The metaverse era is dawning upon us with its set of challenges to our privacy and security. The more popular it gets, the more criminals lurk around the corner to scam or even hurt you.
Metaverse’s early adopters already report harassment, hate speech, bullying, and even rape. We have a pile of technical and design problems to solve before we can seamlessly navigate from one application to the next, from the physical world to the virtual one.
“It is difficult to predict cyber threats for a product space that doesn’t exist yet and may or may not exist in the form we envisioned. With that in mind, we brainstormed ideas to refine our understanding of the metaverse and identify threats against and inside it,” cybersecurity company Trend Micro said in its new report about the metaverse.
One thing is for sure – criminals will be there to scam and defraud people in an unfamiliar environment. TrendMicro predicts that in three to five years, more metaverse-like applications will be used in remote work, entertainment, education, and shopping.
The greater opportunities, the greater the risk. One of the intriguing threats Trend Micro listed in their report is the emergence of the darkverse – the metaverse’s dark web.
“In some ways, it is more dangerous than the dark web because of the pseudo-physical presence of the users. It mimics clandestine physical meetings versus the purely online open discussion threads in dark web criminal forums,” Trend Micro said.
The darkverse, the same as the dark web, is for facilitating and conducting illegal activities. It could also be used for free speech against oppressive entities or governments.
Darkverse could become a criminals’ safehouse without law enforcement being able to access it.
“It could be a space for underground marketplaces in the metaverse. The marketplaces will be used for illegal or criminal activities, and users would probably need authentication tokens for access. Even if law enforcement agencies are aware of these spaces, they would be unable to infiltrate them without authentication tokens,” Trend Micro said.
Researchers also argued that it might be extremely difficult for law enforcement to intercept exchanged communications as users of the darkverse could implement location-based messages as well as proximity messages for metaverse spaces.
“Because law enforcement does not have a way to monitor child pornography or sexual assault in the darkverse, these types of crimes will gradually grow. Law enforcement will have difficulty tracking down offenders,” Trend Micro said.
The huge volume of e-commerce and transactions will likely draw more criminals to the metaverse. Top financial scams in the metaverse might include money laundering using virtual real estate, Ponzi schemes, tax evasion, and manipulation of the possibly deregulated market.
“If a user is defrauded or robbed, then getting help, filing complaints, or filing legal actions will be very difficult. The user will also be using decentralized digital currencies, which adds to the complexity of the situation,” the report reads.
It also presumes there will be more pump-and-dump schemes with threat actors trying to boost the value of digital assets through fake reviews, recommendations, endorsements, and investments; and then dump the assets for a profit.
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