Mind your thoughts, they could be hacked

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.

4 thoughts on “Mind your thoughts, they could be hacked

  1. Ray,

    As I read your article I kept thinking about all of the social engineering ploys that can be used to seamlessly extract our thoughts. No headwear needed. The article also triggered my thinking on telepathy and body language. No hardware needed there either. Thus our thoughts can be read without the use of physical devices regardless of the intended use of the information gained.

    BTW, telepathy, unlike body language and/or wireless signals, does not depend on distance and cannot be blocked by objects large or small.

    Additionally, I do not agree that it is an invasion of our thoughts because we are transmitting those thoughts, if we were not, our thoughts would not be readily perceived. All that these commercial brain-computer interfaces are doing is harnessing/mining the wave length signals that our brains are transmitting.

    Human instincts are a powerful survival mechanism and we need to rediscover it, harness it, and use it for the betterment of our societies.

    ~ Virginia Benedict
    Professional Social Media Managing Curator (cir 1992)
    Market Engineering Strategist (cir 1984)
    IT Systems & Network Security/Computer Forensics (cir 2000)
    Technologies Analyst (cir 1989)

    914-923-2103 (by Appt)
    TechMarketEditor.com
    OnSocialMedia.net
    @System_Prompt
    @TechMarketEditor

    1. Virginia,

      As always, I appreciate your thoughts on my blog. While I do not believe that this is a threat today, i found the topic interesting enough to look at it from a security perspective. I am continually amazed at the creativity of engineers who push the limits of technology to create a better experience for all of us. But over many years of watching technical innovation, security is often an afterthought. As I pondered this when it comes to a brain-computer connection, my thoughts turned to ensuring that this type of technology would have a transparent security layer that would ensure that the user was in complete control of the data (brain waves) being accessed and shared. But I think this will not be mainstream for some time… Let’s see if Apple can come up with the iBrain.

      ~ray

      1. Ray,

        Yes, I agree that most of these technologies are wonderful and that these have the potential to bring us, one step at the time, ahead towards, hopefully minimizing our footprint on Earth. These tools can help us live more efficient and productive lives.

        These technologies carry the promise to make our lives seamless and efficient while minimizing waste; not to mention that these technology tools help us strengthen our alliances as well as help us make new ones. They lend a new meaning to the ‘grass-roots’ concept but the latter warrants a discussion of its own.

        It is saddening however how humans allow their addictive tendencies to dictate use. Growing up I always knew that there was a time and place for everything. That everything had its place and that there was a place for everything.

        For example, it scares me that people sleep with their mobile devices next to their pillow as much as I am concerned about driving and texting or even answering the phone, even hands free for that matter, while driving. In my home we do not allow any mobile devices or TV near the dining room during meal time, for example. Meal time is the time for family and friends to convene and reconnect face-to-face without any external distractions.

        Smart phones, for example, can easily be programmed to emit signals to target our subconscious so to bring into memory certain topic-specific unconscious response any time whether we are asleep or awake. Once the thoughts are in the realm of our conscious state whether trough dreams or not these wave signals can be mined.

        I call this invasion of privacy. It is well known that even in the analogue days, bells and whistles such as speaker on phones are seamless attack surfaces through phone-jacking and phreaking.

        Were it not for the fearful intimidation these worrisome criminal practices bring, whether through organized abuse of power or random criminal activities, we would have a wonderful user experience.

        ~ Virginia Benedict
        Professional Social Media Managing Curator (cir 1992)
        Market Engineering Strategist (cir 1984)
        IT Systems & Network Security/Computer Forensics (cir 2000)
        Technologies Analyst (cir 1989)

        914-923-2103 (by Appt)
        TechMarketEditor.com
        OnSocialMedia.net
        @System_Prompt
        @TechMarketEditor

        Member of Microsoft’s Technical Communities
        Powered by Office 365/SharePoint

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