Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) offer a direct link between the grey matter of our human brains and silicon and circuitry of computers. New technologies always bring with them new security threats, but with the human brain a single store of the most sensitive and private information it's possible to imagine, the security stakes couldn't be higher.
If we're soon to be plugging computers directly into our brains, how can we protect that connection from those who want to attack them?
The first wave of brain-computer interfaces are beginning to make their way onto the market, offering users a way of keeping tabs on theirstress levels, control apps, and monitor their emotions. BCI tech is also progressing outside the consumer area, with medical researchers using them to help those with spinal injuries to move paralysed limbs andrestore a lost sense of touch.
SEE: Managing AI and ML in the enterprise 2020: Tech leaders increase project development and implementation (TechRepublic Premium)
Ultimately, BCIs could offer a way of communicating thoughts a form of human-machine telepathy.
So why would someone want to hack a BCI?
Being able to read the thoughts or memories of a political leader, or a business executive, could be a huge coup for intelligence agencies trying to understand rival states, or for criminals looking to steal commercial secrets or for blackmail. There's a military angle too; the US is already looking at BCIs as a way of controlling fleets of drones or cyber defences far more effectively than is now possible being able to hack into those systems would create a huge advantage on the battlefield.
The consequences of an attack or data breach from a BCI could be an order of magnitude worse than other systems: leaked email logs are one thing, leaked thought logs are another. Similarly, the risks of ransomware become far greater if it's targeted at BCIs rather than corporate systems; making it impossible to use a PC or a server is one thing; locking up the connection between someone's brain and the wider world could be far worse.
BCIs could ultimately become an authentication mechanism in their own right: our patterns of brain activity are so unique they could ultimately be used as a way of permitting access to sensitive systems, which could make it worthwhile to try to copy them. "Attempts to trick such a biometric will likely be very difficult, because brainwaves are not visible (like other biometrics like a fingerprint, iris, etc.) and cannot be replicated by another person... without direct access to the person and their brain to record the person," researchers at Israel's Ben-Gurion University of the Negevwrote in a recent paper.
It's early days, but there are already some signs that security will be a key consideration. For example, researchers have already shown that BCIs could be used to get people todisclose information from their PIN numberstotheir religious convictions.
Some of the potential threats to BCIs will be carry-overs from other tech systems. Malware could cause problems with acquiring data from the brain, as well as sending signals from the device back to the cortex, either by altering or exfiltrating the data.
Man-in-the-middle attacks could also be recast for BCIs: attackers could either intercept the data being gathered from the headset and replace it with their own, or intercept the data being used to stimulate the user's brain and replace it with an alternative. Hackers could use methods like these to get BCI users to inadvertently give up sensitive information, or gather enough data to mimic the neural activity needed to log into work or personal accounts.
Other threats to BCI security will be unique to brain-computer interfaces. Researchershave identifiedmalicious external stimuli as one of the most potentially damaging attacks that could be used on BCIs: feeding in specially crafted stimuli to affect either the users or the BCI itself to try to get out certain information, showing users images to gather their reactions to them, for example. Other similar attacks could be carried out to hijack users' BCI systems, by feeding in fake versions of the neural inputs causing them to take unintended actions potentially turning BCIs into bots, for example.
Other attacks hinge on the introduction or removal of data from BCIs: introducing noise to diminish the signal-to-noise ratio, for example, and making the signal being received from the brain difficult or impossible to read. Similarly, attackers interfering with the noise cancellation of BCI systems which separates the useful brain signals from the general background fuzz could cause a denial of service: annoying if it's an entertainment system that's cracked, life-altering if it's a BCI that allows someone to walk or control a wheelchair, for example.
SEE: Scientists are using brain-computer connections to restore a lost sense of touch
Currently, while we know something about the effect of normal BCI use on the brain, we don't know how an attack on a BCI could, deliberately or inadvertently, damage the grey matter. A hijacked BCI causing disruption to the way a user's brain works sounds like a sci-fi plot, but it could certainly be possible.
