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Why organisations need to prepare for the Metaverse’s security risks

21 November, 2022

You might have heard a little bit about the Metaverse. Whether that’s Facebook’s $15 billion spent on the project so far, the giddy sounds of advertisers or users’ apparent limited enthusiasm to date, it’s almost certain you’ve heard something about the project by now. But what is the metaverse, actually?

In essence, Facebook argues that the metaverse Facebook is a new and “improved” form of the internet that combines augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to provide a completely immersive online experience.

In other words, it's a version of the web in which "you", represented by your online avatar, can work, play, study, shop, and interact with friends while feeling as if you're truly present.

Although the word "Metaverse" has been floating around since the early 90s, the term didn't truly catch on until Facebook changed its name to Meta in October 2021. At that time, the company disclosed plans to invest $10 billion in technology over the following year in order to realise its metaverse goal of a Facebook-controlled online ‘everything’ platform.

While the metaverse might bring benefits to users, like any other internet-connected innovation, there will be cyber criminals, fraudsters and scammers who will be looking to exploit it – and that's going to create cybersecurity and privacy challenges from the beginning.

Why do I need to worry?

Cybercriminals are nothing if not opportunistic. The pandemic's massive shift to remote working saw a significant increase in cybercrime as criminals took advantage of the uncertainty and change.

The metaverse’s big sales pitch is that it's an entirely new way to interact, work and play online. Naturally, then, where people are learning how to behave and what to do, criminals will be out in force. It’s not speculation on our behalf either, with a survey of 100 senior security experts found that 91.5% are concerned with the potential security risks of the Metaverse itself.

What are the concerns around Metaverse security?

It’s easier than ever to impersonate somebody

One of the key aspects of the metaverse is that users are represented in virtual environments by customised avatars – but how will you be able to tell the person you're interacting with is really who they say they are?

"I can go into the metaverse, I can make an avatar that looks like you, and I can give it a name that says it's the real you – and I will probably trick some people into thinking that it's you," says Caroline Wong, chief strategy officer at Cobalt, a cybersecurity and penetration-testing company.

Cybercriminals use social engineering to steal passwords, personal information, and money through phishing emails and messaging scams, which are already highly successful on the internet as it is today.

That might be even simpler in the metaverse, especially if individuals mistakenly believe they are communicating with the physical representation of an individual or company they know and trust when in fact, they are communicating with someone else entirely.

For organisations, if it's possible that a fraudster could create an avatar that looks like you, then uses that to help conduct attacks against your friends or colleagues – or as with any other online account, they could just hack into the real one.

If you are doing business with someone in a virtual world and someone else can take over their account, it could be very hard to spot.

Privacy remains an issue

For organisations, privacy is a major topic of concern. Metaverse businesses must protect critical and sensitive user and transactional data.

More user data than ever before will undoubtedly be gathered as a result of the development of a more customised and immersive experience, which makes for a more attractive target for cybercriminals.

Indeed, the emerging nature of the metaverse means that there are questions about whether existing governance and oversight are sufficient for what the metaverse is and may become.

What can your organisation do?

The metaverse is currently only a small part of how we use the internet, but the money that’s being invested into it suggests a high degree of confidence that it may eventually become a major part of our lives.

If Facebook and their partners get their way, the metaverse may potentially change the way we work, socialise, and play online in the future. The potential for good is huge, however, there will always be those attempting to take advantage of social environments on the internet. That’s why we recommend that organisations that wish to participate in the Metaverse take precautions to be secure. Here are our top recommendations.

Always use a VPN

VR technology can acquire a large amount of biometrically inferred data, even down the movement of your eyes. Moreover, an app may reveal your physical location when using the Metaverse. You may feel more comfortable using a VPN to keep your whereabouts hidden.

A few ways that a VPN may be desirable include:

Keep your IP address hidden: When you’re in the Metaverse, you may want your IP address hidden. A VPN can help ensure your privacy and keep your identity protected.

Access blocked websites and content: Some websites and content are blocked in specific regions or countries. A VPN can help you access this content no matter where you are in the world.

Multi-factor authentication

Any account that is used to access the metaverse should be secured with multi-factor authentication to provide an additional barrier to accounts being taken over. It's also recommended that applications are downloaded and installed from official sources to reduce the prospect of malicious software being installed on your device.

The last thing any organisation wants is a cybercriminal posing as a legitimate member of their team.

Train your team

The most practical step for any organisation is implementing robust cybersecurity awareness training for all staff. In a blog post, the co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, predicted that within the next two to three years, most virtual meetings will move to the metaverse. For businesses to safely operate in the metaverse, he said, it’s important to train staff well as “The weakest point in any organisation from a cybersecurity perspective is the user,”.

Here at Bob’s Business, we train your employees to be the heart of your cybersecurity and to protect your organisation through positive behaviours. Curious to learn more? Discover Bob’s Culture, our flagship cultural change solution which uses a Phishing Baseline and Awareness Questionnaire to determine your organisation’s blind spots and create your tailored course rollout plan.

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Global Cyber Alliance