The company formerly known as Facebook — now appropriately titled “Meta” — has never shied away from disruption. After all, Mark Zuckerberg’s internal motto was once “move fast and break things.”
Facebook moved so fast, however, that it broke the two things every tech company is sworn to protect: cybersecurity and privacy. After a decade of data lapses, privacy breaches and other scandals, Zuckerberg now pivots his tech giant into a new direction.
Despite the rebrand, Meta is again aiming to reinvent the internet — this time almost literally. The so-called metaverse promises to transform the way we experience the digital world by taking us directly inside of it. Yet, while Zuckerberg’s dream becomes reality, so do the real-world threats to cybersecurity and user privacy.
The metaverse, as defined by the Wall Street Journal, is an extensive online world where people interact via avatars. Inspired by dystopian films like “The Matrix” and “Ready Player One,” this virtual reality world is expected to bring the internet to life.
Many already warn against the metaverse for its potentially addictive, gamified nature. But who gets to rule the metaverse? Who gets to access it? Most importantly, who’s in charge of protecting it?
While still in its infancy, these questions have yet to be answered. Before entering the metaverse, here’s what you need to know in the way of security threats and privacy concerns:
- An overabundance of access points: As noted by Slate, the metaverse will likely require the addition of many new sensors into the home. Each one will monitor users as they browse the virtual world and interact with other avatars.
By increasing the surface area of connected devices, users are thus widening the doorway into their personal network. In other words, they’re adding more avenues that bad actors can take when breaking into the network and stealing information.
- Horizon Workrooms: As part of the metaverse, companies will be able to use immersive mixed reality rooms for meetings and collaboration. Despite potential workflow benefits, Horizon Workrooms may be a significant threat to employee privacy, according to Forbes.
If a company adopts these immersive workplaces, they may force employees into divulging more of their personal information. If that data isn’t secured properly, employee data may be exposed like never before. What’s more, sensitive corporate data may be left unsecured and compromised by malicious third parties.
- Exploitative data collection: Biometric information, body language, physical proportions and social behaviors will likely become a point of targeted advertising in the metaverse. Enabled by the many sensors that monitor those factors, that information could be exploited for hyper-targeted advertising, personalized messaging or manipulation.
Per CPO Magazine, sensors will provide “unprecedented insight into human biological processes and psychology in real time.” Those sensors need to be safeguarded against bad actors hoping to take advantage of this sensitive information.
- Subsurface surveillance: VR-connected devices could become a vacuum of latent data collection. In the same vein as Amazon’s Alexa, AR glasses, cameras, microphones and sensors could become major violations of privacy. Such devices continuously monitor for activation phrases or actions.
But while doing so, they’re also actively storing snippets of information. With unparalleled access inside the home, user information, conversation and action could be compromised even when users aren’t accessing their devices.
It seems almost certain that the metaverse is well on its way to transform the internet. Following in its path, however, will be an equally transformative world of cyber threats and data leaks. In the meantime, it’s imperative that consumers educate themselves on those challenges.