Have you ever wanted to read minds?
The power to tap into thoughts and know what people are thinking about on any given topic exists in many aspects of superhuman and sci-fi pop culture.
Household devices designed to let you use a computer solely with your mind are becoming commercially available, but opening your mind to a computer comes with inherent risks.
Introducing the Emotiv, a personal Electroencephalogram device, or EEG, for use on personal computers.
It is small, lightweight and only takes a short training period in order for the user to adjust to using it.
It also may be exactly what hackers need to get at personal information.
EEG devices have come a long way since the late 1800s when they were used to detect brain function in monkeys.
Today these personal EEGs can detect electrical impulses in the brain to a level of accuracy well enough to actually be used in video gaming.
The problem arises over exactly what information these devices pick up, and how the apps that let users run their computers process and store this data.
Researchers have already tested and proven that tailored EEG programs can draw data out of the user with up to 40 percent accuracy with few attempts.
While the tests were done on willing participants with rather simple programs, a malicious third party bent on knowing your credit card PIN would likely be much more crafty, and certainly not tell users of the ‘risk’.
The signal in the brain needed to actually successfully ‘read minds’ is based of subconscious recognition.
Along as developers are creative with how they ask the brain for information, most data can be easily obtained with very few tries.
The only problem for developers then is getting an uninterrupted stream of data from the EEG.
As of right now, there are zero restrictions on the data stream from EEG apps on the market.
In fact, users have little defense from these attacks beyond themselves.
It is harder to extract information from a knowing subject, as interrogators know well enough.
This fact is no different for the EEG mind hacks in question, and a subject who knows they are being targeted skews the specific brain wave hackers would be looking for.
Of course, who is going to be conscious of a potential mind assault while playing games?
Games show the biggest potential, and given the nature of app markets, one of the largest audiences for third party app makers to target.
Though the tests did not focus on gaming, game like activities are likely to be able to lull users into a false sense of security.
The sort of zoning out that most gamers experience while playing is exactly what hackers need to snag crucial data.
Want to take down that boss or earn a kill streak?
That will cost you your credit card number.
Realistically, the only way that these EEGs will ever truly be safe for users is if restrictions are placed on the data being received.
Only by keeping that information from developers, or only giving them a little bit, will your data be protected (somewhat) from those who care less about balancing your checkbook than you do.
Or better yet, use your computer with a keyboard and mouse like nature intended.