There’s no denying that the global virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) markets will experience rapid growth in the coming years.

Advancements in these fields will allow users to engage in more immersive experiences and businesses to take advantage of new opportunities. The idea that VR and AR will become as ubiquitous as televisions or the internet is no longer far-reaching.

However, if these technologies change the way we live, what negative implications will they have? New types of cybercrime and security threats may accompany these technological advancements.

Continue reading to explore how the AR and VR markets are growing, examples of cybercrime in virtual worlds, and what the future may hold.

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The Growing XR Markets

According to ARtillery Intelligence, the global AR and VR markets will collectively reach $61.2 billion by 2025. More companies are investing in AR, VR, and mixed reality (XR), driving widespread adoption and leading to the next iteration of the internet.

AR tech bridges the gap between the physical and digital worlds live and in real-time, creating experiences for users unlike anything else before.

AR is used in various industries, including health care, education, manufacturing, retail, and the automotive industry. As the technology behind AR advances, more use cases will emerge, pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

However, the all-encompassing technology will likely create more opportunities for people to commit cybercrimes. Consider how the internet is highly unregulated already. As virtual worlds become increasingly prevalent, how will they impact existing cybercrime and create new security threats for users?

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The Role of Cybercrime in Virtual Worlds

Cybercriminals have become more sophisticated when exploiting both organizations and individuals. Hackers are improving their expertise and technical skills with the hope that their attacks will be successful — and many of them are. From the massive WhatsApp data breach that compromised 1.5 billion user accounts, to the 2018 breach of the Pentagon itself, massive data leaks have continued to make headlines throughout the late 2010s into the 2020s.

Just recently, the U.S. government released an alert stating that advanced hackers can take control of an array of devices and systems that run power stations and manufacturing plants, two things critical to the national infrastructure.

Typically, when cybersecurity defenses get stronger, cybercriminals are required to become more advanced to circumvent these defenses. Cybercrime organizations are now more organized and businesslike than they’ve ever been.

Organizations that adopt AR or VR may not have the cybersecurity infrastructure or IT support to help with implementation and patching vulnerabilities.

It’s possible that AR or VR tech can be used in unethical ways, which could slow down adoption or cause individuals or businesses harm. In one grim example, a user may find a way to create a virtual reality world or game where they can kidnap children or commit even worse crimes. While this is not yet a reality, it could be if AR and VR go unregulated.

AR crime does not simply impact the user. It can affect any business that incorporates it into its model, products, or services. If a consumer does not trust the company using this technology, that brand will find it challenging to retain customers.

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Potential Cybersecurity Challenges With XR

AR/VR tools often record the user’s sounds, movements, and surroundings, which is valuable information that some people with bad intentions would like to get their hands on. Threat actors could intercept this data, sell it on the Dark Web, or leverage it in their social-engineering tactics.

Companies will have to find ways to be transparent about how they store, handle, and mine valuable user data, whether they share it with third parties, and how it’s protected on their servers.

Many big tech companies are racing to gather and monetize loads of consumer data. It allows them to show customers relevant ads, make purchase recommendations, or keep them glued to their devices. AR and VR tools can help companies reach this goal because they provide more precise information about how their users interact with the content.

Consider the emergence of the metaverse, too. Mark Zuckerberg believes the metaverse will open up a world of opportunities for users. Unfortunately, it may also become a space of opportunities for criminals to commit dangerous or harmful crimes.

Another potential security challenge with augmented realities is if hackers can find ways to infiltrate a VR or AR system and modify the user’s reality to cause harm. For example, someone could hack into a headset that a doctor is using to check a patient’s vitals and manipulate the numbers, proving dangerous to the patient’s health.

Denial of service can be a challenge with AR. If a driver uses AR on their windshield and it goes black, they could lose sight of the road and put themselves and other drivers in danger.

If used correctly, AR has the potential to be a revolutionary technology and can transform how industries operate and how consumers interact with digital worlds.

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The Future of XR Cybercrime Remains Unclear

As technology advances and evolves, it may be easier for criminals to penetrate the market and commit crimes. Suppose there are no specific regulations, laws, or policies to account for these virtual crimes. Will it be ethical for companies to sell these products or associated services?

It’s still unclear how much of an impact AR or VR will have on cybersecurity and cybercrime. Much of it will depend on how the technology is used and what security protocols and laws are in place to protect users and companies selling these tools.

April Miller is a senior writer at ReHack Magazine and editorial contributor at AR Insider. She specializes in VR/AR, IoT, and business technology. See her work here and follow her @rehackmagazine.

Header Image by Dan Nelson on Unsplash

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