinges. As to how small are they, each section is only 800-nanometers long so they can go just about anywhere in the body without being overly invasive.
To get the tiny swimmers to move in any direction, the team used an external oscillating magnetic field. That field moves the nickel section from side-to-side thereby moving the head and tail and propelling the fish in the desired direction. Move the field and the swimmer moves with it- it’s that simple. This means they do not require any internal or external mechanisms to move or an internal power source for that matter.
While the Nanoswimmers are a promising delivery system for delivering drugs to localized parts of the body, it does have a drawback, such as these nano robots won’t dissolve over time, meaning once they’re in you, they’re in there for good unless they team devises a method for extraction. The good news is that the team is currently developing a biodegradable version so that users are not stuck with the metal inside their bodies.
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