Why Do We Need Better Defenses Against VR Cyberattacks?

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Over the past decade, the craze for Virtual Reality (VR) and other immersive technologies has risen significantly. They have emerged as a transformative force revolutionizing various industries like health, education, gaming, virtual 3D conferencing, and online immersive shopping. The announcement of Metaverse by Meta (earlier Facebook) has also brought significant growth in the use of Virtual Reality technologies. The technological evolution of VR is also becoming more realistic and immersive. VR offers unparalleled prospects for engagements and innovation.  

However, with the continuous adoption soaring, the risk of cyber threats on virtual digital environments and platforms is also increasing. That is why enterprises developing VR hardware with firmware or VR games & streaming platforms must explore the threat landscape & prepare themselves against emerging threats. This article will highlight the types of virtual reality potential cyber-attacks with some examples. It will also dig into the challenges enterprises face defending against these attacks and what measures to take to prevent such threats. 

Incidents around Virtual Reality Cyber Threats

Various cyber threat news has popped up recently where the attackers are targeting VR headsets to steal sensitive data or perform manipulation attacks. A University of Chicago researcher has successfully hijacked Virtual Reality headsets using the “inception attack.” They named it from the mind-bending Christopher Nolan movie “Inception.” In this attack, the attacker uses a malicious VR application that traps users in the inception VR layer. Meta VR headsets are prone to such attacks.  

It is concerning that VR technologies and headsets are so fragile and insecure, especially given that Meta’s Quest headset is currently the most popular VR headset product on the market, used by millions of people. The University of Chicago decided to test the potential of the inception attack. Therefore, they recruited 27 volunteer researchers (VR & security experts) to experience it. Among all participants, Jasmine Lu, a computer science PhD researcher at the University of Chicago, has been operating, studying, and working with VR technologies since 2017. After performing the attack without much hurdle, this attack took her and the entire research team by surprise. 

Another research carried out by Franzi Roesner, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Washington, highlighted that VR apps and platforms have the potential enough to provide misinformation & other illicit data on steroids. Roesner added, “The immersion is really powerful.” 

Another research at Rutgers University-New Brunswick highlighted that the voice command feature in VR headsets leads to eavesdropping by cyber criminals. It can lead to privacy leakages. The researchers also stressed the fact that cybercriminals can use Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) headsets to record subtle motions through sensors, speech-associated facial dynamics, and track voice commands.

Types of Cyberattacks through VR Technologies

With the exponential growth of VR and AR technologies, the rise of cyber threats through them is also augmenting. From the examples mentioned earlier, one can derive the fact that VR attacks have turned acute and detrimental. This section dives into the types and categories of VR cyberattacks. 

  • Sensitive data leakage, privacy theft, and data breaches: Cybercriminals often exploit flaws in VR headsets – be it the hardware or firmware vulnerability or bugs in third-party applications & platforms. Such breaches and data leakages can lead to financial loss, credential compromise, proprietary data leakage, and threats to Personally Identifiable Information (PII). 
  • Malware attacks: Like traditional computing environments, VR technologies are also prone to malware attacks. Cybercriminals can inject ransomware, viruses, Trojans, and other malware. These infected devices can harm the system or cause physical damage to the user. It can also disrupt the VR experience. 
  • Social engineering: Virtual Reality (VR) platforms and technologies often blur the difference between physical and digital entities of life. That lures the attackers to perform social engineering attacks on VR users. They impersonate trusted individuals with deceptive links and messages. They manipulate the behavior of the user to steal sensitive content. 

Various Challenges in Defending VR Cyberattacks

Despite the growing recognition & research across various security measures for VR technologies, enterprises face numerous challenges in providing state-of-the-art defense against VR cyber threats. This section will discuss these challenges to make us understand the consequences before actually preparing a full-proof security. 

  1. Complex technology: VR technologies are complicated because of the diverse hardware, multiple protocols working in tandem, applications running, and various hardware-software interactions. Thus, securing a VR platform or environment requires comprehensive defense mechanisms.
  2. Generative AI brings deepfakes: Many online browsers and platforms have algorithms that recognize what content or apps are legitimate & which ones are malicious. But with VR, the security aspect has not become mature yet. The rise of generative AI has started creating seamless text, audio, and video. It has notoriously made it difficult for individuals on VR to distinguish between actual & AI-generated content. That is where VR systems should leverage AI content detectors and filters to cater to non-manipulative content for VR users.
  3. Lack of standard security protocols: Another security challenge VR technology faces is the lack of standardized security protocols for online immersive interactions. That is why VR app and platform developers overlook critical security factors while designing and deploying them. Cybercriminals try to exploit these protocols to steal information from VR systems. Thus, enterprises should spend on R&D (research and development) to build secure protocols that follow industry standards in terms of compliance. 

Security Measures to Prevent Cyberattacks & Strengthen VR Systems

To address the growing concern around cyberattacks on Virtual Reality systems & technologies, enterprises & business stakeholders must become vigilant. They have to take various proactive measures to bolster VR security defenses. Here are some security benchmarks and best practices enterprises must implement to strengthen VR systems. 

  1. Vulnerability assessment & risk management: Enterprises directly or indirectly involved in Virtual Reality (VR) should conduct a comprehensive vulnerability assessment and risk scanning test to identify and prioritize weaknesses in VR systems. Through periodic checks, penetration testers or security professionals can ensure timely remediation against VR-related threats. 
  2. Securing by appropriate designing: Another best practice to protect VR systems from cyber threats is to integrate security principles & frameworks while designing various VR platforms and services. Frameworks like Zero-Trust principles, NIST to improve critical infrastructure, Attribute-based access control (ABAC), Risk-based Access Control (RBAC), etc., are some popular models that enterprises should use while designing VR systems and platforms. 
  3. Security awareness and training: Another essential aspect of securing VR systems is delivering awareness and appropriate training to VR app developers, platform administrators, and users. Enterprises can also promote a security-conscious culture. It is also necessary to empower stakeholders to respond to cyber threats & stay vigilant about the latest flaws in VR systems. 
  4. Determine regulatory compliance and standards development: Enterprises should collaborate with the government and other standard bodies to develop and enforce security regulations on VR systems. These security standards and compliance should establish clear objectives and accountability for cybersecurity conventions across various VR ecosystems. 
  5. Continuous monitoring & threat response: Several enterprises develop VR platforms and virtual ecosystems for online services and streaming VR games or 3D movies. They should implement real-time monitoring & threat detection tools to respond to cyber threats on VR systems promptly. That will reduce the attack’s impact while maintaining the user experience.


We hope this article catered to some intriguing incidents and scenarios about VR cyberattacks. It also highlighted some well-known ways of cyberattacks through VR technologies & what challenges enterprises face while defending against VR-related cyber threats. Therefore, enterprises should opt for specific best practices to address unique challenges in VR cybersecurity. They should also adopt proactive defense strategies to minimize cyber risks in VR ecosystems. With better security measures on VR systems, enterprises can deliver better user experience, enhancing the use of VR technology across multiple sectors. 

We here at VE3 provide specialized and tailored cybersecurity solutions, offering cutting-edge tools and strategies to fortify defenses and mitigate potential threats effectively. To know more, explore our innovative digital solutions or contact us directly. 


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