Metaverse security: Unprecedented challenges
Metaverse is a world where mixed reality, augmented reality, and virtual reality meet. The world could unprecedentedly change how people interact, play, and conduct business with each other. While everyone thinks about the ultimate potential, the metaverse security does not deserve any less attention.
The unprecedented integration of systems
Metaverse is based on a completely new integration of different systems and components. It combines a lot of emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI) etc. These technologies realize the connection of two worlds: virtual and real. Such a level of integration also opens new attack surfaces. Metaverse subsequently inherits the security and privacy challenges of these new technologies. Further, vulnerable devices that act as interfaces to connect reality to virtual worlds, such as augmented reality devices or virtual reality devices, could become gateways for malicious intentions or data leakages. Besides, a variety of metaverse security breaches and privacy leakages could happen given the massive amount of collected data, user profiling activities, and unfair decisions of machine learning algorithms. For example, without proper comprehensive security mechanisms such as authentication and authorization methods, attackers could sneak into a virtual environment and act as “the man in the middle” without being seen or noticed. They could alter the environment, eavesdrop on the conversation, and perform certain actions that threaten the end-users, the business, or the games.
In the metaverse, users must be able to easily identify each other when conducting business or sharing an environment. They could then trust a virtual person as much as they do in the real world. Existing concepts of digital identity often stay within a closed (eco) system (i.e., each system has its own set of identities), while new technologies such as non-fungible tokens (NFT) suggest a new shift in (mixed) digital identity. Unfortunately, non-fungible token is still in its early day, and different attacks have already been reported. Malicious actors could steal one’s digital identity by exploiting the weakest link in the chain, i.e., humans. Particularly, they could perform phishing, social engineering attacks, and scams. Without appropriate metaverse identity management solutions, it is impossible for the users to identify and trust each other. Trust and verification are integral parts of the success of the digital identity in the metaverse.
Given that metaverse will imitate (to a great extent) the reality, the immense amount of data collected from different sensors (e.g., wearable devices, microphones, heart, user interactions) will be a huge concern for users and lawmakers. Such a massive data collection could easily lead to privacy violations. Hence, data privacy in the metaverse will be the top priority for legal considerations. Transparent data usage must be mandated for related companies. Besides, standards and regulations should be considered to create incentives as well as to actively enforce data protection in products used in the metaverse.
The metaverse is new yet approaching fast. Its wide adoption is attracting a variety of security and privacy challenges. It is therefore crucial to implement a proper security and privacy mechanisms together with well-defined policies, standards, and regulations to foster security and privacy right in the early days. If we could do it right, we would not have to consider security and privacy as added features as we did with traditional software in the old days.