When things you dreamed of as a kid—or couldn’t even conceive of—sit squarely on the horizon of human interaction, it’s time for security-conscious leaders to prepare for the challenges coming to global communication and business.
Welcome To The Metaverse
While the Metaverse sounds futuristic, the term actually dates back to a 1992 techno-dystopian novel that predicted the rise of a virtual reality (VR)-based 3D world to succeed the 2D internet. While Facebook’s recent Meta rebranding introduced the concept to many, gamers from Second Life, Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox have long interacted in 2D.
Today, from our vantage point at the forefront of IT security, we see companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Apple, HTC, Sony, HP, Epic, Magic Leap, NReal Light, and more, racing to develop connective and immersive social, consumer, educational, entertainment, and workplace experiences in their respective, possibly connected, metaverses. With augmented reality (AR) glasses and a new generation of VR headsets, Metaverse visitors will be able to engage with stores, schools, workplaces, and “neighborhoods,” while some government bodies look to stake their own claim in virtual real estate.
Securing The (Massive) Surface
The connectedness of the Metaverse means enormous amounts of data in motion perpetually, creating an unprecedented worldwide cyber-attack surface. As information technology and compliance experts, we’ve long seen security attended to backwards, where new technology is developed focused on user experience and profitability first. Then, when security issues rear their inevitable heads, organizations and consumers alike are sent scrambling to retrofit safeguards. Yes, clumsy and detrimental, but definitely predictable in the world of product development.
Concurrently, government often finds itself behind the cybercrime eight ball, developing regulatory requirements and compliance standards well after marketplace introduction and the subsequent negative impact of cybercrime (think IoT legislation in 2021, decades after “smart home” devices created vulnerabilities for organizations and users).
While some, like Meta’s Zuckerberg, envision a connectedness among many metaverses, competition is likely to fragment the aspirational market, causing a lack of sharing of technology—and security wisdom—as the Metaverse develops and expands powered by blockchain technology.
If you’re considering your organization’s place in the Metaverse, or you see adoption of related technology on the horizon, consider the security challenges and proceed with caution with expert guidance.
Here are a few topics to bear in mind:
- AR/VR will be the big daddy of Metaverse risk.
With headsets and other wearable gadgets as the primary mode of participation in the Metaverse, the security of such devices—their recognition software, what data they store on users, how they encrypt such data, what they share with third parties—will directly impact user privacy. Thus, the potential for profile theft via AR/VR devices is significant. By maneuvering for network credentials, as they often do, hackers can steal identities for financial and personal information.
However, in the Metaverse, cybercriminals can go further, using social engineering to impersonate someone’s digital avatar, thereby drawing out additional valuable information from other users and exponentially amplifying the criminal impact of a single identity theft. Conversely, ‘man-in-the-room’ attacks, where the hacker remains undetected, have the potential for everything from individual eavesdropping to state-sponsored spying and industrial espionage.
- Financial threats get “physical.”
Cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), very commonly used in the Metaverse, will likely be heavily targeted in transactions for theft. In the course of currency theft in the Metaverse, users will also lose the “property” acquired with such funds, causing more than just financial loss and likely without recourse. And that’s if the NFTs purchased were real in the first place.
Get serious about cyber defense.
- Ransomware, bots, and more.
As they have flourished across email, social media, and other digital platforms, ransomware will be another avenue for criminal chaos in the Metaverse, where hackers are likely to attempt to install malicious agents within device software, bots may be deployed acting as users, etc.
- Intellectual property gets fuzzy.
As businesses begin to operate in the Metaverse, whether solely or in conjunction with ‘real world’ settings, authorship of intellectual property (IP) may become challenging to pinpoint and exceedingly difficult to protect. Managing proprietary information in the hands of employees in virtual space may make Zoom-bombing look like a walk in the park.
Staying On Top Of Security With Changing Technologies
As tools and technology change in your organizations’ environment, a team of trusted external experts using comprehensive assessment methods, like a robust IT Security Assessment, HIPAA Security Risk Assessment, Controls Audit, or Red Team Assessment, will help you keep ahead of emerging risks. On the prevention end, year-round Vulnerability Management, with 24/7-365 scanning, can help head off between-audit issues that pose a threat to your environment—before they become full-blown incidents.