Protecting our thoughts – An overview around BCIs

The study of electro activity in the human brain has been around for over a century but in recent years it has become more relevant for the control of everyday applications. Brain-computer interfaces (BCI) has been a serious study for at least the last 30 years and this has led to a variety of lightweight devices that may be applied for improved human control over automata. Brain-ware has become nonintrusive and the latest advancements have dry electrodes that sit on the human head collecting the electro activity of the brain. These are significant technological advancements from the days when a user had to undergo significant surgery, and had electrodes implanted within the brain. The current lightweight headsets are often styled with fancy baseball type caps and other headwear in order to make the experience more socially integrated.

Source: Reference

The use of brain-ware is relatively simple once it has been trained. The training has often been described as a painful exercise but in fact, it is not too different from training voice activation and transcription software. The user in each situation has to go through a series of standardised algorithms that link the human variability to the standardised software processes. In brain-ware that is used for playing a game or controlling a wheelchair, the user has to think and not to move or speak.

So for example, if I was training my brain-ware application to steer a remote control car, I would have to continue to think the word “left” until the electro activity in my brain mapped onto the preprogramed software for turning the car left. Sometimes the matching takes longer than others but providing the user is prepared to concentrate and put in the time to train the software, the effects are created by thinking. 

The confidentiality of the headset was easily compromised but the violation of integrity was more difficult. We fundamentally structured a man in the middle attack where fake packets were substituted for the real ones. The attack progressed in two phases. In the first phase, we let the primary channel of communication send the signals correctly but then substituted constructed packets into the stream. The second phase of attack was to divert the primary communication channel and to substitute new control commands.

These findings are disturbing and indicate that the accessibility to the communication channel between the headset and the device or game, can also be disrupted. A simple denial of service attack can be hosted by multiple secondary sources substituting packets into the Bluetooth stream. These packets could be both meaningless and meaningful in the command and control structures, but either disposition would bring disruption to channel access. The implications are for secondary control and unintended actions.

Brain-ware applications are rapidly growing in number and the advances in technology have made these devices more usable, cheaper, and readily available. Our research shows that more attention is required to security provisions that protect the confidentiality, integrity, and the availability of the information being processed and broadcasted from the headsets. End users would also benefit from greater standardisation between vendor’s and the products so that the training techniques will transfer easily from one headset to another.

At present the headsets offer little forensic value and further consideration can be given to including suitable memory capability to store relevant information. Importantly, the forward and back propagation affects in the movement of personal information that emanates from and alters human thinking and emotions, has ethical content that cannot be overlooked. More attention to better protection can reduce the risk of performance failure, and sponsor these valuable technologies to enhance human capabilities and life experiences. Check the research paper here

Published by The Art of Cyber-Space

I am a security professional specializing in network security. With vivid experience in different industries, I am looking to explore the current cyberspace and discuss the ideology of certain ideas from a different perspective.

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