Mind your thoughts, they could be hacked

Last updated: 21 March 2014

As a child, I often wondered whether my thoughts were visible to others in a cloud above my head. (I had obviously been reading too many comics where dialogue and monologues are depicted as such.) Thankfully the wisdom of age has shown this not to be true, but such an invasion of your privacy is still a scary thought.

The Huffington Post recently reported on how hackers have learned to extract sensitive information from your mind. Does that sound a bit too much like science fiction? A little bit reminiscent of the not so critically acclaimed 90s action flick Johnny Mnemonic. Sadly, it isn’t.

To be fair, the information can only be extracted if you wear a commercial brain-computer interface such as NeuroSky and Emotiv. Designed for gamers, the headsets mimic Electroencephalography (EEG) devices, which are used by scientists to read the electrical activity of the brain by attaching electrodes to the surface of the scalp. We have previously blogged on the intricacies of securing gaming platforms and gamers’ identities, but how can you protect gamers’ thoughts?

The experts behind this have explored how hackers might be able to steal your credit card PIN numbers, home address and month of birth using the technology, which could spell disaster for secure identities in online gaming.

But what does this mean for organizational security? Well, we can be pretty sure that companies will never try to get us to wear such devices at work or store large amounts of data in our brain (thanks Keanu) as it might compromise company-sensitive information and passwords. Our CIO research shows that the majority of CIOs globally still favor security and strong authentication over convenience for enabling access to company-confidential data. CIOs may wish to control our access to sensitive information – and rightly so – but controlling our minds might be going a step too far.

Unfortunately for the gaming world, however, just beware what you wear.