Hacking Human Senses – The Coming Cyber Security Risks of AR and VR

thezootsewt/ November 20, 2016/ Automotive, Cyber Defense/ 0 comments

Super Hero Senses – Coming Soon

Up until now, we humans have relied primarily on our God-given built-in remote sensors (eyes, ears, nose, etc) to make sense of the world around us.  If we see a red truck cruising down the highway, then we assume that the red truck is really there.  We see it.  We hear it.  We might even smell it.  It’s real to us and we fully believe that what our senses are telling us is accurate.  Now, consider the possibility of putting on an immersive Augmented Reality  or Virtual Reality device.  Such a device would either feed your senses additional (augmented) information about reality or in the case of Virtual Reality (VR), provide you a picture of reality that is 100% supplied via computer.  The applications of such technology are wide-reaching and show great promise for areas such as education, exploration, healthcare, fire/safety, government, language translation, retail, entertainment, and the list goes on and on.

Exciting New AR/VR Announcements

Some great examples of emerging AR/VR have occurred over the last few months.  The Google DayDream Headset   (https://vr.google.com/) was recently released with mostly good/great reviews.  This headset allows the user to enter a completely new set of perceived worlds.  Want to relive that amazing experience on your last vacation as you watched the sunset over the Pacific Ocean?  No problem.  Need to travel to a new city and want to virtually walk to your hotel before you even step foot on a plane?  Google Daydream can do it.  Another exciting example is set to be released in May of 2017.  Pilot is a device similar to a hearing aid that has the potential to translate language in real-time into your ear.  Picture going into a French restaurant in Paris and being able to fully understand everything that the waiter is telling you – except the waiter is speaking to you in French and you only understand English.  This technology holds great potential!

Higher Stakes

The promise of this new technology is breathtaking, but what if we could no longer fully trust what we are seeing or hearing as reality?  What if the VR headset showed us images of a street that were not accurate or were altered in some way?  What if the in-ear translation device purposefully mistranslated critical pieces of a conversation?  With any technology, there are those who wish to use it for the advancement of human civilization and there are those who wish to use it for nefarious purposes – greed, self aggrandizement, and general evil behavior.  The stakes are about to go up for building secure systems and software.  Whereas cyber security has only been an afterthought in many companies and organizations, it will need to further come to the forefront of planning and development.  The stakes of a cyber security breach today have legal and financial consequences, but rarely do they result in the potential for real-time real-world disasters – death.  With the more immersive technologies that are emerging, the calculus changing drastically. See additional bad possible scenarios here.

A Call To Build Secure AR/VR

With all new technologies, there is a rush to be the first to the market no matter what the cost no matter what corners need to be cut.  Usually, this means that cyber security is thrown out the window and companies take a “fix it later” approach.  This could prove to be disastrous for many companies and many users of AR/VR.  We have seen the consequences of ignoring security and they are not pretty (Internet of Things IoT comes to mind).  Let’s build AR/VR secure from the beginning.  Let’s establish a secure framework for these types of systems before they enter into wide scale use.  Let’s examine the legal ramifications of a cyber security breach in an AR/VR system.  Let’s do this right from the beginning.  How?  Make sure that each product development team has a dedicated security component, not to slow down development, but to help ensure the product is the best it can be.  How? Raise awareness at the C-suite level that this is a big deal and funding needs to be allocated accordingly.  How?  Train developers well in secure coding practices.  How?  Establish legal and financial frameworks for various applications of AR/VR.  These are just a few of the many possible ways we responsibly move forward with this technology.  Let’s do this right from the beginning.  Our very lives could depend on it.

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