Hacking your BRAIN: Scientists reveal they can find out your pin number, and even where you live – all using a cheap headset

  • Technique  uses a freely available headset often used to control games
  • Researchers  used it to watch for numbers a person recognised, which triggered a spike in a  certain type of brain activity
  • Say it  could be used by police to interrogate  suspects


By Mark Prigg

PUBLISHED:06:45 EST, 27  August 2012| UPDATED:15:01 EST, 27 August 2012

It sounds like something out of a futuristic  sci-fi blockbuster, but scientists today demonstrated how they can ‘hack’  someone’s brain to find out their pin number – using a cheap  headset.

Researchers from the University of  California, University of Oxford and University of Geneva figured out a way to  pluck sensitive information from a person’s head, such as PIN numbers and bank  information.

They used a freely available games controller  costing just £190 ($299).

Researchers used a cheap headset called an Emotive, available to buy online for £190 (£299) for their research, and used to to accurately guess pin numbers and even where someone livesResearchers used a cheap headset called an Emotive,  available to buy online for £190 (£299) for their research, and used to to  accurately guess pin numbers and even where someone lives

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, and is often used to control  games.

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 a signal known as P300.

The P300 signal is used by the brain when a  person recognizes something meaningful, such as someone or something they  interact with on a regular basis.

It is released by the brain around 300  milliseconds after recognition occurs, hence its name.

The team used a picture of President Barack  Obama to test the readings, and saw a spike of recognition from  participants.

They were also shown their home, which caused  a similar reaction.

‘These devices have access to your raw EEG  [electroencephalography, or electrical brain signal] data, and that contains  certain neurological phenomena triggered by subconscious activities,” says Ivan  Martinovic, a member of the faculty in the department of computer science at  Oxford.

‘So the central question we were asking with  this is work was, is this is a privacy threat?’

The team found they could find a person’s  home 60% of the time with a one in ten chance, and had a 40% chance of  recognising the first number of a PIN number.

The £190 ($299) Emotive headset, which is available to buy onlineThe £190 ($299) Emotive headset, which is available to  buy online

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 subject’s  memory.

‘P300 has a promising use within  interrogation protocols that enable detection of potential criminal details held  by the suspect,’ the researchers said.

The Emotiv headset, which is usually used to control games. Researchers found it can be used to work out a person's PIN number and banking details by monitoring brainwavesThe Emotiv headset, which is usually used to control  games. Researchers found it can be used to work out a person’s PIN number and  banking details by monitoring brainwaves

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2194223/Hacking-BRAIN-Scientists-reveal-PIN-number-using-cheap-scanner.html#ixzz24pANWVEe

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