If you hang around techies, you’ve probably heard the word buzzing around in the past year or so. By reputation alone, it seems to be some kind of new reality that’s entirely online and self-supported by the internal players.
Wait, is this a video game or a social media marvel?
Let’s dive into what the metaverse is, and what the next level of cybersecurity will look like in that digital landscape.
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What is the Metaverse?
That’s a good question, and one many people have asked since the term really take off worldwide when Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would focus future updates on the metaverse, which plans to include 2D and 3D features that can play on typical WiFi devices like your phone, to virtual reality equipment specially designed for immersion. You can really shop, really work, and really interact with others. It’s like one of those massive online RPGs you used to play as a kid, but actual companies are on there – and so is your Facebook account.
Some companies are betting on the new future and already planning games and experiences unique to the metaverse. For example, Roblox – which is already an online gaming platform – is developing video games specifically for VR. Other brands have opted to use the metaverse more so as a marketplace for NFTs.
How does this differ from, say, Minescape or World of Warcraft? Largely, because the real world will agree to participate in it. If you can buy Raybans and get a job as a Starbucks barista in the metaverse, talking to the real managers of those companies, then it’s a little different than playing swords and dragons – even if that line seems to get thinner with every technological marvel.
Security Goes Meta
Whenever popular technology changes or advances, there are new privacy concerns to address and hackers to keep out. Meta, evidently some kind of “next-level internet,” is sure to have its fair share of vulnerabilities. All nascent inventions do! How can users address these risks as they make the move to Meta?
Security in virtual reality requires a different way of thinking. For example, did you know that pranksters are already using the fact that avatars are constantly followed by “cameras?” That footage gives hackers massive amounts of data to work with if they can access the feed. Adding more protections to your camera’s security settings is critical, and should be on the top of your list when first making an avatar. Meanwhile, vulnerable virtual reality devices that you might use to log in could be the entry point for malware and hackers, too. Your equipment needs to be locked down tight, and sophisticated enough to have strong defenses built in.
You should also beware that digital privacy rights are nowhere near as comprehensive as the ones we hold in the real world. Think about all of the times and places where it’s illegal to record another person. The metaverse would have to disclose that it’s watching you, but signing that would give them way more liberty to track your whereabouts than many people feel comfortable with in real life. Be careful what you share in there!
We will also have to be warier of phishing scams when it’s already tough to suss out whether the avatar you’re chatting with is a person, AI, or bot working for the bad guys. They could fake the likeness and a very similar handle to your close friend and convince you to send money or information, similar to how many spear-phishing campaigns operate via email.
All of these concerns will amplify if and when the metaverse gains popularity, and individuals and businesses alike scramble to join without double-checking they’re going about it as safely as possible. Thus, there is a chance of encountering zero-day vulnerabilities as it grows; those are exploitable access points in the current software, which may be discovered first by either hackers or engineers. Make recommended updates ASAP so that you don’t fall victim to a zero-day attack in virtual reality.
Is Metaverse Safe?
In some ways, we will have to rely on the Metaverse itself to include inherent safety features, and also for the law to catch up to the real world when it comes to privacy concerns. We’re still hammering out data privacy laws for the regular old Internet! Meanwhile, we can still take steps to preserve our data’s anonymity when creating profiles and interacting with it.
What threats and security solutions will emerge as it grows more popular and society evolves? Only time will tell!