What cyber threats can businesses entering the Metaverse expect?

In an effort to create the platforms and technologies that captivate a new generation of users, Meta stakes its company’s future on the Metaverse, a virtual world in which people interact with each other using avatars and AR/VR technology.

Whilst the Metaverse may sound like a daunting prospect, there are plenty of business opportunities that it will bring. We have already seen multiple product placements and advertising of in-game purchases and skins, plus high-value sponsorships for in-game events and concerts. The launch of NFTs has seen a demand for digital-only products, whilst, Facebook’s Horizon promises a remote working environment, with co-working spaces, meeting facilities and in-metaverse training sessions, bridging the gap between remote workers globally.

According to a crypto recruiting firm Proof of Search, those looking for employment in the cryptocurrency industry, Metaverse, decentralised finance, and NFT-focused businesses are still in high demand.

In light of the continued demand in the Metaverse job market  – Ping Identity highlights the risks of the metaverse. How can we provide immersive, limitless virtual places while safeguarding users, companies, and employees’ sensitive data?


Risks of the Metaverse

Research demonstrates that cyber threats and cybercrimes are expanding drastically and quickly, by 50% or more annually. According to recent estimates, cybercrime would cost more than $10 trillion annually by 2025, and finance and commerce are unlikely to be the main commercial targets. Instead, other significant businesses including real estate, education, and agriculture are the focus of cybercrime.

Experts warn that these patterns will only get worse and that the effects of cybercrime may be an extreme enhancement of what already exists, just like the metaverse itself, if and when it replaces Web2 in the future.

Ping Identity has highlighted key risks that the Metaverse could present, rating them out of five so users can be vigilant in future:

  • Risk: 5/5 Misinformation – With high-profile organisations now getting involved with the metaverse, such as Facebook, it opens up the platforms to the spread of misinformation or fake news. Social sites such as Facebook and Instagram already have this problem, so how can this be policed within the metaverse when it is a creator-driven platform.
  • Risk: 4/5 Lack of Regulation – Lack of regulations can cause serious privacy concerns or court cases over intellectual property ownership. Most global governments haven’t modernised their legal infrastructure yet to deal with the future metaverse.
  • Risk: 4/5 Risks of Personal Privacy –  Data mining has been a big concern when it comes to big players such as Facebook. With organisations such as these building the foundations for the future of the Metaverse, this could intensify. Alongside this, a significant element of the metaverse is built on the sale of virtual goods, which means advertising which will require data collection from individuals. With few government regulations on this, the Metaverse threatens to continue and amplify the data mining trend for users.
  • Risk: 3/5 Potential Fraud – Because the metaverse environment is completely unpoliced, it makes it the perfect space for fraud, money laundering, child exploitation, misinformation and cyber attacks. The collaboration will be required between industries, experts, governments and regulators to ensure terms of use, privacy controls, and safety features are appropriate to the new technology.
  • Risk: 3/5 Hackers – Hackers and scammers could intercept the Metaverse. They could hack users avatars or create copies allowing them to extract sensitive data. Facebook’s inability to enforce robust user integrity and trust throughout its existing platforms raises concerns about further exploitation within the metaverse. AI-driven content moderation, user authentication, and transaction monitoring will be essential for the safety of users on the platform.
  • Risk: 3/5 Smart Contracts – The rise in the use of smart contracts opens up the opportunity of embedding code within these contracts that can be used for illicit and illegal activity. If the programmer is knowledgeable in their field, smart contracts can be safe and secure. Still, bugs, errors, or malicious actors can often trigger undesirable results that are hard to correct. Users need to evaluate the need for smart contracts instead of regular scripts and traditional contracts.


Dealing with Cybersecurity Issues in the Metaverse

The metaverse has to adopt a zero trust philosophy based on the maxim “never trust, always verify” in order to prosper. A zero trust model necessitates rigorous identity verification. To make sure bad actors are kept out or severely limited, it should also use ongoing authentication and verification. Zero trust is the most efficient technique to prevent or eliminate the theft of sensitive information given the enormous amounts of data that will be hosted in the metaverse.

AI will also be essential in many ways for defending the metaverse. Cybersecurity technologies powered by AI, for instance, can examine usage habits throughout the network.

When it comes to safeguarding user identities and intellectual property rights, decentralised solutions are likely to be the preferred approach. A core principle of Web 3.0 is decentralisation, which aims to return user identities, data, and property to their legitimate owners and return control to the users.

Zain Malik at Ping Identity, “Whilst the Metaverse may be seen as a pandora’s box for potential digital deviant activity, we need to prepare for the inevitable digital future as consumers and employers embrace digital in the wake of the global pandemic. Businesses are pivoting to a digital-first experience and whilst there are plenty of risks – implementing strong and secure practices will limit the possibilities for attack and help keep our customers safe.”

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