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Brain Inform. 2018 Oct 29;5(2):12. doi: 10.1186/s40708-018-0090-1.

Side-channel attacks against the human brain: the PIN code case study (extended version).

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UCLouvain, 1348, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.
UCLouvain, 1348, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.


We revisit the side-channel attacks with brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) first put forward by Martinovic et al. at the USENIX 2012 Security Symposium. For this purpose, we propose a comprehensive investigation of concrete adversaries trying to extract a PIN code from electroencephalogram signals. Overall, our results confirm the possibility of partial PIN recovery with high probability of success in a more quantified manner and at the same time put forward the challenges of full/systematic PIN recovery. They also highlight that the attack complexities can significantly vary in function of the adversarial capabilities (e.g., supervised/profiled vs. unsupervised/non-profiled), hence leading to an interesting trade-off between their efficiency and practical relevance. We then show that similar attack techniques can be used to threat the privacy of BCI users. We finally use our experiments to discuss the impact of such attacks for the security and privacy of BCI applications at large, and the important emerging societal challenges they raise.


Brain–computer interfaces (BCIs); Electroencephalography (EEGs); Privacy; Security

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