We are currently witnessing one of the most significant shifts in cyberspace. Enter the latest hot topic: the metaverse. Many information technology professionals see the metaverse as the natural next step in the evolution of the internet.
While the metaverse was barely spoken about in December 2020, the virtual world has gained serious traction and increased its search popularity by one hundred percent in December 2021, according to Google Trends.
As this novel medium expands in the coming years, users need to be wary of the potential cyber threats that come along with it. The metaverse revolves heavily around the exchange of cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Cybercriminals keep a close eye on the new world’s smart contracts to commit fraud and steal money directly from users’ crypto wallets. The metaverse will have to introduce a secure database management system to be wholly successful.
Why Cybersecurity Matters in the Metaverse
The metaverse is a culmination of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Along with haptic feedback, it provides a fully immersive experience of the three-dimensional world. Users can interact with each other through their digital avatars.
They can operate in virtual and physical spaces while transacting in virtual economies. While the metaverse is still in its infancy, the platform’s development is happening rapidly.
The metaverse started as a platform used primarily by gamers, but with new advancements, the virtual space is quickly becoming a craze for media, enterprise tech, and telecom companies.
Many believe that the metaverse will change the way we live, which is cause for excitement. However, it doesn’t come without cons. New ways of connecting online come with further incidents of data breaches.
The alternate dimension platform will gather more personal data than ever before. Therein lies the biggest problem for inhabitants of the metaverse. Investment in data protection and cybersecurity is critical. However, since the metaverse is unregulated, it will prove challenging to supervise the malicious activity.
Developers and industry-watchers keep a keen eye on the privacy measures introduced into the metaverse-related software. The success of the alternate universe depends on protecting users’ data and preventing fraud. Given the infrastructure of the metaverse, there is not much chance for legal recourse after the cybercrime has been committed.
Challenges of Securing the Metaverse
Another obstacle the metaverse faces is the reliance on compatible hardware to access the platform. VR/AR headsets are data-sensitive devices susceptible to being hacked by cybercriminals.
Data extracted from these headsets can be sold on the black market and used against individuals down the line in the form of blackmail threats or social engineering schemes. The big question is: who will be responsible for the metaverse? Do big tech companies like Microsoft or Meta dictate the laws of the metaverse?
With millions of projected initial users in the alternate universe, the challenge of regulating the world responsibly will be gigantic. Governments could get involved in the law-making process. However, this could mean a slow down in the development of the metaverse.
Technology laws always seem to be an afterthought and barely address users’ concerns. With an average age of 64 years old, U.S. senators are unfamiliar with modern technology, not to mention the complexity of a concept like a metaverse.
Yet, these politicians make the laws that society abides by. Cybercriminals exploit the lack of regulation and benefit significantly from lawmakers’ shortcomings. Like most IT releases, products are brought to market before any cybersecurity or data protection is introduced.
For instance, IoT devices like smart homes and fitness trackers were initially entirely susceptible to data breaches, and laws had to be put in place swiftly to save the technology.
Without the safety concerns of users being addressed, users would not trust the technology with sensitive data.
How to Keep Cybercrimes Out of the Metaverse
There is no specific way to keep cyber crimes from occurring in the metaverse. The platform is mainly unregulated. The multiple layers of VR and AR make it easy for cybercriminals to get lost in the system or hide their identity.
There is massive potential for theft and fraud without the protection needed to secure transactions. Attackers use techniques to pose as official sellers of virtual products to gain full access to the buyer’s crypto wallet or personal information. They then use this information at a later stage.
The primary technique used by cybercriminals is what’s called a ‘smart contract.’ The buyer enters into a malicious smart contract designed with an approved function. In typical cases, this would enable the transaction of money.
If the smart contract is a scam, the cybercriminal will gain full access to the buyer’s data and assets like cryptocurrency and NFTs.
Currently, the only way to prevent this from happening is through education. Technology users have to learn to spot the difference between a legitimate smart contract and a malicious one. Unfortunately, it’s not that straightforward.
Contracts are as safe and effective as the terms and conditions set out by them. The best protection method is to consult a partner with experience in legal technology and cybersecurity. By working with them, you can minimize the risk of exploitation when entering into smart contracts.
The metaverse concept is exciting and will become the next big thing. However, all participants must be well-versed in data protection and cybersecurity.
The metaverse’s chance to become regulated is unlikely since the internet is the last frontier for free speech. Legislating it would be problematic.
Businesses must watch out for potential cyberattacks by ensuring protocols to prevent data breaches.