Augmented RealityTechnologyVirtual Reality

Cyber Security Challenges of Virtual and Augmented Reality

New technologies, such as virtual and augmented reality, come with security risks and may expose users to data theft.

When we think of virtual and augmented reality, we think of media, entertainment and breakthroughs in education, healthcare and various industries. However, there is one more thing we should be thinking of: the potential security risks accompanying these technologies.

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New Technologies–a Tempting Target for Cyber Criminals

The pattern is clear: as soon as a new technology emerges, unscrupulous persons will try to take advantage of it for personal gain. This was true for the internet, smartphones, social media networks and online games, and it is quite likely that cyber criminals will soon start targeting virtual reality and augmented reality apps, platforms and devices.

Hackers will find ways to exploit vulnerabilities in virtual and augmented reality technology and will use them to infect devices and steal personal data and other types of sensitive data stored in the users’ devices.

It is important to understand these vulnerabilities and find solutions for them. These are the most sensitive aspects we have identified so far (but the list is still open):


1. Ransomware Risks

Hackers may gain access to a user’s virtual/augmented reality device and record their behavior and interactions in the AR or VR environment. Later on, they may threaten to release these recordings publicly unless the user pays a ransom.

This is a sensitive situation–especially for public personalities who need to maintain a certain image. But it can also be embarrassing for regular individuals, who do not want to see their game play and other VR/AR interactions made public.


2. Fast Releases Shortcut Security Checks

There is constant pressure on virtual and augmented reality device and content producers to come up with new releases. The public is impatient and wants new games, as well as improved and more realistic VR/AR interactions.

Hurrying up to launch a product may come at the expense of full security checks and testing. The market may be invaded by products and apps with undiscovered vulnerabilities. These products will be undoubtedly targeted by hackers, who will soon discover these vulnerabilities.


3. Gaining Control of Devices

What happens when users are targeted while they use virtual/augmented reality devices, with the malicious intent of harming them? It is quite possible, as we’ve seen in the past. Gaming website Kotaku recently brought back to memory the 1997 episode of Pokémon that contained flashing strobe lights, causing seizures in almost 700 Japanese children.

Let us imagine the potential harm that can be brought to people in the deeply immersive environment of augmented reality and virtual reality. AR/VR device manufacturers have a huge responsibility to safeguard their devices against hacking.


4. Interference with AR Medical Devices

Augmented reality and virtual reality have already become a part of healthcare. Medical students, doctors and nurses use VR and AR devices and apps for training and even treating patients.

Should such a device or app become hacked, the cyber criminals could cause untold harm to unsuspecting patients, and demand huge amounts of money from hospitals to give them back control over these devices.


5. Sabotaging VR/AR Shopping Apps

Ecommerce websites are already under fire by hackers who attempt to steal their customers’ card details. It is only a matter of time until they start hacking retailers’ augmented reality and virtual reality shopping apps.

After all, customers have their cards and mobile payment solutions already recorded in their user profiles. Thus, hackers may gain access to these and deplete accounts silently, since mobile payment is such a seamless procedure.


These and many other security risks need to be dealt with urgently by virtual and augmented reality producers of devices and apps. The growth of new technologies and their increased popularity among people means that hackers will also develop an interest in these technologies. Without proper security practices in place, the virtual/augmented reality industry will become the victim of serious cyber attacks sooner than we may think.

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