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Your identity could be under threat in the VR world – Ericsson

Ericsson

VR is coming whether you like it or not, and according to Ericsson identity theft could take on an entirely new twist in the virtual world.

Speaking at WeDo Technologies Worldwide User Group conference, Ericsson’s Rebecka Angstrom posed a number of questions around security which haven’t received many headlines to date. Will VR make it easier to infiltrate corporate environments? Or could you be locked out of your own reality?

“The world is about to change,” said Angstrom. “And so is the way in which we perceive our realities.”

It sounds very much like something out of a science fiction movie, but bear with us while we get philosophical for the moment. If someone was to walk into your office to have a meeting about sensitive corporate information, you would have no issue with it. You can see the person, and should know whether this is a person who should have access to this information. But what about in a virtual meeting room when an avatar walks in?

There are numerous biometric authentication technologies under development which, in theory, should ensure that you are you, but nothing is 100% secure. If cyber criminals have shown us anything it’s that what can be hacked, will eventually be hacked. In this futuristic virtual meeting room, with dozens of different avatars, can you actually be 100% one hasn’t been compromised?

Another example of identity theft is a bit more far-fetching, but again, a real possibility.

In the future, the realities which we now perceive will become ever more entwined. The boundaries between actual and virtual reality will become blurred, and the concept of being in one or the other will eventually disappear. Once we become dependent on the virtual world, is there a chance a cyber-criminal could lock us out of it in the same way they can lock us out of email today? Could you be barred from your own reality?

It sounds out-there, but how does Angstrom know this is a realistic possibility; its already happened once before. The boundaries between online and offline have been pretty much destroyed.

In the early days of the internet, you used to log on in exceptional circumstances. Now, we are online 24/7, even when we are sleeping we have an online life. What used to be one or the other, now exists as one as more of our lives become digitally defined. A simple example is the internet term ‘IRL’ or ‘In Real Life’ – when was the last time you used that?

As technology enters into the more mundane areas of life, the more it is normalized and accepted. Gaming, sports events and shopping might be the top usecases for VR right now, but a lot of people are talking about virtual meetings or conferences. This is a mundane use of the technology which will accelerate the blurring of lines, just like we experienced with the internet.

Other examples include dating, socializing or banking. All areas that once upon a time would never have been done in the online world, but now are completely normalized. The lines have been blurred by our own curiosity, impatience and enthusiasm. In the early 90s this would have seemed impossible. So does the merging of actual and virtual realities seem so far-fetched now?

A couple of months back, the Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt hotel in Austria was hacked and infected with ransomware. The result was that numerous guests at the £300 per night hotel were locked out of their rooms, as the key cards could not be reprogrammed by the onsite IT team. Hackers can do this to hotels, so why shouldn’t they be able to do this to your virtual persona.

VR pessimists would highlight that it is not a guarantee the technology will penetrate the market in the same way smartphones have, but it is only a matter of time according to Angstrom.

“We’re not addicted to our phones, but the information which is on our phones,” said Angstrom. “If the industry presented consumers with the opportunity to see information in a more engaging way, they will take it.

“We live in a 3D world, but the virtual one still operates in 2D. Once the opportunity to live the digital world in a 3D environment is a reality, the consumer demand will be there because we are addicted to gaining information in more interesting and immersive ways.”

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