The days of scientists only understanding a fraction of the activity of the brain are over. In recent studies, the enhancement of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has given scientists the ability to not only see our brainwaves, but to pinpoint what they mean and how they correlate to specific objects. In essence, new technology is allowing scientists to see what you’re thinking at all times, from images to debit card pins, and the implications are spooky.
Scientists have been trying to better understand the brain for centuries. Functional magnetic resonance imaging allows scientists and researchers to capture images of the magnetic and radio waves emitted by the brain. It also allows for visibility of blood flow and the gauging of cerebral activity. This may not sound vastly different from other cerebral imaging, but its level of precision is allowing researchers to identify specific people, facial expressions and thoughts by brain activity alone.
In a recent study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University, researchers successfully “saw” objects study participants held in their minds, such as hardware tools and utensils, by fMRI scan alone. In a similar study conducted at UC Berkeley, researchers were able to accurately “see” images of faces study participants were viewing, by brain scan alone. If you aren’t afraid yet, you will be. In a study conducted by Oxford, the University of Geneva and UC Berkeley, scientists were able to obtain the birth months and debit card pins of 60 and 30 percent of study participants via EEG headsets, respectively, simply by sending them images of a calendar or debit card, asking for personal information. While the thoughts of a university group carrying out this study is jarring enough, many see these capabilities becoming the future of cyber threats.
Marc Goodman’s Future Crimes explores this concern and argues that advancements in cerebral imaging and brain-based technology are a hacker’s dream. Imagine a world where terrorists and cyber bullies could obtain security passcodes to personal and high-level security information by scanning our brainwaves unknowingly. Unfortunately, with advancements being made across the digital arena, EEG headsets aren’t the only devices with the potential to be compromised.
A recent study conducted by HP found that various 10 Internet of Things devices exhibited over 20 security vulnerabilities, each. As far as personal security goes, it seems that if a hacker isn’t after the video feed from your home security system, then the US and UK governments are listening in on your calls (as the duo may have recently issued the biggest SIM card hack in history). It’s unnerving, and realistically, what is a 21st century citizen to do?
The prospect of cyber security on a personal level looks worse with the advancement of each technology. For now, we recommend being smart about how you share your personal information. There are cyber stalkers out there who want to compromise your identity. Be smart about downloading foreign files and only browse secure sites, at least until there is equally advanced technology on the market to protect your backside and bank account from virtual prowlers.
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