Is the metaverse safe? † VentureBeat

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If it’s not clear by now, it will be soon: the metaverse is coming. While it’s still just a concept, all this talk about virtual worlds, brain chips, tactile interfaces, and artificial intelligence (AI) can only mean that these technologies will come together soon. Many people will get involved in this fusion of the virtual world with the physical world once the metaverse has fully arrived. Unfortunately, whenever new and exciting technologies appear, cybersecurity is often an afterthought. Cybersecurity will be the Achilles heel of the metaverse. Without a total base-level security, the entire metaverse will face significant issues that could take years to unravel.

The first known mention of a metaverse occurred in science fiction in the 1990s. More recently, Facebook stepped in and transformed itself (and its name) into a new concept of a personal, custom, and interactive virtual world it builds while burning $500 billion in market cap.

By most definitions, however, the metaverse will be a place where physical and virtual meet and the boundaries between the two become increasingly blurred. It will ultimately encompass our world of work, our friendships, where we shop, how we spend our free time, what we eat, how we learn and countless other uses. The metaverse has access to our most personal information and habits. As people begin to live in these virtual worlds, the metaverse will be able to learn a lot about us, others, and things that we would hardly think about these days.

If the metavers are unavoidable, then it’s our moral duty to build one that’s safe, private, and secure. With the advent of the metaverse, we will have to rebuild, redefine and relearn so many things that we take for granted in the ‘real world’.

What does it mean when you close and lock your front door? Or how about your call screening? What do the security protocols in your life look like when you’re at home versus how they come in when you’re in a public place? How do you know who you are talking to? The metaverse has so many unknowns that it cannot be considered safe by any standard.

For this, look for the image of Clint Eastwood – right now the metaverse is the wild, wild west. A lawless land few dare to venture into – but like the old west, some people are ready for the metaverse. Instead of old-fashioned bandits and bandits, they are called hackers, scammers and various other names.

Traditionally, nefarious types have been drawn to new technologies in search of opportunities. There are already reports of scams in NFT transactions, fraud in Ethereum addresses and various other abuses. Now remember that all Facebook did was change their name to Meta.

Where was their plan and commitment to users’ privacy, safety or mental health? Crypto, NFTs and smart contracts will undoubtedly be a fundamental part of the metaverse construct. Cyberbullying, doxing, ransom scams and other well-known schemes will also be making their way to the metaverse soon and will be there early. Criminals are attracted to an environment where no rules exist and victims have limited rights.

One of the biggest risks in the metaverse is data security and privacy. Before the metaverse, layers of abstraction existed, thanks to the physical world and our carefully balanced involvement through smartphones, computer systems and apps. In the metaverse, significant engagement will flow through artificial and virtual reality systems, creating a nexus point of data ripe for targeting. Data collection alone is a cause for great concern, with built-in biometric, behavioral, financial, profile information, and a wealth of additional personal information.

Garbage in, garbage out

If you’ve been in information technology long enough, you’re familiar with the phrase garbage in, garbage out. It’s a bad way of doing things and before we start packing and moving to the metaverse, we need to make sure we’re ready for things like:

· Social engineering. As we have seen in corporate and individual scenarios, social engineering can lead to massive data loss, access loss and financial consequences. This is one of the main vectors for data breaches.

· Blockchain security. Blockchain itself is strong in validating transactions and data. However, the integration of blockchain is an additional concern that needs to be closely examined. For example, with just a little deception, an infiltrator can fake the interception and ownership of data. The network, identification, validation and supporting DNS structures are examples of technical elements that must be secured.

· Privacy Concerns. The problems that plague us on the web and in databases everywhere will plague us in the virtual world. The collection, retention and sharing of data are just some of the examples that require definition, determination of individual rights and regulation.

· Digital boundaries. Users must maintain their rights to privacy and engagement with others. This issue could be complicated by the fact that there are now no countries in the metaverse and no corresponding jurisdictions.

· Security of data transactions. From purchases to smart contracts, a binding construct will boost the exchange of data. The security of these transactions is critical to the success of the metaverse. Time will tell how far general transactions can be regulated, taxed and reported.

· Identity of users. In the physical world we are what we are. Our being is tangible. One of the things to determine is what happens when an exact copy of your digital self is created or restored from a backup. If there is a conflict, which version should persist? What if a damaged or erroneous copy occurs? What if that copy is intentionally altered or inadvertently wiped out?

· Identity of others. Metavers existence begins with avatars, a visual and perhaps audio-based representation of everything that opposing creator has put together. That user’s identity is questionable until you can confirm who they are in a genuine way that you trust. What about the inevitable presence of bots like we saw in the “meme stock” sagas? Are they friendly bots? Do you even know when to address one?

Worry not checked

Let’s not spoil what the metaverse can be by leaving these security and privacy issues unchecked. Let’s minimize and hopefully avoid the deafening noise and infiltration of non-human influences on social media channels and online forums. The best metaverse is a real metaverse forum for those without bots and hackers.

The metaverse is a concept that sparks a lot of discussion and it’s likely part of our collective future, but it should be a force for good. For now, the concept is vague, but the cybersecurity challenges ahead are clear, and we can act on them now.

Emil Sayegh is the President and CEO of Ntirety Inc.

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