Overcoming AR and VR Cyber Security Risks

Overcoming AR and VR Cyber Security Risks

Naveen Joshi 24/05/2019 4

No matter how pervasive immersive technologies become, the enterprise market should always be mindful about the potential vulnerabilities and cybersecurity challenges of virtual and augmented reality.

The evolution of entertainment offerings has enabled people to revolutionize the way they consume media. From newspapers to radio to television to smartphones, the way people find and gobble different information is worth mentioning. And since the advent of cutting-edge technologies, AR and VR, the media landscape has seen revolutionary alterations in people’s choice and preferences. Whether augmenting synthetic content onto the real world or immersing themselves completely on a virtual world, AR and VR have the potential to change the way people live, socialize, and play. By providing compelling, novel immersive AR/VR experiences, the enterprise market will see their business raising ahead of their competitors due to these technologies. While all the hype is worth it, we must pause our excitement levels and take a closer look at the whole new host of cybersecurity challenges of virtual and augmented reality that may come as an unwelcomed guest along with these technologies. 

Cybersecurity Challenges with Virtual and Augmented Reality 

Experts and the press have always been optimistic about the immersive technologies. They have anticipated that the AR and VR market will continue to soar and reach 170 billion dollars by 2022. With these technologies maturing and going mainstream, unscrupulous people will try different illegal ways to disrupt the simulation of users.

Take for example, you visited a new place. Since you have negligible comprehension about the place, you open an AR-based navigation app on your smartphone, place the phone in front of your face, and allow the app to outline the directions on streets while you walk. Now imagine, what if hackers manipulate the data and the navigation system as a whole. What if the compromised navigation app provides you wrong route details? What if the app highlights restaurants that match your food preferences, but you walk forward and found nothing? What if these malicious players leak your current location to criminals? Well, just thinking about situations like these highly disappoint us, isn’t it? Incidents like these haven’t occurred yet, but mind you, hackers are capable of doing all of these and many more. Hence, it is imperative to take these vulnerabilities into account well beforehand and find appropriate solutions for the same.

New Data, New Security Threats

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Earlier when the applications were run on computers, companies were not able to collect comprehensive data about customers. Only concrete information like browsing patterns or interactions with websites was the way out for companies then. But since the inception of smartphones, companies can collect every little piece of customer data, including their location, preferences, and interests. Today with the advent of IoT sensors, companies are able to collect accurate and in-depth information on their customers. With AR and VR stepping on the ramp of the technological world, new opportunity gates open for companies in terms of data collection capabilities. Wonder how?

  • Let's first start with the AR and VR headsets you wear. You may be well aware that these portable headsets have cameras and sensors on them. Right from your head to your eye, every movement can be sensed and captured by these display devices.
  • Some VR experiences include interactions like virtual meetings. In cases like this, the display devices comprise of microphones too. So basically, everything we speak will be captured by the headset.
  • If the headsets are powered with gesture recognition technology, then it can collect meaningful data on customer’s bodily behaviors also.
  • Another very important customer data that the AR and VR technologies easily access is the precise location of their users. We are not saying that AR/VR companies collect the location-based data for any illegal activity. Some applications and its experiences actually depend on geo-location factor. Remember Pokemon Go?

This information about customers can be managed and controlled in ways AR/VR companies want to. Why you ask? Well that's because there are no set rules or strict guidelines that potentially back these technologies. And the major reason behind this is immaturity of the AR/VR technology. Even if companies be transparent about their data collection, storing, accessing, sending (to other companies), or handling to users, hackers are always up for stealing our data using malicious ways. 

Now that we are aware of the different kinds of data that the AR/VR companies have already started gathering, let's check what challenges may surround us in the coming years.

Monitoring

Our data that lies in some corner of AR/VR companies can be accessed and viewed not only by these companies but also the malicious actors. What if hackers steal our data, and then jeopardize us to pay a handsome amount of money? And, would we even like our data to be collected, viewed, and used at the first place?

Credential Exposure

We have already mentioned that the headsets can collect our physical behavior. Now imagine, what if someone type in her credentials virtually? What if hackers attack your system at the same time?

DDoS Attack

Imagine you are sitting in a cafe with your friends, chit-chatting and chilling. Suddenly, you see that your friends have started moving unusually. Everything gets frozen up after a moment. And then, the screen goes blank. Yes, you guessed it right. You immersed yourself in the cafe using a VR headset. But, what just happened? Wonder why did the screen went blank suddenly? There was a DDoS attack probably. A DDoS attack has the potential to overwhelm the network with irrelevant data, thereby disrupting the user’s VR experiences. Besides, the attack can manipulate content to the extent that users can start feeling physically sick.

Impersonation

AR /VR headsets are capable of collecting our gesture and voice patterns, as mentioned. What if malicious players use our behavioral data to impersonate us and try to interact with our family members or carry out any illicit activity?

Cyber Defense Practices 

Although AR/VR has not yet reached the mass adoption rate, and none of the above security incidents have occurred yet, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Here are some cyber defense practices that every AR/VR organization should follow to save themselves from the heroes of the evil world:

  • Configure all AR/VR application tools for regular security analysis and audits.
  • Ask permissions from users before collecting their data.
  • Deploy security monitoring methods across every device and even the touchpoints.
  • Use appropriate authentication methods when communication takes place between AR/VR devices.

To gain a competitive edge in the market and to stand unique among all, companies rushed with their manufacturing process, without paying heed to security concerns. They might have never thought that such simple devices could wreak havoc one day. Taking inspiration and lesson from this, AR/VR companies should analyze security risks, find appropriate solutions, create a strong AR/VR system, and protect against hackers. Security care should be most importantly taken care of before innovative AR/VR use cases reach market shelves. 

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  • Jack Blake

    Thumbs Up if this inspired you to become an ethical hacker for tech companies.

  • Sam Hayden

    Excellent article

  • Cal Berst

    Informative and reliable post

  • James Taylor

    Thank you for the info

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Naveen Joshi

Tech Guru

Naveen is the Founder and CEO of Allerin, a software solutions provider that delivers innovative and agile solutions that enable to automate, inspire and impress. He is a seasoned professional with more than 20 years of experience, with extensive experience in customizing open source products for cost optimizations of large scale IT deployment. He is currently working on Internet of Things solutions with Big Data Analytics. Naveen completed his programming qualifications in various Indian institutes.

   

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