The metaverse is seen by many companies as a great business opportunity and for new ways of working. Security provider Trend Micro, however, warns in a recent research report that cyber criminals could misuse the technology for their own purposes.
Security researchers predict that a kind of darknet structure could emerge there, similar to today's Internet. The machinations of the cyber gangsters could even take place in protected rooms that can only be reached from a specific physical location and via valid authentication tokens. This would make their underground marketplaces inaccessible to law enforcement agencies. In fact, it could be years before the police can operate effectively in the metaverse.
Likely metaverse threat scenarios
The researchers warn that the Darkverse could become a platform for cyber threats, including:
- Attackers target non-fungible tokens (NFTs), an increasingly popular means of defining property in the metaverse, for phishing, ransomware, fraud, and other attacks.
- Criminals use the metaverse to launder money using overpriced virtual real estate and NFTs.
- Criminal and state actors create manipulative narratives that reach vulnerable and receptive groups. Social engineering, propaganda and fake news have profound implications in a cyber-physical world.
- Privacy is redefined. Operators of metaverse-like rooms have unprecedented insight into the actions of the users. Privacy as we know it no longer exists there.
"The metaverse is a multi-billion-dollar, high-tech vision that will define the next internet age. While we don't know exactly how it's shaping up, we already need to start thinking about how it might be exploited by threat actors and how we can build our own to protect society in a meaningful way." comments Udo Schneider, IoT security evangelist at Trend Micro.
"In view of the high costs and legal challenges, law enforcement agencies will have difficulties monitoring the metaverse in general in the first few years," Schneider is convinced. He demands: "The IT security industry must intervene now." Otherwise, "a new Wild West would develop on our digital front door."