As one of the most hyped and long-standing concepts within the technology industry and beyond, the metaverse’s continued development is set to welcome consumers into the next era of the Internet, which promises to bring a new level of immersive digital experiences. Building upon a foundation of Web3 technologies, the metaverse will enable elements such as blockchain, cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Adding new levels of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality and mixed reality, the metaverse allows users the capability of interacting using a digital facsimile, or designed avatar, which can engage other users, participate in various contexts such as corporate meetings, online communities and gaming, and explore new digital worlds within the metaverse.
Where in the past, we have seen online interactions being solely defined by what is shown and shared on social media by the users, the metaverse is a unique blend of online and offline experiences where users can entirely separate or align their reality with their virtual lives.
With heightened levels of engagement and connectivity, we will see businesses across a multitude of industries stand to benefit from the advent of the metaverse, and business practices, policies, and management are all expected to alter to accommodate the new digital medium.
Yet, there is also speculation about how the metaverse will bring a new level of change to basic cybersecurity practices, particularly regarding consumer data processing and protection. At the forefront of those concerns is the potential privacy implications.
Already, the metaverse market is estimated to grow astronomically to $800bn by 2024, which means huge levels of users, on multiple platforms, and creating significant levels of interactions.
With an immense expectation for highly personalised experiences, huge amounts of user data will be required to meet these demands, which will also extend to the collection of sensitive biometric data.
Reportedly, a single 20-minute session in VR using a headset can generate approximately two million data points and recordings of body language, tracking vast quantities of highly sensitive information. As VR is just one element of the metaverse, the potential for companies to mine large amounts of data for targeted marketing is huge.
While there are presently no specific metaverse cybersecurity regulations, existing regulations can be applied to keep companies in check of the user data being accessed and processed. In the future, the metaverse is expected to undergo rigorous scrutiny, with companies, to ensure they are in compliance with the regulations enforced in their locations.
It’s likely we will see privacy laws eventually catch up with the metaverse in the long run, especially regarding the processing and protection of personal data. I expect to see comprehensive terms of service before users can enter the metaverse, as well as significant improvements to privacy policies and compliance programs from companies.
Meanwhile, with the technology still in its infancy, it is more than likely that security risks ranging from fraud and scams to malware and data breaches will be some of the biggest concerns over the coming years.
Until cybersecurity in the metaverse is strengthened with specific regulations and cybersecurity measures, users should be informed and aware of the potential risks associated with using the platform, and businesses should have a comprehensive understanding and policies in place to deal with these issues.
At the centre of the metaverse economy are NFTs – multi-functionality unique digital assets that anyone can buy or sell freely on an open marketplace.
In 2021, the NFTs market made $17.6bn in sales, with so many people and businesses turning to NFTs as an accessible and profitable method of making money and trading collectables.
As a result, it’s unsurprising that more and more scams have cropped up to either deceive people out of money directly or access credentials to gain access to people’s digital wallets or cryptocurrency wallets.
Some of the common types of NFT scams include phishing and bidding scams, as well as rug pull – where scammers pull buyers in by promoting a fake NFT project or collection, and convincing them that it will be profitable. As a digital asset, it is much harder to recover lost money or stolen credentials after a scam.
Therefore, it is important to always follow basic cybersecurity practices, such as never sharing sensitive information like cryptocurrency wallet information and keys. Any keys should be kept private, along with any recovery codes.
In case of phishing scams, always check the domain URL before opening any links, and users should ensure they do not verify or perform any activity associated with the wallet through external links. If concerned, users should first confirm with the customer support team or community before continuing.
On the other hand, rug pull scams are far harder to detect outright, which is why it is essential that investors remain wary of NFTs with transactions on one day, and always look into the seller’s NFT marketplace account before purchasing; checking any reviews, verification information, and any social accounts listed.
Finally, use reputable NFT exchange markets, and be sure to double-check NFT prices. If the price seems much lower or higher than those on legitimate trading sites, then more than likely it is a scam. After purchasing an NFT, it’s best practice to move it to cold storage or hardware and away from the marketplace account where it can be hacked by scammers.
The metaverse will certainly have a significant impact on cybersecurity measures but until such a point that official regulations are in place, it is important that platform owners and users are aware and have anticipated potential dangers the technology poses. As such, the necessary steps and policies should be taken to ensure that users feel protected and can continue participating in the immersive, personalized experiences the metaverse offers.
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