In a time when technology is central to military operations, ensuring the security of advanced innovations is paramount—and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has long recognized this need and has recently launched the Intrinsic Cognitive Security (ICS) program.

This groundbreaking initiative focuses on improving the security of US military mixed reality (MR) solutions against cognitive exploits, thus ensuring the safety and effectiveness of military personnel operating in the virtual domain.

Cognitive Exploits: Unmasking the Threat

Cognitive exploits, in the context of military mixed reality, are digital assaults that target the connection between users and their virtual equipment. These diverse exploits can have severe consequences, affecting the performance, well-being, and trust of military personnel in MR platforms.

Some known cognitive exploits include:

1 | Real-World Object Planting. This tactic involves planting real-world objects in the virtual environment, cluttering the projected displays, and creating user confusion. It can also lead to false alarms and distract military personnel.

Virtual reality training
Soldiers during a virtual reality training, April 2013 (Image source: DVIDS)

2 | Information Flooding. Overwhelming users with excessive information can induce motion sickness and reduce the effectiveness of MR systems. It can make military personnel physically ill and unable to perform their duties effectively.

3 | Adding Virtual Data for Distraction. Injecting virtual data that distracts users from critical information and tasks can compromise the success of military missions. It can cause anxiety and reduce trust in MR platforms.

The Effects of Cognitive Exploits

The consequences of cognitive exploits are far-reaching and can significantly impact military operations. Some of these effects include: