Nick Merrill


Authentication (logging into things) is a long-standing problem. Passwords are easy to guess and difficult to remember, while tokens or keys are easy to lose. Meanwhile, biometric identifiers like fingerprints are easy to steal and difficult to change (remember the eyeball transplant scene in Minority Report?).

Passthought authentication allows you think a secret thought to log into things. A brainscanning device collects the neural signatures generated as you think your secret thought. Passthoughts combine multiple factors of authentication: a knowledge factor (your secret thought), and a biometric-like inherence factor (the unique way you express your thought neurally). Unlike two-step multifactor (e.g., entering your password, then receiving a code on your phone), passthoughts combines multiple factors in a single step.

Our group has achieved 99% authentication accuracy using single-channel, consumer EEG devices, on par with work that used clinical-grade equipment.

Our group's work

Tanya Piplani, Nick Merrill, John Chuang. Faking it, Making it: Fooling and Improving Brain-Based Authentication with Generative Adversarial Networks. BTAS '18. (Coming soon)

Max T. Curran, Nick Merrill, Swapan Gandhi, John Chuang. Exploring the Feasibility and Performance of One-Step Multi-Factor Authentication with Ear-EEG. PhyCS '18. (Coming soon)

Nick Merrill, Max T Curran, John Chuang. Is the Future of Authenticity All In Our Heads? Moving passthoughts from the lab to the world. NSPW '17.

Max T Curran, Nick Merrill, John Chuang, Swapan Gandhi. One-step, three-factor authentication in a single earpiece. UBICOMP '17.

Max T. Curran, Jong-kai Yang, Nick Merrill, John Chuang. Passthought Authentication with Low-Cost EarEEG. EMBC 2016.

John Chuang. One-Step Two-Factor Authentication with Wearable Bio-Sensors. Workshop on "Who are you?! Adventures in Authentication" (WAY'14), SOUPS '14.

Benjamin Johnson, Thomas Maillart, John Chuang. My Thoughts are Not Your Thoughts: Robustness of Brainwave Signal Authentication Against Impersonation Attacks. UBICOMP '14.

John Chuang, Hamilton Nguyen, Charles Wang, Benjamin Johnson. I Think, Therefore I Am: Usability and Security of Authentication Using Brainwaves. International Conference on Financial Cryptography and Data Security (FC'13).

Press coverage

NEO.LIFE. When computers read your mind, you’ll need a great passthought. July 15, 2017.

Techonomy. Will your next password be a brainwave? June 20, 2017.

KRON4. New brainwave reading tech from Cal Berkeley released. November 18, 2016.

CNET. Use your eyes, voice -- and thoughts -- to replace passwords. July 4, 2016.

Tech Republic. Is it time to replace passwords with passthoughts?. March 17, 2015.

CNBC. Replace Your Password With Brainwaves? Yes, Really. April 9, 2013.

UC Berkeley ISchool. New Research: Computers That Can Identify You by Your Thoughts. April 3, 2013.

Venturebeat. Brain drain: Your thoughts could soon replace passwords. April 8, 2013.