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Mirrorshades are an infosec hazard on video calls, so what should cyberpunks wear now?

WARNING: Everyone can see your screen reflected in your shades

Mirrorshades cannot be the iconic eyewear of modern-day cyberpunk, I learned during a Microsoft Teams meeting. For decades, cyberpunks, hackers, and internauts have donned a cool pair of shiny shades to strike a cool pose. But mirrorshades are a serious security hazard in this age of video calls: other people can see your screen and desk reflected in the lenses. If you're mirrored up, people can gain access to private data or see if you are, for example, playing Windows Solitaire instead of paying attention to the meeting. So what's a 21st-century cyberpunk to wear? It's not like you can go without cool glasses (or stop playing Solitaire during meetings). I have ideas.

For decades, mirrorshades were the eyewear of choice for edgy loners on the fringes of society in our grim near-future, who were often found striking a pose with the city reflected in their lenses. William Gibson's iconic 'razorgirl' mercenary Molly Millions has surgically implanted mirrorshades. Mirrorshades is the name of an influential cyberpunk anthology, and in many printings the pair pictured on the cover are made of fancy reflective or holographic foil. Countless characters in dystopian video games and trash novels and B movies and tabletop RPGs wear mirrorshades. Who didn't yearn for mirrorshades after seeing Andrew Eldritch mirrored up and soaking wet as he strutted around dystopian Westminster wastes in the music video for Sisters Of Mercy banger This Corrosion? And let's never forget that possible-best-movie Hackers opens with our kewl hero's mirrorshades reflecting his hands typing furiously as he hacks the planet.

Mirrorshades are a powerful accessory. On a practical level, they're defensive. With your eyes mirrored-over, someone can't see where you're looking, which means they can't predict what you'll do and can't tell if you've noticed what they're doing. Mirrorshades also protect you from the retinal scans of The Man and His many drones and spycams. They're emotionally defensive too. Eyes are windows to the soul, they say, and you refuse to make a connection. Let no one meet your eye (and certainly not know if you're about to cry). When someone looks at you, they see only themself staring back. Or better yet, they see a reflection of the skyline and neon lights—as if the city is you and you are the city. When you don mirrorshades, you're standing behind a one-way mirror with the world as your interrogation room. But I fear mirrorshades may have become unsafe.

Last Cyber Monday, during the big weekly RPS treehouse video meeting on Microsoft Teams, I wore my traditional holiday garb of a cool leather jacket, cool fingerless (cycling) gloves, a string of LEDs, and cool mirrorshades. I did not realise I was exposing myself while I proffered l33t greetz. I had not considered the reflections in my mirrorshades. Anyone could have seen my monitor and desk. They could have seen blueprints and documents detailing plans. Read my private communications and intimate memoranda. Spotted letters and receipts giving away my location or routine. And most importantly, they could have known if I was mucking about and looking at cat photos or playing Windows Solitaire during the meeting. Which, for the record, I never would.

So what's a modern-day cyberpunk, hacker, code-cracker, or slacker to do in the face of this glaring security risk? To not wear any form of shades would be uncool so let's consider alternatives.

Matte black shades

If reflections are out, the opposite could work. It's a small and simple solution. Find your favourite frames with matte black lenses and surely you're good. The pros and cons:

👍 Absolutely no reflections
👍 Murdered out, as the kids and Kim Gordon say
👍 (that's very cool)
👎 Matte black carries the risk of a petty feud with Anish Kapoor
👎 Mate, you're just wearing sunglasses indoors

Digital dazzle camouflage glasses

As The Man increasingly employs pattern recognition and AI to detect and identify people, inforebels are fighting back with anti-surveillance fashion. Clothing, stickers, makeup, and hairstyles can be designed to foil how particular algorithms recognise people, obscuring a body and breaking it up into shapes that won't be recognised as a human being. Geometric designs, fake shadows, countershadows, glitchy blocks, fragments of faces, far too many eyes, and such can all help foil technology. Like zebra stripes or warship dazzle camouflage, for people. This idea works as glasses too; you can even trick an algorithm into thinking you're a specific celebrity with frames printed at home.

👍 Evade digital recognition algorithms
👍 Filters out potential clients who are secretly escaped fledgling AIs
👍 Become human glitch art
👍 Impossible and alarming biology instils humans with an uncomfortable sense they're on a conference call with a biblically accurate angel, which surely aids negotiations
👎 Breaks face unlock on your phone
👎 Filters out potential clients who are secretly escaped fledgling AIs, losing you opportunities to transcend the flesh
👎 Honestly can't tell if you look good or not, who knows

Joke glasses with pictures of eyes on them

While high-tech eyewear custom-designed to defeat individual algorithms might be effective, a low-tech solution could be quicker and far easier. Rather than be forever scrambling to redesign and print a new pair of glasses every time The Man updates an algorithm, sk8 over to your local joke shop and nab a pair of those prank glasses with pictures of eyes in the place of lenses.

👍 Evade biometric scans
👍 Cheap, easy, widely available
👍 Sleep through meetings while looking like you're paying the utmost attention
👍 Have violet irises, just like your OC
👍 Implicate an adversary by doing crimes while wearing glasses with pictures of their eyes
👎 Cannot see
👎 Paper lenses will turn to mush while you pose in the rain

VR goggles

If you're already vidcalling, why not virtuacall? Slam on a pair of cybergoggles and jack into the metaverse! You can stroll around a 3D spa looking like a horrible CG dad out a direct-to-DVD edutainment movie whose plot boils down to 'see I told you maths is cool', and everyone else on the call will see you flailing in front of your webcam with a box strapped to your face.

👎 lol

Mark Zuckerberg explains his horrible metaverse

Mirrorshades

But what if you didn't change anything? Sure, mirrorshades are an infosec hazard, but what isn't these days? I've exposed more data by getting on the bus with my phone in my cool leather jacket's pocket. Besides, it'd be wasteful to surrender a perfectly good pair of shades to the kipple.

👍 Iconic, and for good reason
👍 Sometimes, you know the consequences yet must commit to the bit
👎 People can uncover secret info in your lens reflections
👍 But if you know someone will read your reflections, you can feed them false information
👎 Although if they know you know, this fakeout might only reveal more of your plans
👍 Unless you know they know you know and plan accordingly
👎 Unless they know you know they know you know
👍 But if you know they know you know they know you know...
👎 Aviator-style mirrorshades possibly too cop-ish to be redeemed by counterculture intent

I should note that Microsoft have officially added Solitaire into Microsoft Teams, but I will warn you that it freely tells everyone on the call that you're playing. You can try to argue that it's part of Teams and therefore part of business, but The Man isn't known for His fun-loving attitude. No, we still need practical solutions to covertly play Soltaire while looking cool during calls. Not that I ever would.

I won't lie: today I wore mirrorshades to my video meetings, same as every Cyber Monday. I haven't changed anything. Today is a day for tradition. Just as Christmas calls for mince pies and Mariah, Cyber Monday to me means mirrorshades and Mindphaser. And now that I know my people can see reflections in my lenses, I can lead them astray with false information. Though now that I have written this, my colleagues know that I know that they know. Hmm. I might need to rethink my eyewear for Cyber Monday 2023. Any other solutions come to mind, reader dear?

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Alice O'Connor avatar

Alice O'Connor

Associate Editor

Alice is likely in the sea.

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