Part II: The vulnerabilities
Only responsible action can build an inclusive, safe, and secure metaverse – else, it could soon represent the worst aspects of the web
Continuing with our discussion on the security threats in the metaverse, let us look into specific elements of the metaverse that are directly vulnerable.
Threats: against and within
Trend Micro,the American–Japanese specialist in enterprise Cloud security, XDR, and corporate cybersecurity platform solutions, has recently released a report thatlists nine different categories of security threats – both against and within the metaverse.
- Cyber-physical threats:Going by its architecture, the metaverse is an interactive application layer for the Spatial Web – a 3Dcomputing environment wherebillions of connected devicescreate a confluence of the real and the virtual. It is accessed through Virtual/Augmented/Mixed/Extended Reality interfaces. This integration point where the IoT and the cyber worlds meet is a potential hotbed of cyber-physical threats.
- Darkverse:It is the dark web of the metaverse and, technically, it can be more harmful because of the virtual presence of users. Clandestine physical meetings can be arranged here between two virtually present criminals– and that would not be detected by any security system because it happens inside the deepverse, which is unindexed. Thus, itis more toxic than purely online criminal discussion forums over dark web.
- Financial fraud:The metaverse, with its huge volume of daily e-commerce transactions, will definitely attract criminal groups. Especially since financial institutions – like JP Morgan,for example – are already present in the metaverse. Hackers will go all out toexploit users, steal identity and/or money, as well as take control ofany digital asset.
- NFTs:NFTs involveintegrity issues as they regulate assetownership of, but do not provide storage. This can be alluring for ransom attackers. Such an attack can encrypt NFT data files,so that the user will be blocked from accessing the asset untila ransomis paid.
- Privacy issues:This can be a hugeworry – because metaverse publishers will control all aspects of their respective meta spaces, holdvolumes of user data, and monetize the datacollected. Naturally, cybercriminals will target such data troves.
- Social engineering:This involves psychological manipulation to trick users into making security mistakes or give away sensitive information. Deepfakes can be used to commit or incite crime, hackers can infiltrate company or government webs and impersonate – causing serious, widespread havoc.
- Traditional IT attacks:Metaverse worlds will still be run on regular IT hardware. This means, they will remain susceptible to alltraditional IT risks. All regular IT threats, likedistributed denial of service (DDoS), API attacks, ransomware, and so on will continue to plague the metaverse.
- Virtual/Augmented/Mixed/Extended Reality threats:As the metaverse will exist both as a VR and an MR world, all user interactions will occur either in a 3D virtual world, or in a 3D-augmented real world. Consequently, all VR/AR/MR/XR-specific threats – although yet to emerge – will catch up with the metaversewithin a few years.
- Miscellaneous threats and issues:Under this head, the Trend Micro report grouped together sundry threat scenarios that do not fall under any previous category. These include:
- law enforcement agencies not being able to catch up with metaverse criminals.
- environmental impacts – likebitcoin mining requiring a lot of electricity.
- network partitioning due to uplink or power failure.
- large tech companies dominating the metaverse.
- copyright infringement issues.
- ethics and accountability involving artificial intelligence.
- moderation of expression and activities within the metaverse.
Learn from past mistakes
The metaverse is still very much in its infancy. The technical infrastructure is still being built, and there are very few “killer apps” that would make the metaverse essential for users. Yet, it is indeed a promising solution to the problems of the centralized web.As the metaverse matures, we must be mindful of the issues already encountered in virtual worlds. We should learn from past mistakes by designing comprehensive safety features, incorporate regulating mechanisms, and establish guidelines for safe usage.
Only responsible action can build an inclusive, safe, and secure metaverse – else, the metaverse could soon represent the worst aspects of the web.
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