Virtual Reality, or VR, Gaming is one of the newest, most futuristic means of gaming out there — with headset consoles like Facebook’s Oculus series becoming more and more popular gifts with the holiday season fast approaching, it is important to not only understand what VR is but how to protect against the potential cyber threats that exist in this new gaming world taking center stage inside your mind.
What is VR Gaming?
Gaming is so popular because it is something fun that people can lose themselves in with various worlds of magic and mystery — VR Gaming takes the gamer a step further. Virtual Reality Gaming is just that — playing video games but in an environment which is as close to being fully immersive as possible for the user. This happens by the game providing the gamer with a first person point of view when playing a character in the game itself. These games can be played as many other games via a PC or other “traditional” gaming console but the newest means of gaming include a headset and hand sensors or hand gloves. An integral aspect of the headset aspect which makes immersion into the game most possible is a gyroscope — a gyroscope in VR terms is a device that uses the gravity of the Earth to help determine the user’s orientation.
While VR Gaming introduces a major revolutionary step in at-home gaming, this new and not-so-well-known technology also brings with it a plethora of cybersecurity risks.
Cyber Risks to VR Gaming
- Privacy Threats — While this is a somewhat broad term to use in any sort of cyber risks list, there are far more privacy threats to users when it comes to VR gaming systems as opposed to the typical gaming system. Because these systems literally see what you see and do what you do, the information that cybercriminals can take from these devices is astonishingly intimate and personal in nature. With these consoles being Internet of Things (IoT) devices, there are even more cyber threats to them than typical hard-wired devices and the information that can be stolen, that much more valuable.
- Eye Tracking — Eye tracking is a feature on VR gaming headsets that allows the game to identify when you move your eyes rather than by simply moving your view when you move your head around. Many even speculate that once this is the norm for VR gaming headsets (as this is not yet the case), that this will be a feature used to secure the physical game to only being able to be used by the legitimate owner via eye scan. Despite this, the current situation we find ourselves in is that this is actually causing a bit of distrust from users as it is believed that marketers will be secretly tracking people’s eye movements. This is of concern because it is believed that eye movements are the first indicators of purchases that will be made by the shopper. If marketers had access to this it would be of major concern to folks who use these games and are concerned for their privacy.
- Sextortion — Apps with adult content are some of the most commonly accessed apps for VR headsets despite the intent being for gaming. This opens up users who access such content to the cyber threat of sextortion where cyber criminals gain access to risque images of a person by accessing unused (and unprotected) cameras and microphones. A major security issue with VR gaming that cannot be avoided when a player uses the systems is the fact that unused aspects of the system cannot be turned off as they could on a phone or computer.
As innovations are coming about more and more for these VR gaming systems, it will be both interesting and integral to the success of these devices for creators of these consoles to include cybersecurity in some fashion or another to protect users from these current and hard to avoid threats that are out there.