Imagine being able to operate your computer without needing a mouse or a keyboard, by controlling it directly with your brain.
Imagine using your thoughts to adjust the temperature settings in your home, change channels on your smart TV, play the new Taylor Swift single, or turn on the lights.
Sound like sci-fi fantasy? Once, it would have been. Now it is becoming reality, as a result of brain machine interfaces (BMI) – an emerging field that is generating intense interest.
Now Capitol Technology University, home to one of the nation’s most highly regarded cybersecurity programs, has launched a program of BMI research under a recently-awarded federal grant.
Dr. Jason Pittman of the cybersecurity program and Dr. Garima Bajwa, a member of the engineering faculty, will be working to assess the security implications of this emerging technology.
Linking brains to computers can bring about enormous benefits and conveniences, but also opens up new avenues for criminal or malevolent behavior, Pittman said. Malware could potentially be employed that gives adversaries direct access to their victims’ thoughts.
“Imagine the Equifax breach, but in the context of your thoughts,” he said. “Someone’s not breaching a company to steal data that’s on the hard drive. Rather, someone’s seeking to backchannel an EEG device so they can read your thoughts while you are thinking them.
Dr. Bajwa and Dr. Pittman hope to help mitigate these risks through their research, which is focused on authentication -- that is, on ensuring that BMI-controlled devices can only be controlled by the intended user, and that the user’s thoughts are controlling only the intended devices.
“A new paradigm is emerging for how we interact with machines, and along with it comes a new paradigm for criminal action,” Pittman said. “With this capacity-building grant, Capitol is helping to map out this new and largely uncharted territory.”
As part of the federal grant, Capitol will also be providing an opportunity for young people to learn about brain machine interfaces as part of the university’s popular Cyber Saturday program, aimed at community college students. Sessionsi n February, March, and April will focus on BMIs.
“We’re going to introduce brain machine interfaces to students and have them engage in a variety of activities – controlling computers, playing games, and operating various devices,” Pittman explained. “We’ll also be teaching them about the cybersecurity aspects.”
Interested in learning more about BMI research at Capitol? Contact the cybersecurity program at firstname.lastname@example.org.