"What type of damage will [an attack] do to the brain, will it erase your skills or disrupt your skills? What are the consequences would they come in the form of just new information put into the brain, or would it even go down to the level of damaging neurons that then leads to a rewiring process within the brain that then disrupts your thinking?" says Dr Sasitharan Balasubramaniam, director of research at the Waterford Institute of Technology's Telecommunication Software and Systems Group (TSSG). "It's not only at the information level, it could also be the physical damage as well," he says.
Brains of BCI users will change and adapt as they learn to use the system, in the same way as they would to fresh experiences or acquiring new skills in the course of normal life. However, BCIs' ability to cause neuroplasticity could bring with it a new level of risk. "BCIs have the potential to change the brain of the user (e.g. to facilitate motor or cognitive improvements to people with disabilities). To preserve the physical and mental integrity of the user, BCI systems need to ensure that no unauthorized person can modify their functioning," Javier Mnguez, cofounder and CSO of neurotechnology companyBitbrain, tells ZDNet.
So how can you protect such systems, particularly given the information they hold and the potentially disastrous effects? While BCIs themselves may still be relatively novel, the technologies needed to secure them likely won't be: anonymisers, security standards and protocols, antivirus, and encryption are all being suggested as means of staving off BCI attacks.
And, like any other technologies, brain-computer interfaces will need a multi-layered security approach to keep them safe, locking down each individual element of the BCI. "I don't think that the countermeasures would be individual solutions. Going forward, we need to integrate so many different things, from how signals are wirelessly sent to the interface that might be just outside the head, all the way to integrating that with the machine learning for determining whether it's the right or wrong pattern [a BCI is using], and then using that to actually deter the attacks," TSSG's Balasubramaniam says.
The level of risk in using BCIs also varies according to which type of system someone's using: a headset-based, no-invasive system will get a low-quality signal and will be easy for a user to switch off and block external communication; an invasive system, meanwhile, gathers high-quality signals direct from the brain's surface and requires surgery to disengage it fully.
"The more accurate and powerful a BCI is, the higher the risk could be," says Mnguez. A more comprehensive measurement of the brain will potentially contain more sensitive information and, therefore, requires more strict safety standards, as do devices that modify brain function. "This is especially relevant, because the target users of these systems are generally a vulnerable population, including patients with certain neurological disorders," he says.
SEE: Mind-controlled drones and robots: How thought-reading tech will change the face of warfare
What's more, many of the standards and principles of good tech security and data hygiene used in other systems can be brought across for use in BCIs: educating users, gathering only the minimum amount of data necessary for the system to work, locking down when, how and who can access the system, and so on. However, while the technology side of the equation may have good security precedents elsewhere, the unknown unknowns of the human brain could prove BCIs' greatest security challenge.
"In terms of the security of computational systems in general, this is a branch of science that is advanced enough and we probably have good enough understanding to know how to do the right thing from a technical perspective," says Tamara Bonaci, affiliate faculty member at the National Science Foundation's Center for Neurotechnology.
"What's probably a little more interesting and likely much harder is the question of, do we know enough about the brain and about the human body and electrophysiological signals. Something that may not mean very much today might be recognised as something that is revealing sensitive information about the person tomorrow," she warns.
However, the complexity of the human brain also brings good news for BCI security. Unlike other typically compromised systems like smartphones and tablets, BCIs aren't one size fits all: they require a lot of training to make them compatible with their individual user.
"That signal on the surface looks pretty much like white noise. It's very hard to discern any useful information there. You kind of have to zoom in on specific parts of the signal and know exactly what you're looking for," Bonaci says.
