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December 15, 2022
As a network of social connection, the metaverse is a digital asset that should follow any application security program methodology, such as risk profiling, threat modeling, secure code reviews, pen testing and as a myriad of other security controls applied both in development and production operations.
There are two main threats to the metaverse. The first is the lack of user education. With new technology, the user onboarding experience is focused on function and use cases rather than security. During this gap between figuring out how to use it and learning how to use it securely, there’s a massive potential for social engineering attacks. Email has long been available to the masses, and we still see people clicking on attachments from unknown sources. Web3, which is a blockchain framework that smart contacts are built upon, has a foundation in encryption keys and the premise that whoever holds the keys has complete access to the associated assets. While encryption is still a vault yet to be cracked by a critical mass, convincing someone to click “accept” on an ambiguous or complicated transaction is simply a matter of asking them. In the metaverse, the same issues arise with asking a user to have permission to access their environment or account “to help them.”
The second threat is the growth and innovation of the metaverse itself. The development of the metaverse precedes security, as it has for all forms of technological growth. When security becomes part of the conversation, it’s often piecemealed together or added as frosting to the feature cake. Lacking a holistic security program as it pertains to the metaverse will create a false sense of security because we’ve ensured the front door is locked but failed to close the windows.
Like all new technologies, we kick the tires to see if there’s a benefit to the technology and then weigh that benefit against the cost. Many technologies start off as novelties that evolve to being useful in society through the reimagination of how the technology can be applied to solve new and creative problems. However, because we are still in the mostly-novelty phase of our relationship with the metaverse and we’re increasingly tying assets to metaverse applications, any exploitations will hurt more than the current benefit. Imagine playing a game on your phone while standing in line waiting for a burger, and because you clicked the wrong button, your bank account is emptied. If that was a risk, you probably wouldn’t play that game.
Many will say that the metaverse is just a fad, but we’ve been using some variation of it for decades, depending on various definitions. Companies are starting to use the metaverse in commerce, from a platform to conduct commercial transactions to hosting meeting spaces and beyond. As more commerce is moved to the metaverse, the value of the metaverse and its occupants as a target of attacks increases. Where there are valuable targets and those willing to attack those targets, there’s opportunity for security.
Optiv Security: Secure greatness.®
Optiv is the cyber advisory and solutions leader, delivering strategic and technical expertise to nearly 6,000 companies across every major industry. We partner with organizations to advise, deploy and operate complete cybersecurity programs from strategy and managed security services to risk, integration and technology solutions. With clients at the center of our unmatched ecosystem of people, products, partners and programs, we accelerate business progress like no other company can. At Optiv, we manage cyber risk so you can secure your full potential. For more information, visit www.optiv.com.
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