Why you should be wary of augmented reality

Without end-to-end visibility, augmented reality could all too easily mean additional risk for your business.

Augmented reality, or AR, is reviving due to popular apps like Pokémon Go but businesses that use them are at risk of security breaches if they don’t prepare appropriately for its impacts.

There is a lot of commercial potential in AR but you need to realise that the type of traffic that enables AR includes IP address, location, type of device, user permissions and more. If hackers intercept this traffic, it can reveal a lot about the user and the network, putting both at significant risk. The potential for security breaches is so high that certain organisations, like the US Pentagon and the Israeli Defence Force, have banned employees from using apps like Pokémon Go.

Ixia’s Application and Threat Intelligence researchers recently analysed communications between the Pokémon Go app and the servers of Niantic (the app’s developer) and found that the app uses the device’s location data to deliver information to users. A hacker can combine that information with other personal information available through the app, such as Google profiles, histories and past searches to build a detailed, targeted picture of the user’s behaviour.

The nature of augmented reality is personalised to the user’s individual situation, revealing valuable information to cyber criminals. They can then use this information to target people and organisations at will.

Popular AR apps can also be fake, with the false version including embedded malware that can let cyber criminals capture user credentials, intercept data and communications, or download further malware to the organisational network via the device.

Many of these risks are already present in mobile apps and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) scenarios. However, the type of data exchanged in an AR situation makes it even riskier. It’s therefore essential that businesses put security measures in place before the next AR craze hits.

We have identified three key steps to protect against security breaches as a result of mobile AR apps:

  1. Mobile device management (MDM)

It’s important to have a strong MDM solution place to manage the myriad devices employees use, from smartphones and tablets to laptops.

  1. Employee training

Making employees aware of the risks is crucial, since cyber criminals are well versed in taking advantage of human error and carelessness.

  1. App traffic visibility

It’s important to have comprehensive, real-time visibility into all network traffic, all the time, to protect against sensitive data being exposed. Organisations should look for intelligent filtering and distribution, including across layer seven application flows and encrypted traffic, with zero packet loss.

Without end-to-end visibility, augmented reality could all too easily mean additional risk for the organisation. Businesses shouldn’t avoid AR systems; after all, it can offer significant benefits. But it’s essential to understand the risks and protect your business against them.

Scott Register, Vice President – Product Management, Ixia