The pandemic has brought together the increased social interaction and influence between the real and virtual spaces. The new kid in the block is Metaverse like some years ago it was augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Not much different from them, with the gained traction and attention of Facebook & Microsoft to the extent, the former one renamed its company to Meta recently.
The idea of having a virtual identity was popularized by Facebook. Seventeen years and a massive breach later it has kept us wondering how Metaverse is going to secure its platform from the battlegrounds of cyberspace. Embracing almost every industry known, Metaverse has an estimated market of exceeding several billion dollars. What makes it interesting is its creation of one unified virtual universe, connecting community, products, commerce, workspace, entertainment, creators and much more along with the plethora of security and privacy challenges it poses.
It is relatively easy to prove one’s identity in the real world but with Metaverse, the main challenge lies in verifying voice, facial features and video footage with the use of avatars. We all have faced the nuisance of clicking boxes to tell us apart from bots, but with the new verification challenge and possible forging of identity through avatars, it is going to be interesting to see new verification methods. Speaking of which, we might be required to share additional personal data into these social medias to submerge into the experience of Metaverse. Thus, increasing the sensitivity of data shared and the increased efforts to keep it safe from attackers. Breach of such kind of data would mean a total identity loss. It will be a Herculean task for organizations dealing with such amount of data to safeguard against breaches and handling penalties resulting from them.
Metaverse is largely a community of users who are united in the virtual world to connect via AR & VR sets. This opens up to old challenges in a new avatar – such as misleading users via social engineering techniques to give away their personal details, identity theft through biometric data etc. What makes it more challenging is that it is almost impossible to anonymize AR and VR data and with such high degree of accuracy of behavioral and biological sensitive data, it will be quite easy for a hacker to impersonate anyone through VR system hacking. Adding to it, with major players such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft dominating the space, it will be a formidable task to safeguard one’s real identity from the Metaverse avatar.
The next challenge is on the legal and regulatory landscape in Metaverse. Will there be a virtual court in Metaverse, or the real courts of Justice will play a role in virtual legal domains? The truth is, we still do not have laws that regulate the virtual landscape and define legislations or even define boundaries and jurisdictions. It will be interesting to understand how the virtual space will be protected by laws and regulations in the days to come.
We may be familiar with the concept of a popular show ‘Upload’ where you have a possible afterlife governed by the funding received from your remains on earth. Speaking of funds, digital currency is a common concept now with digital wallets and cryptocurrency used widely for online payments. Metaverse will face similar challenge of overcoming the barrier of low trust and safety that crypto (still building trust) and digital money faced years ago. In the Meta-Universe with virtual market place, it will be challenging to develop a robust and safe transaction system that is both user friendly and uniquely verifiable since we have avatars now. Not only currency exchange, but also, curators, art collectors, music and video owners, investors in digital assets will find it challenging to verify their possessions, owning and keeping it safe in Metaverse. One can only wonder how a metaverse auction will look like and how secure and reliable the process will be.
This fully immersive experience adds up to the distorted sense of time in the user’s minds and the infinite space with no boundaries poses challenge to the user in navigating the space.
Like every new technology, this virtual escape doorstep to limitless universe beholds both challenges and opportunities. What we want to look out for is to treat this universe as a secure space for recreation and not a substitute to reality.
The author is Partner & Leader – Clients and Markets, Trust & Transformation, Grant Thornton Bharat LLP