The term “metaverse” is credited to author Neal Stephenson who used it in a cyberpunk novel in the 1990s. In the book, the metaverse is an immersive virtual reality (VR) world where people can lead parallel lives. Today, the metaverse is so far just a disjointed connection of VR worlds used by gamers more than anyone else.
It’s essential to try to wrap one’s mind around what the word “metaverse” actually refers to. Unfortunately, at this point, there’s no single definition that everyone agrees or adheres to. The metaverse also isn’t something that any one company can build alone, even if tech giant Meta (formerly Facebook) might be talking about having a focus in this area, and one might think they plan to create it all by themselves.
In addition, many people now see the metaverse as an updated digital economy. For instance, the idea is that users will be able to use the metaverse to develop, create, buy, and sell goods. You might even take virtual items from one platform to another, essentially setting up portable digital assets. However, this latter option is a complex task and may be an idealistic viewpoint at this stage.
However, in the next few years, this is likely to change. Everyone, from top CISO cybersecurity officers to business owners and individuals, will need to understand not only the potential of this metaverse but also some of the downsides that could come from it. Read on for the lowdown on the term and security threats to consider.
What is the Metaverse?
In reality, the metaverse is a vague yet complex term that doesn’t refer to a single specific tech type but rather a speculative and broad change in how we might think about and interact with technology. It is a shared cyberspace. When companies and individuals talk about it, they often think of immersive and extended virtual reality worlds that continue to exist even when users aren’t directly engaging with them or augmented reality that features both digital and physical world aspects.
You can think about the metaverse as a cloud-distributed, immersive, interactive, and multi-vendor operating environment that we will use via numerous connected devices. Realistically, it will probably be at least three to five years before more metaverse-defined applications become ubiquitous and used in daily activities such as shopping, learning, entertainment, and digital work.
Potential Threats to Arise from the Metaverse
Numerous risks may arise from creating and using the metaverse, which we all need to wrap our minds around. For example, privacy may be compromised. Since big corporations will be the ones primarily building and hosting virtual worlds, they will also be the ones who collect vast amounts of data about their users and the actions they take and may monetize this information.
Plus, servers, assets, and consumers will be in different locations, so information will be processed and stored in multiple sites and could be shared and accessed by third-party vendors in an uncontrolled way. This will mean that it’s hard to enforce data security.
Another metaverse threat is that augmented reality devices have iris tracking, so some consumers’ iris patterns may be stolen and used for nefarious purposes. The same goes for location data, payment information, identity details, etc. User data will be stored in many ways, making systems even more appealing to hackers.
Social engineering attacks, where cybercriminals use human interactions to conduct various malicious activities in the hope that people will give away sensitive information, may also rise considerably with the rollout of the metaverse. If hackers analyze personal data and find vulnerable groups of people sensitive to particular topics or viewpoints, they might create and use targeted narratives to influence these users.
The metaverse might lead to more deep fakes, too, where tech whizzes impersonate well-known names, service providers (such as doctors or teachers), and others, and create harm by manipulating and misdirecting people and committing crimes. More general identity theft is likely, too, and cybercriminals may sell fakes of digital products or wares used as a trojan horse to get malware onto systems.
These are just some of the potential security threats on the way due to the metaverse. You need to be strategic and take steps to protect your data even more over the coming years so you don’t get stung by attacks that cost too much time, energy, and money to attempt to understand and rectify. Utilize quality security software and firewalls on all devices, update programs and passwords, and keep backups of all information.
The metaverse may be a strange-sounding concept, but it seems right on the horizon. As such, we all need to learn more about it and be prepared to change our habits over time to stay as safe as possible from threats.