A Guide to The Metaverse and Cybersecurity: Addressing Threats in the Future of Internet

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    by Grace Lau – Director of Growth Content, Dialpad

    As we write this, large companies are investing heavily in Metaverse real estate – and for very good reason.

    However, some are also concerned that the Metaverse is developing in a dangerously uncontrolled way.

    As such, Metaverse cybersecurity is a big topic at the moment. Here, we’ll take you through the situation as it stands for businesses, and predict some of the most important measures you can take to protect your business in the Metaverse.

     

    The Metaverse and the future of work

    While the arrival of the Metaverse was always inevitable, the COVID-19 pandemic certainly speeded its arrival. Two years of remote and hybrid working have proven both the power and the value of a virtual working environment. 

    The question ‘what is workforce management?’ has a very different answer in 2022 than it did in 2019. Just three years ago, workforce management would have involved physical meetings, in-office observation, face-to-face conversation, and so on.

    Now, it involves tools like project management apps, video-conferencing, remote productivity trackers, and so on. Things have changed very fast – and business leaders are paying close attention.

    The pandemic has also proven the need for an integrated approach to remote tech. Many businesses would far rather step into a well-integrated virtual space than jump between discrete apps and platforms in order to meet and manage their workforce.

    The Metaverse promises to both expand and integrate the remote and virtual tools already available to the workforce. Things like productivity tracking, training, and all other aspects of work are likely to be absorbed. For example, people could run through training scenarios in virtual environments, or be ‘present’ via an avatar in a virtual office.  

    For businesses and employees, this promises a much easier and more integrated experience than is currently available. Rather than hopping between apps on a desktop computer, Metaverse workers could maneuver an avatar through a digital office. Rather than tabbing between message windows, employee avatars could communicate directly.

    The potential is huge – but so are the risks.

    What are the cybersecurity risks of the Metaverse?

    The risks of the Metaverse are as wide and as hard to quantify as the Metaverse itself. Like the Wild West, the Metaverse is uncharted territory with tons of potential. Entrepreneurs are flocking there to make their fortune…and so are scammers. 

    The major risks come from the unregulated nature of the Metaverse. It’s currently a new, developing, and relatively lawless place. This makes it ripe for both exploitation and entrepreneurship. 

    To protect themselves, businesses cannot rely on the authorities. Instead – sticking with our Wild West analogy! – they must establish their own ‘townships’, protected by their own laws and guidelines.

    What should they look out for? It’s hard to specify, but common concerns include:

    • Digital intrusion. As the barriers between public and personal blur, it will be harder to avoid or ‘block’ unwanted contact. For businesses, this could result in employees being harassed for sensitive information. It is also likely that phishing will become a lot more sophisticated and intrusive, enabled by Metaverse technology.
    • Lack of clear definition between ‘work’ and ‘home’. Home offices already make the difference between ‘home’ and ‘work’ hard to negotiate. Security issues can arise when home-workers are overheard discussing private work matters, or when private meetings are accidentally shared with a wider audience. These problems are likely to become both more common and harder to manage as the Metaverse further blends home and work lives.
    • Smart contracts. By this point, we are all very used to clicking ‘Agree’ when we want something – for example, to download an app, or to continue to a webpage. With the lack of regulation in the Metaverse, it is easy for scammers to gain access to things like e-wallets and secure databases using simple, checkbox/agreement-based smart contracts.
    • Digital currency. Digital currency is popular in the Metaverse, and many businesses will be tempted to use it. However, its lack of regulation makes it fertile ground for scammers and cybercriminals. Businesses should be very careful when trading in digital currency within the Metaverse.
    • Blockchain scams. Blockchain scams could easily take place nested within legitimate businesses. These could be damaging, hard to eradicate, and very hard to trace back to source.
    • Management. This isn’t exactly a cybersecurity risk, but still something that businesses should be aware of. The management of sites like Google and Facebook has a big impact on how businesses can operate. For example, Google applies duplicate content penalties, controls sender reputations, and so on. The way that the Metaverse is managed will affect what companies can and cannot do. 

    How can businesses protect themselves in the Metaverse?

