Coined by author Neal Stephenson in the 1992 novel Snow Crash, the term “metaverse” typically refers to simulated environments in virtual reality, augmented reality or even online video game platforms, such as Roblox and Fortnite. Second Life, the 2003 role-playing game, is a well-known example that seems poised for a comeback.
As Security Intelligence reports, if you picture a future business world where meetings are held in virtual reality and participants are represented by digital avatars, one major concern would be ensuring that the participants aren’t imposters. “It’s the ultimate opportunity for identity theft, spying and social engineering,” according to the news site. Companies such as Apple are working on biometric solutions for this problem, but it’s unclear whether hackers might find a way to beat those defenses.
Or think about all of the bots and fake accounts on today’s social media platforms. If state or industrial spies can figure out how to make themselves undetectable in sensitive metaverse situations, important data could be stolen.
The metaverse also brings novel threats. Some experts have pointed out that hackers could potentially mess with an avatar in a way that causes the user to fall down the stairs or otherwise hurt themselves in the physical world.
The cybersecurity community may have more time to prepare for such threats than the advertising hoopla suggests. As Protocol reports, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of the metaverse depends on chips faster than anyone knows how to make today. Zuckerberg has called the metaverse “[an] embodied internet that you’re inside of rather than just looking at” that would enable “some things that don’t make sense on the internet today, like dancing.” Intel senior vice president Raja Koduri recently opined, “Truly persistent and immersive computing, at scale and accessible by billions of humans in real time, will require … a 1,000-times increase in computational efficiency from today’s state of the art.”
According to VentureBeat, the coming of the metaverse requires “stronger endpoint security through various tools like VPNs, proxies, and antimalware software” as well as a public awareness campaign about the security risks of virtual environments.