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How to Stare Down the Metaverse Cybersecurity Threat

Photo by NASA / Unsplash

Is there any good reason to suppose that cyber warfare, phishing scams, identity theft, and the countless other security threats we’ve navigated in the internet age won’t be even worse in the metaverse?

Venturing into a vast virtual world was supposed to be fun, not dangerous, and some experts are sounding the alarm that our activities in VR could leave us exposed. But are these the warnings of serial doom-mongers – or should we take them seriously?

Entering the Unknown: Metaverse Security Risks

As we navigate virtual worlds populated by computer-based simulations, socializing, conducting business, gaming, etc, it's clear that we'll have to be mindful of the many cybersecurity threats associated with the technology itself.

That hackers will continue their endeavors in a new realm, engineering sophisticated schemes to access sensitive data and spread malware, is obvious. It’s not just the responsibility of a metaverse provider to protect its users: we'll all need to protect each other, Neighborhood Watch style.

The potential for fraud and theft is high in this environment, and criminals are already exploiting its vulnerabilities. According to a recent report by Interpol, threats include “crimes against children, data theft, money laundering, financial fraud, counterfeiting, ransomware, phishing, and sexual assault and harassment.”

Which is why the organization has launched its own internal police metaverse to train members in how to police a virtual world.

In an interview with InformationWeek, risk management expert Padraic O’Reilly suggested that virtual storefronts could be quickly spun up by bad actors, who solicit data through form-field entries. “Conceivably, if the metaverse is avatar-driven, there might even be a kind of kidnapping in play, or a kind of doppelgänger spawning; stealing identity takes on a whole new meaning,” he said.

Making Cybersecurity a Top Priority

Needless to say, cybersecurity should be a firm priority for any organization operating in the metaverse, which will mean significant investment in dedicated digital risk management executives, web3 specialists and white-hat hackers, not to mention staff who monitor the metaverse and sift through reports of misuse.

In the era of decentralized applications (dApps), AppSec – application security – will be paramount. Perhaps this field will become streamlined in the years to come, but at the moment there are no standard practices or security policies in place. Thus, some metaverses will be more secure than others.

Of course, we are already seeing professional bodies spring up. The Metaverse Security Center, which is supported by the Identity Management Institute, is just one example; it even offers its own certification to cybersecurity professionals interested in becoming metaverse experts.

It's impossible to overstate the importance of cybersecurity in the modern world. With more and more of our lives moving online, we're exposing ourselves to greater risks of identity theft, fraud, and other malicious activity. The metaverse is no different — in fact, it may be even more vulnerable given its global reach and interconnectedness.

For the time being, we need to do what we can to protect ourselves. That means non-custodial wallets, strong passwords and two-factor authentication (2FA). It means maintaining the same cautious air when traveling through a metaverse as you would when walking down a darkened street. No matter how tough you are.