    As it stands, Metaverse cybersecurity is largely a matter of being vigilant and defending yourself through rigorous policies. A lot revolves around making sure that employees are well trained and well-prepared. 

    Many of the same risks inherent in remote working will be present in the Metaverse, so if you have remote-working security policies in place, these could be adapted.

    Otherwise, the following will help:

    Intensive training

    While companies do increasingly understand the need for cybersecurity training, there’s still a huge knowledge deficit in many workplaces. Even in 2022, instructors find themselves facing extremely basic questions, such as ‘what is a bug? Is it different from a virus?’

    As the Metaverse expands, it will be essential to change this. Businesses must train employees in cybersecurity from Day 1. They must be aware of things like:

    • The dangers of digital contracts (always read the terms and conditions!)
    • How to keep both their own devices and the work network safe.
    • Common scams to look out for.
    • The importance of data privacy.
    • The importance of keeping their device security updated.

    Clear guidelines

    It’s wise to implement a BYOD policy. If you’re wondering ‘what is BYOD?’ – it stands for ‘Bring Your Own Device’, and is basically a set of rules governing how personal devices can and should be used in a work context.

    With hybrid working and personal devices becoming the norm in many offices, it’s already a good idea for companies to set up policies governing things like the distinction between work and personal use, security measures for personal devices, and so on.

    As the Metaverse begins to take hold, a BYOD policy can easily be adapted to include Metaverse-specific needs.

    Employee loyalty

    Disgruntled, exhausted, and disheartened employees have always been a major threat to businesses. The internet opened up more avenues for both employee error and employee malice – and now, the Metaverse could expand those avenues even further.

    As such, it is important that your employees are happy and motivated. Employees who are happy at work and who are satisfied with their work/life balance are unlikely to maliciously sabotage your cybersecurity.

    Similarly, employees who are well-trained and not overtired are less likely to make security-compromising mistakes. So, make sure that you’re not overworking your employees, pay attention to their wellbeing, and keep their training topped up.

    Professional assistance

    Metaverse security is likely to be a huge industry in the years to come. Ranging from virtual ‘bodyguards’ to keep unwanted visitors out of virtual chat rooms, to cyber-experts who can build a defensive digital network around your data, there will be a lot of choice when it comes to professional assistance.

    We recommend businesses that engage with the Metaverse regularly employ white-hat professionals to test their vulnerabilities through processes like theta hunting and penetration testing. At least in the early years, Metaverse security is likely to be mostly a case of staying a step ahead of the bad guys. White hats can help you achieve that.

    Don’t be over-reliant

    The more reliant a business becomes on the Metaverse, the more vulnerable it will be if something goes wrong.

    Of course, this isn’t entirely under business owners’ control. If we’d advised you twenty years ago to ‘not be too reliant’ on the internet, you’d have struggled to stay relevant as the 21st century progressed. The internet is, by this point, a must for business.

    So, do embrace the Metaverse and everything it has to offer. But don’t ditch your contingencies. For example, rather than relying entirely on meta-comms, keep your small business 800 number. Make sure that people have a way to contact you in emergencies that doesn’t involve the Metaverse.

    Basically – don’t put all your eggs into one cyber-basket! Stay engaged with the ‘real’ world.

    Jump into the Metaverse – but keep your eyes open!

    The Metaverse has a huge amount of potential. It could transform working forever. Businesses that take advantage of what the Metaverse has to offer will be able to attract the best talent, optimize their workforce, and get well ahead of the competition.

    However, as with anything new, there are a lot of unknowns with the Metaverse. The very concept of the Metaverse is still in flux. Metaverse builders talk a lot about ‘ecosystems of trust’, but the history of the internet shows that ‘trust’ is often exploited.

    So, while the Metaverse is definitely full of exciting new opportunities, businesses need to keep their eyes wide open as they interact with it. 

    Take measures to protect yourself. Train your staff, implement guidelines, and understand your vulnerabilities.

    There are a lot of surprises ahead as the Metaverse develops. But if you are vigilant, you can come out on top.

    Bio:

    Grace Lau – Director of Growth Content, Dialpad

    Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, a contact center AI and cloud communication platform for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Grace Lau also published articles for domains such as Codemotion and Tapfiliate. Here is her LinkedIn.

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