The Metaverse can be a vile place
Even as the Metaverse is beginning to take shape, the virtual world that seeks to reimagine social interactions, at a personal and professional level, isn’t a pretty sight.
Channel 4’s Yinka Bokinni entered the metaverse to experience the dawn of the brand new frontier but witnessed a cesspool of offending behavior and unspeakable acts. This despite clear usage policies that prohibit exactly the kind of behavior she experienced within minutes of stepping into the metaverse.
“Because it’s so immersive, you physically feel like you’re there….it feels real,” said Bokinni, recounting her experiences in the Channel 4 investigative current affairs program Dispatches. She tried to fight off strangers who kept approaching her despite her avatar putting her hands up to discourage the move, with one of the aggressors challenging her with “who’s going to stop me?”
Where’s the sheriff?
Such vile behavior led Bokinni to liken the metaverse to the lawless wild west. However, that’s the antithesis to what the metaverse hopes to achieve in terms of revolutionizing commerce.
According to Emergen Research, the global metaverse industry was valued at over $63 billion in 2021 and is projected to topple $1600 billion in 2030. Brands such as athletic-gear giant Nike have already made big moves into the metaverse.
While Bokinni’s experience brought forth the worst of human nature, it also pointed to a rather alarming trend that could wreak havoc in a commercial setting.
In a world without a foolproof system for identity verification, where everyone is represented by essentially an anonymous avatar, fraud, and deceit could become a lot more pervasive. Throw in unsuspecting users and their crypto wallets, or creators with their non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and suddenly the metaverse sounds like a cybercriminals’ playground.
This is something that’s been called out even by Microsoft.
“In the metaverse, fraud and phishing attacks targeting your identity could come from a familiar face – literally – like an avatar who impersonates your coworker, instead of a misleading domain name or email address. These types of threats could be deal-breakers for enterprises if we don’t act now,” wrote Charlie Bell, the company’s Executive Vice President for Security, Compliance, Identity, and Management.
Bell argues this is the right time for the industry to come together and create a solid cybersecurity foundation around the metaverse, as it continues to take baby steps towards wider adoption.
We hope the industry steps up because a virtual version of the wild west could end up becoming a whole lot more dangerous than the real one.