The rest is here:
- Voice Biometrics Technology Market: Year 2021-2028 and its Detail Analysis by Focusing on Top Key Players like 3M Cogent, NEC Corporation of America,... - July 12th, 2021
- Facial Recognition System Market Will Generate Revenue, Opportunity and Huge Sales Near Future 2021-2027 The Manomet Current - The Manomet Current - July 12th, 2021
- Image Recognition AI Camera Market Business Strategies and Opportunities, Challenges with Top Trending Key Players || Catchoom, Honeywell... - July 12th, 2021
- JAMA Highlights Success of BrainScope's EEG-based Concussion Index As Reliable Indicator of Concussion - Herald-Mail Media - February 17th, 2021
- The benefits and risks of neural interfaces - Bangkok Post - February 17th, 2021
- Facial Recognition System Market to Witness Robust Expansion Throughout the Forecast Period 2018-2026 - The Daily Chronicle - October 3rd, 2020
- Neurotechnology Market Trends by Manufacturers, States, Type and Application, Forecast to 2020 2030 - The Daily Chronicle - September 8th, 2020
- Neurotech Bill Introduced in Both Senate and House of Representatives - Epilepsy Foundation - September 8th, 2020
- Global Neurotechnology Market Revenue to Witness Steady Growth Through 2025 - Industry Today - September 8th, 2020
- Facial Recognition Market Share, Size, Status, Manufactures, Growth and Forecast 2020-2025 - The Daily Chronicle - September 8th, 2020
- AI X-ray scanner and robotic muscles could be adopted by NHS - E&T Magazine - September 8th, 2020
- Stryker to participate in the Morgan Stanley 18th Annual Virtual Global Healthcare Conference - Yahoo Finance - September 8th, 2020
- Walk-through cancer diagnoses and robotics muscles among groundbreaking projects backed by government - GOV.UK - September 8th, 2020
- Stryker's AxSOS 3 Ankle Fusion System Offers Innovative Plates That Are Designed to Fit a Range of Patients - BioSpace - September 8th, 2020
- Arctop Launches New State-of-the-Art Brain Decoding Technology: Neuos Eureka - Business Wire - August 10th, 2020
- Global Projection 2020: Facial Recognition Market Exclusive Profitable Comprehensive Research Report with COVID-19 Impact Overview | Forecast 2029 -... - August 10th, 2020
- Neurolief Awarded Breakthrough Device Designation from FDA for Wearable Technology to Address Major Depression - Business Wire - August 10th, 2020
- Brave users of Elon Musks Neuralink brain implants could be HACKED by crooks in future, cyber-experts sugge - The Sun - August 10th, 2020
- Stryker's Neuroform Atlas Stent System granted an expanded indication - DOTmed HealthCare Business News - August 9th, 2020
- Impact of Covid-19 on 3D Reconstruction Technology Market has Huge Growth in Industry | Neurotechnology, Vi3dim, Phenom-World - Levee Report - August 8th, 2020
- Stryker's Neuroform Atlas Stent System granted an expanded indication, providing a new option for patients with aneurysms in the back of the brain -... - August 6th, 2020
- Demand for Facial Recognition Market to Experience a Significant Dip in 2020, Influenced by COVID-19 Pandemic 2020-2029 | Aware Inc, NEC Corporation -... - August 6th, 2020
- New #BlackInNeuro Campaign Connects Bright Minds From Around The World - Forbes - August 6th, 2020
- Indian School Of Media: 70 EMG Founder Martin Da Costa speaks about his journey and events in the post-covid age. - Animation Xpress - August 6th, 2020
- Face Recognition Market Research Report by Type, by Computing, by Vertical, by Application - Global Forecast to 2025 - Cumulative Impact of COVID-19 -... - August 6th, 2020
- Stryker (SYK) Q2 Earnings and Revenues Surpass Estimates - Yahoo! Voices - August 3rd, 2020
- Top Shorts In The Last Eight Years That Paid Off Big Time - Yahoo Finance - August 3rd, 2020
