International Association for Cryptologic Research

International Association
for Cryptologic Research


Paper: Pass-thoughts: Authenticating With Our Minds

Julie Thorpe
P.C. van Oorschot
Anil Somayaji
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Abstract: We present a novel idea for user authentication that we call pass-thoughts. Recent advances in Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) technology indicate that there is potential for a new type of human-computer interaction: a user transmitting thoughts directly to a computer. The goal of a pass-thought system would be to extract as much entropy as possible from a user?s brain signals upon ?transmitting? a thought. Provided that these brain signals can be recorded and processed in an accurate and repeatable way, a pass-thought system might provide a quasi two-factor, changeable, authentication method resilient to shoulder-surfing. The potential size of the space of a pass-thought system would seem to be unbounded in theory, due to the lack of bounds on what composes a thought, although in practice it will be finite due to system constraints. In this paper, we discuss the motivation and potential of pass-thought authentication, the status quo of BCI technology, and outline the design of what we believe to be a currently feasible pass-thought system. We also briefly mention the need for general exploration and open debate regarding ethical considerations for such technologies.
  title={Pass-thoughts: Authenticating With Our Minds},
  booktitle={IACR Eprint archive},
  keywords={applications / Authentication, Passwords},
  note={ 12894 received 21 Apr 2005},
  author={Julie Thorpe and P.C. van Oorschot and Anil Somayaji},