Augmented Reality
(AR) Security
Risks & Privacy:
How 5G Can Help

Author: Shane Schick

5G is poised to make shopping more immersive, engaging and entertaining. But with 5G's cutting-edge capabilities come new security considerations, and more connected devices and users expand the potential surface of attack.

The applications that 5G supercharges should help businesses compete. And the next-generation network's built-in security features can protect businesses from augmented reality security risks and other new attack vectors.

How retail can make the most of 5G

5G, with its high throughput and ability to support applications that feed on large amounts of data, should help businesses in every sector. In retail, the potential benefits include augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) tools that let consumers experience a data-enhanced world or immersive digital simulations.

AR and VR applications open up new opportunities for retailers to transform the customer experience.

AR-equipped high-definition screens could replace the traditional dressing room, reducing time spent waiting in lines and freeing up valuable retail space. Smart shelves could let customers scan items or QR codes to get detailed product information or tutorials. VR could let customers test sporting equipment without touching a physical product, a useful feature in a time of socially distanced experiences.

AR and VR could also be helpful for customers buying furniture—apps could let customers see what chairs, sofas and such would look like in their living rooms without having to buy them and haul them home.

Individual AR and VR capabilities might be nice to have now, but as customer expectations for personalized retail experiences grow and augmented experiences become the norm, deploying and securing the technology behind AR and VR could become more important.

Augmented Reality (AR) Security and Privacy Risks

Any new technology comes with new potential for data to be lost, stolen or misused. Retailers must understand augmented reality security risks early on to help prevent incidents that could scare off potential customers.

Attackers could attempt man-in-the-middle attacks where they would try to intercept real-time communications between a retailer's AR application and a customer's wearable device. Sophisticated cyber criminals could steal a customer's or a retailer's information and hold it hostage until a ransom is paid. Or they could capture AR and VR images, manipulate them and use them to steal identities or spread false information to unsuspecting customers.

Ensuring security and privacy for augmented reality systems is essential, and 5G's built-in components make it possible.

5G's built-in augmented reality security advantages

5G network technology was designed with security in mind, and it can boost augmented reality security.

Every 5G network component must be authenticated and authorized before any transaction, even if it's the same network. This can happen through various access protocols, such as Wi-Fi 6, to avoid spoofing vulnerabilities. Transport layer security is built into every function, no matter the network architecture.

5G uses a subscriber permanent identifier to prevent a user's identity from being retrieved without authorization and to protect against surveillance through false base station or stingray attacks.

5G also can stymie bidding down attacks—in which cyber criminals try to hijack device capabilities and degrade mobile service quality—through a security edge protection proxy that protects subscribers, even if they roam on another network.

And 5G can benefit from network slicing, in which a single network is split into virtual networks based on data rate, latency or other requirements. Network slicing helps ensure that applications such as AR and VR get the support they need for high performance and helps IT security tools more precisely detect anomalies in network traffic.

The role of retailers and customers in augmented reality security (AR security)

Even though 5G has built-in protections, retailers and customers should never take security and privacy for augmented reality systems for granted.

Retailers should regularly patch and update every business application to avoid bugs and vulnerabilities, as can be seen in the 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report. Customers should do the same for their smart devices and wearables.

By partnering with a managed services provider that can assess security and privacy for augmented reality systems and other emerging technologies, retailers can help their staff focus on providing innovative shopping experiences.

Dig deeper into retail data protection trends by reading Verizon's 2020 Payments Security Report.