How to secure the next frontier: metaverse cybersecurity

The hype surrounding the metaverse is justified, but to realize its true potential, we must build the “next frontier” on a foundation of security. It’s important as the metaverse will be decentralized and hosted on the blockchain.

It’s been two years since the start of the pandemic when just about everyone switched their digital transformation efforts into overdrive. Today, it’s safe to say that remote working and hybrid working models (that combine both remote and work on on-premises) are now the norm. The next level will be working, collaborating, and innovating in the metaverse.

According to Bloomberg, the metaverse market is forecasted to be worth a whopping $800 billion by 2024. But as we are still probably a year or two away from the metaverse, it’s not easy to anticipate the impact it will have on cybersecurity. However, we can speculate based on gaming, remote working, and blockchain security.

To get ready for the metaverse, enterprises must start thinking about potential vulnerabilities and risks that come with adopting new applications and platforms. It’s critical as cybercriminals are well aware and waiting for you to make a mistake.

So, how do we secure the metaverse? What can we do to ensure security and privacy in a virtual world that’s evolving in concert with ours? Before we get to the answers, let’s first define it.

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse combines both virtual reality and augmented reality to create digital realms. In this virtual environment, people can engage each other in the form of digital avatars (which can also be identical to the real world) and enable highly immersive experiences. 

Ever since Facebook rebranded itself to Meta, there has been serious hype surrounding it, but the concept isn’t something new. The metaverse has been around for many years, and the idea has been around for even longer.

The term metaverse was coined by Neal Stephenson in his cyberpunk classic, Snow Crash. He created the Word to tell us that we were going beyond the universe (and in a way, we’re about to do that!).

Since then, we have seen many different versions of the metaverse, especially within the gaming industry. However, there has been considerable acceleration within the sector, and the metaverse promises to feature next-generation virtual 3D worlds that connect to endless digital environments (through cross-chains).

However, while the metaverse presents countless opportunities and can change how all of us use the internet, a number of security hurdles lie in its wake. But the good news is the tactics used by hackers will remain more or less the same.

1. Prepare for a tsunami of social engineering attacks

Social engineering attacks like phishing campaigns are alive and well. Ever since the emergence of cryptocurrencies and on-fungible tokens (NFTs), we have seen a flurry of phishing campaigns. Many are NFT scams employing social engineering tactics to trick those who have a “fear of missing out.”

So, don’t expect anything to change; social engineering is here to stay. As the metaverse is going to be home to an extensive (or even endless) collection of sensitive data, we can expect to witness a considerable rise in cyberattacks.

The metaverse will also make ensuring data privacy more complex. If things don’t change, we can expect frequent security events, including malware and ransomware attacks, data theft, and much more.

2. Deploy robust identity management protocols

As the metaverse is decentralized and unregulated by a central authority, it’ll be critical to leverage robust digital identity management tools to keep your data safe. But we don’t exactly have a perfect solution yet. Still, the security tools you decide to use must be able to secure and verify user identity without collecting and selling personally identifiable information.

At the same time, you must think about new wearable hardware that will make the metaverse work. As these smart glasses and headsets realize mainstream adoption, the attack surface will also be significant. As such, the security solution you choose must be highly scalable and be able to secure both wearable application data and hardware.

3. Make regular security awareness training mandatory

For years, human error was the primary cause of data breaches. So, why would anything change in the metaverse? According to the Office of the Data Protection Authority (ODPA), more than half of the data breaches reported in the last two months of 2021 were caused by human error.

The only way to address this problem is to engage in regular cybersecurity awareness training sessions. After all, even if enterprises have cutting-edge security tools, it’s useless if they don’t know how to use them properly.

As social engineering campaigns remain prevalent and persistent, it will help to educate (or remind) staff about cybercriminal tactics like phishing campaigns, social engineering attacks at the workplace, and more. This approach helps build a security culture within the organization that will be more valuable than any security tool you can purchase.

Make security training a part of the onboarding process, teach them about using multi-factor authentication, email vigilance, and the need to use secure VPN connections. It will also help to run real-world phishing simulations to enlighten staff and show them what they are up against.

4. Hire an ethical hacking service

The metaverse will be home to both white hat and black hat hackers. To stay one step ahead of malicious actors, it helps to think like one. That’s where white hat or ethical hackers come in.

They can think like bad actors and use their knowledge and experience to secure your IT infrastructure better. It’s important because a security audit is critical to identifying potential vulnerabilities missed by your in-house IT team.

As you can see from the above, although technology evolves and transforms life as we know it, cybercrime stays (more or less) the same. Although enterprises need to take a fresh approach to cybersecurity to secure virtual worlds, the good news is that they will have to continue to deal with some of the same old tactics employed by threat actors.

However, it’s important to note that what worked for us all these years may not work in the metaverse. As such, organizations must be agile and adaptable to the ever-evolving tactics employed by hackers to breach enterprise networks.

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