Security paradigms need to be revamped to protect privacy in the metaverse.

Cyber Crime Increased +50% in Corporate Networks during 2021

The more technically sophisticated our businesses become, the more technically sophisticated the world’s hackers.  Just think back to a fraction of the security hacks we were made aware of in 2021:

  • In March, a hacking group used stolen passwords of over 30,000 US organizations using Microsoft Exchange.
  • In April, a Facebook data breach exposed over 533M individuals’ personal information to hackers.
  • In May, Colonial Pipeline was the victim of a ransomware attack that caused fuel shortages in the Southwest, Midwest and Northwest region of the US and rising fuel prices.
  • Also in May, the world’s third-largest meat processor was hit by a ransomware attack and affected downtime for hundreds of beef and poultry processing plants across four continents.

The cybersecurity firm Check Point reported +50% y/y more cyber- attacks per week on corporate networks in 2021.

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“Now What?”

“Now what?” is a question too few of us are asking about cybersecurity issues now that more and more businesses and people are moving into the metaverse.

Prabhu Ram, head of the industry intelligence group with CyberMedia Research,said, “Since the contours and potential of metaverse are yet to be fully realized, the overt concerns about privacy and security issues in the metaverse remain confined to only a few ‘tech-aware’ companies. New attack vectors…will require a fundamental realignment of today’s security paradigms to identify, verify and secure the metaverse.”

Identity Security

JPMorgan released a white paper in February that suggested user identification and privacy safeguards as being crucial for operating and transacting in the metaverse.  “Verifiable credentials (should be) easily structured to enable easier identification of fellow community or team members…to access…virtual world locations and experiences,” according to this white paper.

Gary Gardiner, head of security engineering for Asia-Pacific and Japan at Check Point Software Technologies, suggested that “little exclamation marks” over avatars’ heads could be used to signal that a person was not trustworthy.

Data Breeches

When users wear virtual reality headsets to access the metaverse, hacker organizations/criminals can collect data on a user by their voice and/or their eye/head movements.

Philip Rosedale, founder of Second Life, an online world that allows people to eat/shop and/or hang out virtually, said that in just a few seconds, “…we can identify it is you exactly wearing the device.  This,” said Rosedale, “is a very serious potential privacy problem for the virtual world.”

What To Do

Just a few months ago, Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, wrote that in the next 2-3 years, most virtual meetings will be held in the metaverse.

Gary Gardiner with Check Point Software Technologies said, “The weakest point in any organization from a cybersecurity perspective is people….” so it’s important to train staff well.

On top of top-notch training, Gardiner and Second Life’s founder Philip Rosedale agree that maintaining privacy depends on the security platforms and safety models the metaverse initiates and maintains for organization and business users.  Rosedale specifically said that users in the metaverse need to be enabled (by training and supervision) to use a “web of trust” to share and exchange information with others in the metaverse.

Gardiner believes there must be a common standard to enable security protocols in the metaverse otherwise, “,,,people will lose confidence in the platform and we’ll stop using it.”

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