Posted by raherschbach on 12 Oct 2017

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.

A futuristic woman with optical enhancementSound 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 of technological research that is generating intense interest. Capitol Technology University, home to one of the nation’s most highly regarded cybersecurity programs, will be providing an opportunity for young people to learn about brain machine interfaces and even to try them out for themselves.

The university’s popular Cyber Saturday program – aimed at community college students – will focus on BMIs during sessions in February, March, and April. Click here to register or e-mail for more information.

“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,” explained cybersecurity professor Dr. Jason M. Pittman, who is spearheading the initiative together with Dr. Garima Bajwa of the engineering department. “We’ll also be teaching them about the cybersecurity aspects that come with this new technology.”

The program is part of a federal grant Capitol has received to conduct research into brain machine interfaces – and into the host of potential security issues that they raise.

Linking brains to computers can bring about enormous benefits and conveniences, but also opens up new avenues for criminal or malevolent behavior, he 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.”

Interested in exploring BMIs? Register here for an upcoming workshop.

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