What is the Metaverse and Why Cybersecurity Experts are Concerned
At this point, we have all heard of the so-called metaverse, but for many of us, it is hard to understand what it really entails and what Mark Zuckerberg’s goal is. But even without any of us actually experiencing it, there are many experts who are already throwing their hands up expressing their concerns about not only the privacy of users’ data but also the fact that it is Facebook running the show – a company that has already shown their lack of concern for the privacy of their users and already has everything they could know about us. To help us all, I will give a general explanation of what the metaverse is supposed to be, explicit reasons why experts are concerned, and how to educate yourself on all cybersecurity through online IT training.
The term ‘metaverse’ was first widely seen in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash where it is described as:
An idealized immersive successor of the internet – a virtual space where billions of users will move, interact, and operate across myriad different but interoperable worlds and situations, always retaining their avatar identities, virtual possessions, and digital currencies.
This was all fictional and the idea was used in many other works of fiction such as Ready Player One. The metaverse that Zuckerberg is promoting can be thought of as an internet you’ll be “walking” through via connected headsets of glasses. If you have experienced VR using an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive headset you understand what this could be, to a point and only from a gaming perspective. The metaverse also wants to combine the technologies of virtual reality and augmented reality. A major difference between VR gaming and the metaverse is that you are yourself in the metaverse, you are a digital rendering of you experiencing a mirror world of the physical world as we know it, or you can experience an entirely invented world. Eerie right? Your digital twin and the mirror world will be a skeuomorphic design, which means that the virtual objects will be made to closely resemble real-world ones but not exactly – sounds a little uncanny valley to me. To help things out, you can customize your avatar to resemble a cartoon or appear fantastical as Fortnite skins.
Facebook sees us working, socializing, shopping, and living in the metaverse. This is where NFTs are supposedly going to thrive as well. While it may sound fun to experience a fantastical world as your digital twin, or to work remotely but also virtually be in the office with your peers for meetings, there are many concerns that cybersecurity and IT experts have expressed.
Why Experts Are Concerned
Looking at the metaverse we may simply think that the only hardware it uses is headsets or glasses, but just like all IoT devices it is connected to much more than that. The biggest issue experts see is the security of your data and privacy. First, we can look at the legislation issue, each country has different rules about data storage and data tracking, because again everything created on the metaverse will have to be stored someone it is not just stored in your device. If people are browsing and purchasing items where that data is stored and where the transaction goes through is a gray area.
“Although they don’t exist in ‘reality’ and are supposed to be part of a decentralized chain of custody, they remain linked to an individual’s real-world wealth and identity,” says Ian McShane, field chief technology officer at Minnesota-based cybersecurity firm Arctic Wolf. “So naturally I have immediate concerns and questions about security and privacy.”
Meta is building its own hardware and operating system for the metaverse, meaning they do not have to play by the rules of other companies such as Apple or Google. Did you know Facebook ran campaigns against Apple’s decision to allow people to opt-out of some ad tracking on their smartphones? Facebook doesn’t want to make that mistake again says Rolf Illenberger, the CEO of VRdirect a company that makes software for VR. He goes on to say that “Mark Zuckerberg wants to make sure that in the new technology era, there’s no one between him and the customers.”
Another concern is that the technology behind the metaverse could have unprecedented access to our brains and our homes. While currently none of the Oculus devices come with eye-tracking technology, newer models are being developed that do. This could give Meta the ability to give advertisers information on where our eyes are focused to help them better measure our attention, target us with ads and compel us to purchase their products. Also, with the idea of working life being incorporated into the metaverse, this could give employers unlimited access to eye-tracking and facial movements which could lead them to determine really anything they want, from deciding whether we’re “paying enough attention” during virtual presentations at work, or even to try to measure our cognitive load during job interviews.
These concerns, plus all the normal cybersecurity concerns we face on a daily basis, is why so many experts are wary of the development of Zuckerberg’s ‘metaverse’. While the metaverse may look interesting, it is important to take a step back and look at the implications.
With technology being so prominent and intertwining with our lives more and more each day, it is important that we are all aware of cybersecurity best practices that can be learned through online courses including CompTIA’s A+ training and CompTIA’s Fundamentals+ training. To get even more knowledge look into beginner to intermediate certifications such as CompTIA network+ certification, CompTIA security+ certification, and Arcitura’s Certified Cybersecurity Specialist. Cybersecurity training is not only beneficial in your everyday life, but it is also helpful when you want to understand what is happening in the technology space and how that can affect you.
Written by Lindsay McKay
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