Ever since Facebook announced that it would be changing its name to ‘Meta’ and shifting its focus onto the wonderful world of the metaverse, it has become a hot topic in a wide variety of industries. Some have dubbed the metaverse “the future of the internet”, but what exactly is it?
Well, put simply, the metaverse is a 3D, immersive version of the world wide web that could be accessed via a VR headset or your browser. This is a world in which users can explore their surroundings via a digital avatar.
The metaverse has been around as an idea for a while now - the term was first coined by the science-fiction author Neal Stephenson, in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. The idea has regularly appeared in books and films since then, from The Matrix to Ready Player One, but in recent years, it’s become a reality. Last year saw over $120 billion (£97.7 billion) invested in the metaverse, and it’s set to keep growing. The metaverse has the potential to transform our daily lives, but all that investment is likely to attract cyber criminals, so anyone looking to join the metaverse needs to take a closer look at their cyber defences.
The metaverse promises to be the next iteration of the internet. It could soon be the place we all go to do everything from working and shopping to hanging out with friends - all without leaving the house. When Mark Zuckerberg first announced that his company would become metaverse-first, he said that he believed it “will be mainstream in the next 5 to 10 years.”
Device Hacking - To get the most out of the metaverse, users will need new technology, from VR headsets and haptic gloves to AR (augmented reality) glasses. This dependence on hardware could be bad news for the organisations behind the metaverse - and even worse news for its users. Each different piece of hardware is a potential entry point for hackers, giving them another way to access your network. Both AR and VR devices would also provide hackers with information on what users are doing and where they are in real time - far more than they’d get if they’d simply hacked into a social media account. Exploring the metaverse via company devices could put these devices, and the vital data they have access to, at significant risk. With many high-profile organisations already choosing to ban TikTok from company devices due to privacy concerns, it is extremely likely that metaverse activity will also be limited by many businesses in the near future.
Identity Theft - Identity theft is already a problem online, but the metaverse could take it to a whole new level. VR headsets could be integrated with facial recognition or biometric technology to help you log on quicker, and in the metaverse, everything you do online would likely be linked to your digital identity. Cyber criminals would be able to create a digital copy of anyone in the metaverse, then access everything from their finances to confidential files from their workplace. A scary thought for CISOs!
As well as biometric information, these wearable devices could also contain sensitive data that neither users nor their employers would want falling into the wrong hands - like detailed information on their health and wellbeing. Last year, a UAE-based healthcare company announced plans to launch the world’s first metaverse hospital , a hospital that users would be able to visit from anywhere in the world. Other virtual hospitals are likely to follow suit, and if they don’t strengthen their cyber defences, users’ medical records could be left vulnerable to attack.
Eavesdropping - One of the biggest dangers of the rising metaverse, and something that can be done relatively easily, is eavesdropping. As well as listening in on private calls and meetings through AR and VR headsets, attackers could also attempt invisible-avatar eavesdropping (also known as a ‘man in the room’ attack). By entering a meeting hosted on the metaverse with an invisible avatar, hackers can easily listen in to and even record the sharing of sensitive information without being detected by others in the virtual room. These kinds of attacks haven’t happened yet, but they could soon, as cyber criminals are known to be working on ways to remain undetectable in the metaverse. If they do, they’d be able to spy on workplace meetings metaverse-wide, opening up a whole new era of corporate espionage.
The metaverse is coming, so there’s no point in burying your head in the sand. Businesses and organisations need to start preparing their cybersecurity strategies for the metaverse now. Here are our top three tips to help you get started with your metaverse-first security strategy.
1 - Do your research - The best way to prepare for the rise of the metaverse is simply to understand it. Business leaders and cybersecurity professionals alike need to read up on the metaverse and all the cyber risks it entails, so they know where their vulnerabilities lie, and what they need to do to protect themselves. Take a look at your competitors, too, and see what preparations they’ve already made (if any!).
2 - Educate your employees - You already know that one of the best ways to reduce your risk of a cybersecurity attack is to ensure your employees understand the threats they’re under. So, why not add metaverse-specific best practices to your next cybersecurity session or internal communication?
3 - Identify all possible vulnerabilities - Before you or your business dip your toes in the metaverse, we recommend creating a detailed list of any vulnerabilities that could be exploited by cyber criminals once you’re in. Think about the vulnerabilities we explored earlier in this blog, alongside more conventional risks like phishing or malware attacks. Once the list has been created, you can address these issues one by one through a thorough metaverse security strategy. Then, create a schedule to regularly revisit the list and check up on your identitified weaknesses.
The metaverse may be a few years from achieving its full potential, but today’s cybersecurity professionals can’t afford to wait around and see what happens. They need to prepare for the rise of the metaverse before it’s too late.
While it could change the way we live our lives for the better, the metaverse will also bring a whole host of new cyber risks that will need to be addressed.
Are you looking to take your first steps into the metaverse? Or just find out more about strengthening your cyber defences? You’re in luck! With a team of cyber security experts located across the globe and a range of services to suit any business, we can help you prepare for whatever the metaverse might throw at you.
Whether you’re looking for help assessing your organisation’s vulnerabilities, or the development and implementation of a full-blown cyber security strategy (with the ongoing support required to keep it going), we’ve got it all.
Get in touch, with us to find out more or get started.