Using Brain Scans to Prevent Security Leaks

Apr 24, 2015

Preventing security leaks in information systems can be a frustrating endeavor that often leads back to a simple question: why do people violate the rules when they know of the dangerous consequences?

In order to answer that question, Dr. Qing Hu, a Union Pacific Professor in Information Systems at Iowa State University, decided to go straight to the source: the brain.

With two other professors at Iowa State, he developed a simulation of security leaks and used EEG scan to look at the brains of three different groups: those with low self control, those with high self control, and a control group.

What he found was intuitive: the high self control group showed more brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, where executive function and a large part of decision making take place. They also took more time to consider each of the security dilemmas.

Hu says these findings can help companies better place those with low and high self control. 

"Low self control employees should not be custodians of sensitive digital data. However, they might be very productive, good employees in other positions."