The metaverse continues to be a hot topic, with a lot of buzz centered on its potential to seamlessly integrate virtual and digital spaces where users can live, work, build, play, and connect with others. While this might sound like an exciting look into what the future can bring, the threat is already there waiting for us. The metaverse platform can also be a vulnerable digital ecosystem—where privacy issues, data breaches, and security risks could lurk behind its virtual spaces.
As the lines between virtual and real life blur, the emergence of new devices, data, programs, applications, and virtual currency is inevitable. Risk always happens when integration between these key components is not well-thought out and security gaps and seams are exposed for threat actors to exploit. With this comes the importance of cybersecurity monitoring and privacy regulatory guidance in the metaverse.
Foreseeing the Challenges
One of the most talked-about criticisms the metaverse is currently facing is the possibility of major privacy risk. According to Data Privacy Manager, it is expected for metaverse companies to “collect personal information for identification, advertisement, and tracking through multiple channels.” On a related note—with the metaverse relying heavily on VR headsets, in some cases provided by companies known for collecting large amounts of person data, there is also the issue of personal data collected through external digital devices, which poses a major security breach if not properly safe guarded.
Another risk is identity management and commerce in the metaverse, and how NFTs, Blockchain and cryptocurrency validate transactions and identities between parties. With anonymity being a key characteristic of the metaverse, detecting fraudsters, ransomware criminals, fake identities, or crypto thieves could also become a big challenge in the real world.
Lastly, cybersecurity laws are just catching up. The Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act was only signed into law in December 2020. It is not uncommon for regulatory bodies to lag many years behind innovation and governing these new technologies. However, as the metaverse unveils itself, few (to none) cybersecurity laws are specifically being made to protect metaverse users, making already a playground for cybercrime.
Focusing on Security
Data security will gain the most attention, as we delve more and more into the unnavigated waters of the metaverse. The first priority is to find a way to protect our digital identities and commercial transactions. According to Forbes, the definition of “digital identity” evolves in the metaverse: it calls for a decentralized, open platform based on public blockchain technology that relies on digital identities linked to real-world identities. As this opens vulnerabilities that may lead to real-world headaches, protecting data and information is an imperative when it comes to regulating and securing the metaverse.
Hardware and software security is also critical, just as it is in our two dimensional internet today. Ensuring that all assets have the ability to detect threats and protect from the most basic risks can minimize long-term obstacles that can further create more problems.
Finally, cyber education is essential. I wrote an article on how to make your employees your number one security control, wherein the tips I previously included could also apply in practicing security in the metaverse.
In the case of the metaverse—where real life meets virtual—additional layers of protection must be implemented to ensure that users and businesses, by all means, are safe. As technology continues to evolve at a great pace, the need for enhanced cybersecurity measures has never been greater.
1 Akram Atallah, “What Does the Metaverse Mean for Your Digital Identity?” Forbes, January 2022