Written by Tony Campbell, Director Innovation & Research, Sekuro.
Most cybersecurity articles begin with an acknowledgement of the ever-evolving threat landscape, and this one is no different.
While this may seem trite, our society will be dealing with technologies such as digital twinning, the Metaverse, AI, blockchain, quantum computing, and biological implants that all introduce risks more impactful than anything we face today.
Now is the time to prepare for the convergence of these technologies towards a single conceptual destination – the Metaverse.
Understanding the threats, risks, and concerns around this convergence are critical to understanding how to build resilience to withstand these issues when they arise.
Let’s fast-forward to 2030 and explore the intriguing possibilities and potential dangers these technologies bring. A gentle warning, brace yourselves.
While there is little value in fear mongering when it comes to cyber security risk, the cybercrime industry is about to transform profoundly, and we must be ready. That readiness starts with knowing what we are up against.
The Metaverse: A New Cyber Battleground
In 2030, the Metaverse will be a thriving digital environment where people spend a significant portion of their lives immersed in augmented or virtual realities.
This expansive interconnected world of AI-driven systems, blockchain, physical sensors, and digital twins will revolutionise how we interact with technology – both at home and at work.
The problem is that with every significant industrial revolution or shift in how people interact and work, the future of the Metaverse will present unprecedented cybersecurity challenges.
Looking at the extended attack surface, this could present significant risks with some potentially existential dangers to individuals and businesses.
Within the Metaverse, the attack surface expands exponentially. Traditional security approaches that focus on protecting the infrastructure’s IT systems will no longer come close to being sufficient.
Digital identities, intertwined with our digital avatars, become the primary target for cybercriminals seeking to exploit vulnerabilities in this vast interconnected web.
Given that we will attend healthcare appointments, join business meetings, appear in court, date, and even live within this environment, the consequences of an identity breach are not merely financial or reputational.
They could extend to physical harm and mental health implications, threatening the very fabric of human existence.
It is likely some people will spend most of their time in the Metaverse, and if their digital identity is taken over and misused, it could lead to self-harm, cyberbullying, and online grooming, as we’ve never seen before.
Law Enforcement in the Metaverse
Enforcing laws and investigating cybercrime within the Metaverse will require new and as-yet unproven, untested, complicated, and innovative approaches. Local and international law enforcement agencies must adapt to this new reality.
Collaboration and information sharing across borders will become even more crucial since we already know cybercriminals exploit the absence of traditional physical boundaries.
This issue will grow exponentially over the next decade. We need to design our law enforcement strategies and associated legal and policy frameworks for regulating the environment, or risk the Metaverse turning into a crime-infested Wild West.
The complexities of conducting law enforcement investigations within a digital world will demand a new breed of cyber detectives, well versed in the technology and the new laws.
Security Operations Centres
Security Operations Centres (SOCs) will need new approaches akin to those used in today’s Operational Technology (OT) and Internet of Things (IoT) security monitoring centres – converging the data sources into one network monitoring capability since that is the new attack surface. The traditional IT SOC monitoring employed today will no longer be adequate.
SOC teams must be prepared to navigate the intricate web of interconnected systems within the Metaverse, proactively identifying threats and vulnerabilities that transcend traditional networks.
Businesses will be setting up entire digital twins of their facilities, meaning SOCs will be doing the same kind of work in the Metaverse that they do within the context of infrastructure or application monitoring today.
Policing the Virtual
Law enforcement agencies will also establish a presence within the virtual world. Virtual police forces may need to be formed to operate within the confines of this digital realm, equipped with the tools and knowledge to investigate and combat cybercriminals in real time.
We must empower our law enforcement agencies with the capabilities to maintain order within this new frontier. We may even have court systems and the concept of prison online, where we can freeze a user’s activities for a “stretch” due to their criminal behaviour.
Embracing a Holistic Approach
The Metaverse and its associated technologies demand more than technical expertise to understand how we secure it. We must recognise that this seismic social shift to virtual working and living will require a holistic approach encompassing ethics, policy, and practices.
Our collective responsibility as leaders and innovators must focus on fostering a culture of security awareness, privacy protection, and responsible technology use.
We must integrate cybersecurity into the fabric of our digital lives and teach our children the dangers of this new world in the same way we preach about social media and cyberbullying today.
A Call to Arms
The Metaverse is no longer a futuristic concept. This brave new world is rapidly becoming a tangible reality, and as IT and security leaders, we must rise to the occasion and broaden our perspectives.
The businesses we protect will likely be considering how they leverage these technologies to grow and develop their services or ensure they survive the industrial revolution.
Either way, we must advocate for comprehensive cybersecurity strategies while championing ethical and societal considerations and policy changes that reflect the challenges and risks posed in this new digital era.
Let’s start by agreeing that this is no longer a science fiction story and understanding that the future of cybercrime in 2030 and beyond will be tough to police if we don’t start planning today.
By proactively addressing the intricate security landscape of the Metaverse, we can begin to shape a safer digital future at home and work.
By starting strong – security by design – by the time we reach 2030, we’ll be ushering in a new era of hyper-secure technology that fundamentally changes how humans exist.