We’ve gone a long way since simple keys and locks. Things like digital encryption or biometric validation methods based on fingerprints, corneas and so on have helped secure data and access to sensible information.These methods were developed, however, because we had to keep up with the threats. There’s nothing truly unhackable, some say, but you can darn well make it really hard for the wrong people to get in. These researchers really thought outside the box, though.
There’s nothing truly unhackable, some say, but you can darn well make it really hard for the wrong people to get in. But these researchers really thought outside the box and devised a password protection system that lends access based on the emotional response to “chill” music.
This might sound like a crackpot study, but Max Wolotsky at Cal Poly Pomona and the other authors involved in this work are really on to something. Think of the most secret and important things that need to be secured, like nuclear launch codes. PIN passwords are crap, and authentications like retina or fingerprint scans count for nothing if there’s a gun to your head.
It’s these sort of coercion threats the researchers sought to render useless with a new auth system whose lock is opened by a chill mind.
The thinking was that if your coerced to authenticate against your own will, then the body will respond with detectable stress chemicals. The team went a step further and made a system that lets you in only if your body responds with a child shiver — a physiological marker for relaxation, hence chill music.
The coercion resistant authentication system (CRAS) was tested on five subjects. Each participant was asked to choose their favorite piece of chill music, whether it was Paganini or Rihanna, all while physiological data was recorded like the heartbeat, brain waves but also dopamine levels.
Specifically, the researchers focused on capturing those intense, goose-bumps moments since the assumption is that this response happens during the same part of the score.
“Chill music and stress are both stimuli for a neuro-chemical called Dopamine. However, they release the Dopamine at different parts of the brain, resulting in different neuro-physiological responses, which gives us both the non-transferable and stress-detection properties necessary for CRAS,” the researchers wrote in the study abstract.
In total, some 100 samples were gathered and participants could pass coercion tests 90 percent of the time.
“Our work not only demonstrates the potential of Chill music as a unique stimulus for CRAS, but also paves the path of wider adoption of CRAS in general,” the researchers conclude, but I don’t know what to say about that.
For one, no test truly challenged coercion because it would simply be unethical to put some poor undergrads in a life and death situation. The assumption that a chill track will always seem ‘chill’ in the same manner also seems buggy to me. It simply doesn’t make sense to me, as a listener who might blast some Shpongle or Mastodon at different times but feel equally relaxed.
Simply put, this sort of system, I think, could risk keeping out more people who are supposed to be inside than those that shouldn’t. A key that only works sometimes is pretty useless for everyone involved.
It’s an interesting auth system for sure, one that could be tweaked and improved. One of the authors of the study works at the Sandia National Laboratories where nuclear stockpiling is handled. Work like this definitely sounds important for them, so I think they’ll get something right in the end.