Kennesaw State researchers highlight gaps in data security considerations for brainwave tech

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jun 13, 2022

Kennesaw State University researchers are urging a greater focus on cybersecurity in emerging brainwave technologies, which they say are vulnerable to hacking and breaches of personal data.

Adriane Randolph
Adriane Randolph

Adriane Randolph, professor of information systems at KSU, and doctoral student Rosemary Tufon will present a research paper on security threats to brainwave technology at a conference in Vienna, Austria, this week.

Brainwave technologies can be used with a wired cap that feeds and decodes information straight into a computer, or wirelessly by wearing sensors on the scalp and broadcasting waves that are picked up by Bluetooth and decoded. The technology is often used to assist people whose ability to communicate is limited by disability.

But Randolph and Tufon said neurophysiological tools could be vulnerable to more manipulation and sharing of private information than currently considered.

“When we overlay all the advances of machine learning and processing, somebody’s identity can be correlated to their brainwave patterns,” Randolph said. “We have to think about how to protect that, or who owns the data once it is transmitted.”

Randolph, who is also executive director of the BrainLab, a science lab and technology incubator in the Coles College of Business, works with researchers at Kennesaw State to develop brainwave technologies that aim to help people with conditions that can severely limit communication and mobility, such as cerebral palsy or ALS. But the process of decoding the information that comes from those people could put their personal data at risk, she said.

Randolph and information systems student Tufon’s concern is not just about companies vacuuming up consumer data, but computer criminals using the data for illegal purposes. They hope their research will encourage industries using brainwave technologies to prioritize information security while the tools are still in development.

Rosemary Tufon
Rosemary Tufon

“I’m very interested in computer-human interactions, and I’ve always wanted to research ways to improve the security of privacy in healthcare for vulnerable populations,” said Tufon, who met Randolph through a doctoral seminar. “One of the most important parts of this paper is the consideration of the patients who may not even know that these brainwave technologies are being used on them.”

The pair will present the paper at the NeuroIS Retreat, June 14-16 in Vienna, Austria. 

Next, they plan to dive into information security literature and identify how or if the security concerns surrounding these neurophysiological tools are being addressed and what actions can be taken to further protect users.

– By Thomas Hartwell
Photos by David Caselli

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit