The metaverse: Who will be securing it — and how?

Presented by Denuvo by Irdeto

With the metaverse being talked up everywhere — even though the concept still seems to be a bit vague — concerns about safety have bubbled up, and you wouldn’t be along in wondering what cybersecurity challenges may come with it.

The metaverse, a concept of the next incarnation of the Internet, an immersive virtual 3D world connecting all sorts of digital environments, has been gaining a strong foothold in the media and has quickly become one of the hot topics in the digital landscape. You can even consider it as a new decentralized marketing ecosystem, characterized as social, live, and persistent, as it will contain a lot of user-generated content. It will also be easy to join and contribute to for hardware-agnostic users.

The idea originates from science fiction novels — namely Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (1992) — but if we look closely at what has been happening in the last two decades, some early attempts at making the metaverse a reality have already been made. Think of Eve Online, launched in 2003, or more recently, GTA and Red Dead Online. The metaverse — once it is ready, which may take 10 to 15 years — will simply take these and similar offerings into space.

The social media platform Facebook’s recent announcement of changing its corporate name to “Meta,” to emphasize its “metaverse” vision highlighted the shift in trends. This move by Facebook, which is known to set trends and shake up the digital space, is a clear indication that the metaverse is moving forward.

Ownership and security in the metaverse

One key aspect is that the metaverse is expected to bring a shift from usernames or login IDs to enhanced digital avatars. With a great shift and change comes a great responsibility — but who is the gatekeeper of the legal and security implications that will come with it and how do you ensure your information is kept safe?

First of all, the metaverse will surely require processing of enormous amounts of personal data, which will be subject to many of the same increasingly stringent privacy and data processing rules that the social networks face. This may be a heavy burden, especially for smaller companies willing to contribute to the metaverse.

Second, ambiguity of ownership in the metaverse will create a lot of intellectual property disputes. Who will truly own in-game content or items: publishers or users? Are the current business models enough; who drives the sales of the content used and who represents the users who generate content?

And finally, the burning question that is on the lips of each gamer, publisher, and everyone in the digital security industry: how safe will the metaverse be?

Attempts of hacking, tampering, cheating, and theft are prominent in today’s gaming world; will the metaverse make it worse? The interconnection between the metaverse economy and offline economy will surely contribute to it. Stakes will be much higher than they currently are, so it’s increasingly important to bring more security measures to ensure the safety of this new environment. 

Bringing law and order to the new, unknown digital space

One of the key elements that will need protection is the digital identity of each user. As mentioned, your metaverse profile will contain much more personal information than your current Google or Facebook account. It will be your entire digital life, your personality — not only with your unique online (and offline) identity, but also with your bank account and other sensitive data. Protecting it against theft will be a critical factor for the entire metaverse endeavor to be successful. Equally important will be to ensure that metaverse users cannot fake their identity.

This new universe will supposedly be fun to spend time in due to the vast offering of its entertainment value. We have already witnessed a lot of hacking and tampering of different gaming and entertainment outlets, so it’s fair to assume this will happen in the metaverse as well.

What will the industry’s response to hacking, tampering, cheating, and theft be, and how will it be counteracted?  The unfair advantage provided to some players by cheating and tampering will not only make other players incapacitated in comparison but will also ruin the experience for those who simply enjoy relying on their skills alone.

So, in order to avoid the fair players becoming frustrated and refusing to pay — which would undermine the entire undertaking — companies contributing to the metaverse will need to find a reputable cybersecurity partner to protect their games. They will need to rely on technology that can protect their games from pirates and cheaters with no impact on the game experience itself.

The security of this new environment will lie on the shoulders of the companies involved with the metaverse as they will have to assume the role of authenticators. They will have to find a way of stopping cheating and fraud in the metaverse, so that users are happy, while content, data — and profits — stay safe.

Just like in any other digital landscape where authentication plays a key role, cybersecurity will play a significant role in keeping the parties safe. No matter how sophisticated the technology and techniques of circumventing security measures will be, businesses will need to stay one step ahead of cyber criminals. So, the armaments race in cybersecurity that we’ve known for years will get even more intense.

And what will actually happen to the cheaters? Will they be sent to a sub-universe where they’re free to cheat where cheating is accepted as part of the rules? How will users in the metaverse be monitored to ensure any removal of possible illegal operations, morally corrupt conduct, and hate speech? By private companies themselves or by some governmental cyber-police?

There are a lot of open questions to be answered and certainly an interesting challenge for the metaverse community as well as the cybersecurity providers.

Reinhard Blaukovitsch is the founder and Managing Director of Denuvo by Irdeto, the global #1 Application Protection and Anti-Piracy Technology Platform. He is responsible for leading strategy and management of the gaming segment at Irdeto. With a track record of anticipating technology and market trends, Reinhard is dedicated to providing best-in-class solutions for global gaming customers.

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