It's all in your head(set): Side-channel attacks on AR/VR systems


Yicheng Zhang, Carter Slocum, Jiasi Chen, and Nael Abu-Ghazaleh, University of California, Riverside


With the increasing adoption of Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) systems, security and privacy concerns attract attention from both academia and industry. This paper demonstrates that AR/VR systems are vulnerable to side-channel attacks launched from software; a malicious application without any special permissions can infer private information about user interactions, other concurrent applications, or even the surrounding world. We develop a number of side-channel attacks targeting different types of private information. Specifically, we demonstrate three attacks on the victim's interactions, successfully recovering hand gestures, voice commands made by victims, and keystrokes on a virtual keyboard, with accuracy exceeding 90%. We also demonstrate an application fingerprinting attack where the spy is able to identify an application being launched by the victim. The final attack demonstrates that the adversary can perceive a bystander in the real-world environment and estimate the bystander's distance with Mean Absolute Error (MAE) of 10.3 cm. We believe the threats presented by our attacks are pressing; they expand our understanding of the threat model faced by these emerging systems and inform the development of new AR/VR systems that are resistant to these threats.

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@inproceedings {287234,
author = {Yicheng Zhang and Carter Slocum and Jiasi Chen and Nael Abu-Ghazaleh},
title = {It{\textquoteright}s all in your head(set): Side-channel attacks on {AR/VR} systems},
booktitle = {32nd USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 23)},
year = {2023},
isbn = {978-1-939133-37-3},
address = {Anaheim, CA},
pages = {3979--3996},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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