Opportunities and challenges in the metaverse(s): a primer
What is the metaverse ?
Although there is no definitive answer to this question, one thing is for sure, the metaverse does not exist, yet. There is no single immersive world that is accessible by any virtual reality user.
The term “metaverse” was first introduced in 1992 in the science fiction novel Snow Crash written by Neal Stephenson. The author described the metaverse as a “form of human life and communication in a virtual three-dimensional space through a digital avatar”. Dreyfus Intellectual Property in an Innovative World – Personal data, intellectual property and consumer law: their challenges in the metaverse … Continue reading
From a flat to an immersive experience
Technically, the term metaverse describes digitally connected universes that allow users to traverse virtual space in digital avatars. It uses Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 decentralized technologies to provide an interactive layer on top of the existing Internet. Five main technologies are used to power virtual worlds:
- artificial intelligence (AI)
- virtual and augmented reality (VR) (AR)
- 3D animation
This intermeshing of disruptive technologies modifies how we interface with digital media. For example, while the use of static digital tools (computers, smartphones) today ensures a certain cognitive distance between the human brain and the digital tools, the immersiveness of smart tools (headsets, haptX gloves, controllers) using the technologies listed above completely disrupts this status quo.
Opportunities in the metaverse
The metaverse is a promise of an immersive and constant virtual 3D world where users could be educated, play, socialize, work and also engage in activism. The metaverse could provide an opportunity for humanitarian organizations in training and disaster preparedness. Anadolu Agendy -Turkish Red Crescent begins training in metaverse https://www.aa.com.tr/en/science-technology/turkish-red-crescent-begins-training-in-metaverse/2603018
Immersive learning on metaverse platforms could lead to the democratization of education, addressing gaps and progressing on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. World Bank Open Learning Campus, Education Meets the Metaverse: Reimagining the Future of Learning https://olc.worldbank.org/about-olc/education-meets-the-metaverse-reimagining-the-future-of-learning
Challenges in the metaverse
In reality, leveraging the potential of the metaverse will require skills to access the specific conditions, tools or places available.
The metaverse mixes various technologies resulting in the amplification of existing threats.
The metaverse represents a use of technologies blurring the line between what is real and what is fake, misleading human senses. Even if there is no malicious purpose intended, users need to be mindful of this.
Traceability of attacks is also more complex when multiple technologies are combined, posing questions about how to attribute an attack generated by an AI bot in the metaverse ?
How could malicious actors leverage the metaverse?
Extensive data collection
Wearable equipment will capture more data – including sensitive data – than any digital tools have so far. To create immersive sensations, tons of biometric and geo-spatial data will be used. Moreover, critical data such as physiological data will be needed to create the avatars.
Data is already an important target for threat actors..
Digital identity under threat
The protection of each individuals’ avatar from copycats or copyright infringement is a crucial issue. Already, avatar scams have been reported on metaverse platforms like Roblox. CoinTelegraph, Identity in the metaverse at risk, says former Windows architect https://cointelegraph.com/news/identity-in-the-metaverse-at-risk-says-former-windows-architect
The theft of identity in the metaverse (users’ avatars, digital assets, social graphs) could lead to the loss of the user’s digital life. The linkability of identities in immersive worlds would allow a malicious actor who attacks a users’ digital identity, to track them and determine their positions off-line, resulting in the attack of both the digital and off-line identity.
The case of vulnerable populations
Vulnerable populations – particularly children – will have less time, means and resources to protect themselves in this wider surface of attack.
Roblox, the fastest growing metaverse gaming platform, is mostly played by children, 67% of users are under 16 years-old. BackLinko,Roblox User and Growth Stats 2022 https://backlinko.com/roblox-users The theft of behavioral data could lead children to be even more vulnerable to disinformation and
manipulation, harassment and child abuse, particularly young girls.
NGOs – which work to protect vulnerable groups – may also be targeted as they raise awareness of the risks and needs. How will this change cybersecurity and which problems can be solved in (and by) the metaverses?
CyberPeace Institute’s approach: empower users
The technical knowledge required to fully understand the metaverse remains highly complex for the average user. In 2022, up to 82% of cybersecurity breaches were due to a human element. Verizon, 2022 Data BreachInvestigations Report https://www.verizon.com/business/resources/reports/dbir/
This number is predicted to grow with the metaverse.
Whilst there is a compelling need to strengthen the overall security of the ecosystem, people need to be empowered through understanding and simplification of the functioning of new technologies, cyber hygiene and global awareness of the risks, and the available tools to protect themselves. Businesses developing the technologies used in the metaverse need to strictly adhere to the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The CyberPeace Institute will continue to work with civil society organizations, academia, companies and public institutions through the collection of information and analysis of cyberattacks to inform decision makers and to assist NGOs that are undertaking their digital transformation journey.
|↑1||written by Neal Stephenson|
|↑2||Dreyfus Intellectual Property in an Innovative World – Personal data, intellectual property and consumer law: their challenges in the metaverse https://www.dreyfus.fr/en/2022/11/22/personal-data-intellectual-property-and-consumer-law-their-challenges-in-the-metaverse/|
|↑3||Anadolu Agendy -Turkish Red Crescent begins training in metaverse https://www.aa.com.tr/en/science-technology/turkish-red-crescent-begins-training-in-metaverse/2603018|
|↑4||World Bank Open Learning Campus, Education Meets the Metaverse: Reimagining the Future of Learning https://olc.worldbank.org/about-olc/education-meets-the-metaverse-reimagining-the-future-of-learning|
|↑5||CoinTelegraph, Identity in the metaverse at risk, says former Windows architect https://cointelegraph.com/news/identity-in-the-metaverse-at-risk-says-former-windows-architect|
|↑6||BackLinko,Roblox User and Growth Stats 2022 https://backlinko.com/roblox-users|
|↑7||Verizon, 2022 Data BreachInvestigations Report https://www.verizon.com/business/resources/reports/dbir/|