This article covers the top 10 metaverse risks as we prepare to expand our internet experience and enter a virtual world where we do everything that we do today in our physical world – almost everything. Although the technology is still a few years out, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the groundwork is being laid for the new metaverse-based Internet.
However, just as with the Internet today, there are some inherent risks and security issues that will need to be addressed as we progress into a world of digital connectedness. While the full potential of virtual reality worlds is still being imagined and assessed, the metaverse security consultants are urging caution.
Below is the list of top 10 metaverse risks:
Cyberbullying and Harassment
The issue of mental health and mental well-being in the metaverse has made news before. Cyberbullying still remains a serious threat to young adults and teenagers. In fact, the effects of cyberbullying are well-documented and can include anything from low sense of self-worth to suicidal tendencies, especially in teenagers. In February 2022, a woman claimed that she (her avatar) was harassed in a virtual game by 3-4 male avatars. Experts suggest that because the human experience in the metaverse is as real as our experience in the real world, the pain and suffering is also real and as intense.
Mental Health Issues
There are other threats that are more difficult to avoid in a virtual world. For instance, ads are used to drive the development of many free-to-play games. Malicious individuals could theoretically replace the ads with images that can induce motion sickness or even epileptic seizures. Such images could be broadcast to a person’s virtual reality headset.
Many experts are concerned about the possibility that identity theft may become even easier in the metaverse if strict security measures are not implemented. Identity theft is already a multibillion-dollar industry in the real world; a study released just last month placed losses to identity theft at approximately $24 billion. Worse, the number of cases has grown over 50 percent from 2020’s figures, according to cybersecurity research.
Unauthorized Data Collection by Companies
Legitimate companies also collect your personal information. However, virtual reality has the potential to take information collection to a point that may be a few steps out of bounds for some people. For example, virtual reality headsets theoretically allow third parties to gather increasingly sensitive personal information such as voiceprint data, biometric information and even facial geometry.
Ransomware is a type of malicious software that has the ability to encrypt your personal files and block you or anyone from accessing them. It will then display a message urging you to pay a certain amount of money to get your data back, hence the name ‘ransomware’. You can probably imagine how this would be problematic in a metaverse setting. Your metaverse profile is set to contain a lot more information than just a standard social media profile; it will contain all manner of sensitive information as well. Imagine not being able to access your bank accounts or even your personal data. That can become quite problematic in a metaverse setting.
Changes in Perception of the Real World
A study conducted by researchers at Stanford University has discovered that both virtual reality and augmented reality, two of the cornerstones that will form the foundation of the metaverse, can have an impact on how people perceive the real world. For example, participants in that study avoided sitting on a chair where they had seen a computer-generated avatar sit in their AR environment.
In a world that thrives on the consumption of information, experts are also worried about false information campaigns provided via deepfaked audio and video clips threatening the security of our nation. Deepfakes are video or audio clips that have been manipulated to look and/or sound like someone else. Deepfaking works similarly to face swapping but uses sophisticated artificial intelligence algorithms to gather data on individuals from several different angles so that they can be overlayed on existing video.
Social Engineering Attacks
Social engineering is the practice of psychologically manipulating people into divulging sensitive information. With the amount of personal data that will be stored in the metaverse, it could potentially become a gold mine for hackers looking to sell personal information on the Dark Web. Ultimately, the basis for metaverse security management will be education. You can have the greatest security system in the world, but if the operator doesn’t know how to use the system or is irresponsible, it will do them no good.
Shared Spaces Have Their Own Risks
The metaverse is driven around bringing people closer together. While in some ways this can be a good thing, it can also present concerns. In today’s Internet, you can find groups of like-minded people and create fantastic communities. In the metaverse, however, you will also need to deal with people that have opposing ideals. Studies have shown that people will act differently in a virtual world as opposed to the real world. This manifests rather heavily in the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) world, where experienced players tend to badmouth new players and will even bully females.
New Applications Will Need to Be Vetted
Just like on today’s Internet, new applications have the potential to cause havoc on our digital lives. In a metaverse setting, however, the damage can become even more disastrous with the sheer amount of sensitive data that will be kept. We will need to develop measures to have all new applications checked for malicious code.
These are just our top 10 metaverse risks which include security concerns. The list will surely expand and evolve as we build our virtual real life where almost everything will gradually be done in the digital world. Watch this video to learn about the Metaverse Security Center as well as the Certified Metaverse Security Consultant (CMSC) certification.