- Stryker (SYK) to Report Q2 Earnings: What's in the Cards? - Yahoo Finance - August 3rd, 2020
- Life Lived On Screen: Philosophical, Poetic, and Political Observations - lareviewofbooks - August 3rd, 2020
- Edited Transcript of SYK.N earnings conference call or presentation 30-Jul-20 8:30pm GMT - Yahoo Finance - August 3rd, 2020
- Facial Recognition Market 2020, Industry Overview by Current-Status, Advancements, Top Trends, Challenges, Investment, Strong Development and Forecast... - July 31st, 2020
- Artificial Intelligence Will Be Vastly Smarter Than Humans Within Five Years, Says Tech Billionaire Elon Musk - Swarajya - July 31st, 2020
- How Neurotechnology Market Will Dominate In Coming Years? Report Covering Products, Financial Information, Developments, Swot Analysis And Strategies... - July 30th, 2020
- MOBILE BIOMETRICS MARKET TRENDS, TECHNOLOGY AND FORECAST | BY TOP COMPANIES APPLE INC.; IDEMIA; NUANCE COMMUNICATIONS, INC.; NEC CORPORATION - Market... - July 30th, 2020
- Ti'Air Riggins: Prolonging the function of brain implants - MSUToday - July 30th, 2020
- Global Face and Voice Biometrics Market 2025 Real Time Analysis & Forecast of COVID 19 Impact on Top Manufacturers: 3M Cogent (USA), NEC... - July 30th, 2020
- Facial Recognition Market 2020 Size, Share Growth, Trend, Industry Analysis and Forecast to 2025 - Market Research Posts - July 30th, 2020
- Neurology Devices Market Outlook To 2026 - Business Opportunity and Technological Innovations - Market Research Posts - July 30th, 2020
- Facial Recognition Technology Market Global Production, Growth, Share, Demand and Applications Forecast to 2028 - Market Research Posts - July 29th, 2020
- Global Facial Recognition Software Market Report 2020 with Industry Positioning of Key Vendors & COVID-19 Impact Analysis : Cognitec Systems GmbH,... - July 29th, 2020
- Global Face and Voice Biometrics Market Projected to Reach USD XX.XX billion by 2025- 3M Cogent (USA), NEC Corporation of America (USA), AcSys... - July 29th, 2020
- Facial Recognition Market is Expected To Thrive At Impressive CAGR By 2025 NEC Corporation, Aware, Inc., Ayonix Corporation, Cognitec Systems GmbH,... - July 27th, 2020
- Facial Recognition Technology Market Current Trends, SWOT Analysis, Business Overview and Forecast by 2028 - Bulletin Line - July 27th, 2020
- Global Neurosurgery Market 2020 Expected to Reach Highest CAGR During COVID 19 crisis ,Share Growth, Trends, Devices, Applications, Competitive... - July 27th, 2020
- Global and Country Specific Neural Control Market Report 2020 Forecast, Opportunities and Strategies To 2027: COVID 19 Impact and Recovery Top Key... - July 26th, 2020
- NASA warns of a massive asteroid bigger than the famous London Eye approaching Earth on July 24 - Business Insider India - July 25th, 2020
- Neurotechnology Market Poised to Grow at a Healthy CAGR of XX% During the Forecast Period 2017 2025 - 3rd Watch News - July 22nd, 2020
- Fingerprint Biometrics In The VAR Market 2020 by Innovations, New Technology And Research- Fulcrum Biometrics, Neurotechnology, 360 Biometrics,... - July 22nd, 2020
- Facial Recognition Market 2025: Research By Top Manufacturers with Market Size,Market Growth, Competitive Regions with Opportunities in Industry -... - July 22nd, 2020
- Neurosurgery Market Growth, Analysis, Regions and Type by 2026 - 3rd Watch News - July 22nd, 2020
- I Am Therefore I Am Wrong - Dr. Howard Rankin on Recovery Now with Kim Justus - BlogTalkRadio - July 22nd, 2020
- Facial Recognition Market 2020 Size By Product Types, End-Users, Regional Outlook, Growth Potential, Price Trends And Forecast To 2025 - Cole of Duty - July 21st, 2020
- What is NeuroTechnology? | NeuroTechnology and Hearing Loss - July 21st, 2020
