Hackernoon logoIs the Metaverse Ready for Cyberattacks? by@jtruong

Is the Metaverse Ready for Cyberattacks?

The Metaverse is a combination of augmented reality and virtual reality; it's the next big thing after the internet. As the virtual world becomes more interactive, people must be held accountable for their actions and behaviors in that universe. The question now is whether the metaverse is ready for cyber attacks? Because it's going to come whether they are prepared or not. The metaverse will ultimately face “the usual challenges of fending off cybersecurity incidents and data breaches” and see more sci-fi types of attacks (i.e. hacked avatars)
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Jessica Truong

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“Metaverse is the next generation of the Internet” - Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook  

What is The Metaverse? 

The Metaverse is still just an idea, but a fast-growing one. The metaverse is a combination of augmented reality and virtual reality; it's the next big thing after the internet. It would be a virtual space with multiple players. It is an “alternate digital reality where people work, play, and socialize” and it is becoming a big deal (Forbes). 

Think of the Metaverse as a “shared virtual space where people are represented by digital avatars; the virtual world grows and evolves based on the decisions and actions of the society within it” (Forbes). It is a “new one to one digital copy of the world that is searchable, clickable, and machine-readable” (Forbes).

To help visualize the metaverse, let's take the online life simulator “Second Life”, as an example. It is a “form of a metaverse where you create your own avatar and explore a virtualized version of the real world” (Yahoo! News). Basically, you have an avatar that you can customize and will be able to interact with other avatars in a virtual setting. 

One thing to keep in mind is that as the virtual world becomes more interactive, people must be held accountable for their actions and behaviors in that universe. Therefore, we need to think about cybersecurity and be prepared for cyber attacks even though it could be years before the metaverse becomes a reality.

Metaverses in the Gaming World

The following are two games that best represent the metaverse, visually, to show what the metaverse may be like.  

Animal Crossing is a game where you can customize your own avatar and build your own little village. You can shop, sell, and trade items in the game and make money in order to expand your house.

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Fortnite is a virtual world where you have your own avatar and you can compete against other players, hang out with friends, and attend concerts. There was a virtual Travis Scott concert in Fortnite where users were placed in venues and got to enjoy his show. 

Is The Metaverse Ready for Cyber Attacks?

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The question now is whether the metaverse is ready for cyber attacks. Because it's going to come whether they are prepared or not.

The metaverse is a hot commodity and therefore the perfect target for cyber attacks. Although we can use existing techniques to protect against the metaverse, it may not prevent new attacks that have never been seen before. The metaverse will require new technologies and more to thwart such attacks. As the metaverse is still being built and discovered, we need to think about data security. 

According to an NYU professor, we will need digital money in order to operate in the metaverse, like non-fungible tokens (NFTs), for example. As we know, NFT is a hot topic at the moment and hackers are already finding ways to steal NFTs and selling zero-day exploits as an NFT. Therefore, if NFTs are used in the metaverse then we should be prepared for any attacks against them.

Bottom line: Be ready. You never know what is coming, attackers will exploit weaknesses and take advantage of unprepared metaverses. 

Cybersecurity “laws and protocols will need to be reconsidered and amended, and perhaps even invented, to include all the risks of the Metaverse” (IBC). Keep in mind that this is easier said than done. 

In today’s society, especially around Cybersecurity, technology is constantly evolving and changing and can be hard to keep up with. The metaverse will ultimately face “the usual challenges of fending off cybersecurity incidents and data breaches” and see more sci-fi types of attacks (i.e. hacked avatars) (Norton Rose Fulbright). 

As a result, these incidents may be more difficult to “identify, verify and bring under control, and it might be hard to ascertain where responsibilities lie in respect of breach notification to users and data protection authorities” (Norton Rose Fulbright).

What will The Metaverse Need?

These are just a few things that will need protection in the metaverse space and the list may grow in the future:

  • Privacy
  • Data use ethics and safety guidelines
  • Biometric data (i.e. user movements and physical characteristics when using the VR devices)

Just like new organizations, the metaverse will need some guidelines. Currently, no “systems or policies have been established to protect the metaverse therefore the goal of the provider should be to implement these guidelines and systems” (Pentasecurity). 

Once these guidelines have been established, it will give a better foundation as to how to prepare against cyber attacks in the metaverse.

Final Thoughts

It is difficult to say at this point in time how to protect against all future cyberattacks on the metaverse. As mentioned earlier there is no set definition or clear understanding of what the metaverse is and what it will be. The term “metaverse” has been going around and piquing people’s interest. 

I get the impression that it will be years before the metaverse will be a reality and hopefully by then we have a clearer idea of what it has become. By then, we would know the technologies involved and may be able to discuss in detail how to protect against cyber attacks. We can already see organizations like Facebook taking interest in the metaverse. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is ready to bring the company into the realm of the metaverse as he announced at the end of June that Facebook will become a "metaverse company."  

The pandemic has definitely helped with the increased value of the metaverse as many companies moved to remote working and realized that the same work could be done remotely as well.

Facebook might be the first organization to make this decision, but with time, many more could be joining in on the trend. 

This will mean that cybersecurity will be even more important because the task of expanding organizations to go beyond the physical world comes with the challenge of new security concerns.

This article is part of The Gaming Metaverse Writing Contest hosted by HackerNoon in partnership with The Sandbox.

Submit your #gaming-metaverse story today for your chance to win up to $2000.

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