arXiv:2403.05721v1 Announce Type: new
Abstract: Recent advances in virtual reality (VR) system provide fully immersive interactions that connect users with online resources, applications, and each other. Yet these immersive interfaces can make it easier for users to fall prey to a new type of security attacks. We introduce the inception attack, where an attacker controls and manipulates a user’s interaction with their VR environment and applications, by trapping them inside a malicious VR application that masquerades as the full VR system. Once trapped in an “inception VR layer”, all of the user’s interactions with remote servers, network applications, and other VR users can be recorded or modified without their knowledge. This enables traditional attacks (recording passwords and modifying user actions in flight), as well as VR interaction attacks, where (with generative AI tools) two VR users interacting can experience two dramatically different conversations.
In this paper, we introduce inception attacks and their design, and describe our implementation that works on all Meta Quest VR headsets. Our implementation of inception attacks includes a cloned version of the Meta Quest browser that can modify data as it’s displayed to the user, and alter user input en route to the server (e.g. modify amount of $ transferred in a banking session). Our implementation also includes a cloned VRChat app, where an attacker can eavesdrop and modify live audio between two VR users. We then conduct a study on users with a range of VR experiences, execute the inception attack during their session, and debrief them about their experiences. Only 37% of users noticed the momentary visual “glitch” when the inception attack began, and all but 1 user attributed it to imperfections in the VR platform. Finally, we consider and discuss efficacy and tradeoffs for a wide range of potential inception defenses.

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