- Facial Recognition Market Outlook, Growth, Trends, Analysis And Forecast To 2020-2025 - Jewish Life News - July 21st, 2020
- 2020 to 2026 Global Face and Voice Biometrics Market Research Analysis Report with 3M Cogent (USA), NEC Corporation of America (USA), AcSys Biometrics... - July 21st, 2020
- COVID-19 Impact on Facial Recognition Market by Component (Software Tools and Services), Vertical (BFSI, Government & Defense, Retail &... - July 21st, 2020
- The FINANCIAL - Neuralink chip will stream music into your brain - The FINANCIAL - July 21st, 2020
- Facial Recognition System Market Analysis by Current Status & Target Audience and Forecast to 2027 - 3rd Watch News - July 19th, 2020
- Neurotechnology Market: Qualitative Analysis of the Leading Players and Competitive Industry Scenario, 2025 - Express Journal - July 16th, 2020
- Virtual Reality in Therapy Market 2020 2023: Company Profiles, COVID 19 Outbreak, Regional Study, Emerging Technologies, Business Trends, Industry... - July 16th, 2020
- Elon Musk to release progress update on Neuralink brain chip on August 28 - Inceptive Mind - July 13th, 2020
- Facial Recognition Technology Market Key Drivers, Business Insights, Trends And Forecast To 2028 - Jewish Life News - July 13th, 2020
- MOBILE BIOMETRICS MARKET TRENDS, TECHNOLOGY AND FORECAST | BY TOP COMPANIES APPLE INC.; IDEMIA; NUANCE COMMUNICATIONS, INC.; NEC CORPORATION - Jewish... - July 13th, 2020
- Clinicians find encouraging results from functional MR in an unresponsive patient with COVID-19 - DOTmed HealthCare Business News - July 13th, 2020
- Elon Musk says Neuralinks capability to cure mental illness is great and terrifying - Republic World - Republic World - July 11th, 2020
- Encouraging results from functional MRI in an unresponsive patient with COVID-19 - Science Codex - July 11th, 2020
- Facial Recognition System Market: Deep Analysis by Production Overview and Insights 2018 - Market Research Publicist - July 11th, 2020
- Humans 'prick' their ears up just like cats and dogs when they hear interesting sounds, scientists find - Telegraph.co.uk - July 11th, 2020
- Face Recognition Software Market Share, Growth, Statistics, By Application, Production, Revenue & Forecast To 2026 - Owned - July 11th, 2020
- Trending: Neurotechnology Market 2020- Analysis And In-Depth Research On Market Size, Trends, Emerging Growth Factors And Forecast To 2026 - Cole of... - June 21st, 2020
- Growth of Facial Recognition Technology Market has been derived from the growing CAGR 2020-2028 - WorldsTrend - June 21st, 2020
- Meet 10 Companies Working On Reading Your Thoughts (And Even Those Of Your Pets) - Forbes - June 21st, 2020
- Vagus Nerve Stimulation Breakthrough Suggests Route To Therapies for Arthritis, Heart Failure - Technology Networks - June 18th, 2020
- 2020 Judges, FAQ, and Nominations - MIT Technology Review - June 18th, 2020
- Impact of COVID-19 Outbreak on Global Face and Voice Biometrics Market 2020 Industry Size, Advancement Strategy, Top Players, SWOT Analysis and 2025... - June 18th, 2020
- Read Only Memories: Neurodiver Gets PS4, Xbox One, And PC Release Window - Noisy Pixel - June 18th, 2020
- Partnership brings together education and diagnostic tool on concussion - Med-Tech Innovation - May 19th, 2020
- Facial Recognition Market Report 2020 Industry Size, Share, Growth, Trends, Sales Revenue, Business Strategies, Key Countries Analysis by Leading... - May 19th, 2020
- Neurotechnology overview: Why we need a treaty to regulate weapons controlled by thinking - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists - May 3rd, 2020
- NeuroOne Medical Technologies Corp. Appoints Vanessa Tolosa to Scientific Advisory Board: Leading Researcher in Neurotech to Guide Further Development... - May 3rd, 2020