The metaverse, a reality for new businesses and new cyber risks

I nuovi rischi cyber del metaverso
A dimension that fascinates many companies, but also hides many risks

There are those who announce an epochal revolution and those who turn their noses up, not wanting to hear arguments. Between the two poles, we find a whole spectrum of different attitudes: from the most curious to the most reluctant.

One thing is certain: the metaverse is being talked about a lot. And no one has very clear ideas about it yet. There are those who already love it and see it as the dimension of the future from which it will be difficult to escape, and those who fear it, seeing it as a diabolical tool that will make it even more difficult to understand the difference between the real and the virtual world.

The metaverse in fact represents the possibility of moving from a reality made of concrete objects and people in the flesh to a totally virtual reality in 3D, where everything we interact with (people, money, goods, cities) lives in the 3.0 dimension.

In short, the metaverse allows us to enter with our avatar into a reality we choose, to fully immerse ourselves in it through a VR viewer. Here, in this different dimension, we can live another life, choosing the friends that most resemble us or the ideal partner, inhabiting the house of our dreams, exchanging, playing, buying, selling and doing everything that we may not be able to do in real life.

A technology that leverages virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) and that offers new opportunities to create interconnected worlds where avatars move unhindered through the three-dimensional planes of the web.

An escape from real life? An opportunity for knowledge and enrichment? A second chance if the first one doesn’t satisfy us? A new way of doing business? Everyone can choose the answer that best suits them. Someone compares it to the Internet and the shock it brought: a strange reality that at first seemed like science fiction and which you can now no longer do without.

Big earning opportunities in new businesses

One thing, however, is certain: after the internet revolution, the metaverse could be the beginning of a new era. Indeed, it probably already is, given that according to the data reported by the Business & Growth trends 2022 survey of Ogilvy, one of the largest global marketing networks, the estimate of the total market value of its technology for 2024, is around 800 billion dollars.

As far as companies are concerned, this is undoubtedly a great opportunity for profit and opportunities in almost all market areas. First of all, for developers and for all those engaged in the field of virtual reality technologies, for those who earn a living with cryptocurrencies and video games. In the study “Opportunities in the metaverse”, J.P. Morgan highlights that only advertising spending in games should reach 18.41 billion dollars by 2027.

But even the most traditional companies can create new businesses. Indeed, according to the analysts of the investment company BlackRock, all brands will have to deal with the new reality. Today, there are already works of art, jewellery and clothing that exist only in the virtual world and that have the characteristic of being unique. Last November, a Gucci digital bag was sold for $4,000, and many other fashion companies are intent on dressing the avatars of people moving in the metaverse. The same applies to the real estate market, land, etc.

It is also a new frontier for remote working

Not to mention investment in the new frontiers of remote working. The platforms so widely used in these two years of the pandemic, such as Zoom or Meet, will soon be overtaken by programmes that will allow avatar meetings to be organised in the office.

At the annual Microsoft conference dedicated to IT professionals, held in early November, it was announced that this type of experience could be made possible as early as mid-2022 on Teams.

In short, companies are already throwing themselves headlong into this world and are beginning to elbow one another to make more profits. But the dangers are not few. In fact, we are still talking about a no-man’s land, a wild west without rules, where cybercriminals can roam freely and find fertile ground for malicious actions.

Attention to cyber risks

Moreover, as metaverse technologies are still pioneering and under development, the risks are also still unknown and can be unprecedented.

Among the main ones already identified are:

  • the theft of sensitive information and data;
  • identity theft (a hacker can take a user’s avatar and perform actions to the detriment of others);
  • the theft of cryptocurrencies, the money used in the metaverse for commercial exchanges and of which hackers are particularly fond;
  • the human joystick attack, that is, the movement of a user in physical space without the latter being aware of it for the purposes of deception, violence and extortion;
  • impersonation, which resembles identity theft and involves a cyber criminal exploiting public information found online to impersonate third parties and obtain personal information from unsuspecting users, misleading them.

To those already listed, the following are also added for companies:

  • FOMO (fear of missing out). Many companies, in order to avoid being cut off from the “next big thing”, feel obliged to be present in the metaverse. The risk is that of ending up in the wrong hands, choosing the medium without knowing it properly and making rash decisions;
  • the impairment of integrity. A company could expose its data in the metaverse without considering the implications and the necessary caution for any online public exposure, because the risk of possible data theft is always around the corner;
  • copyright infringement.
Know the threats to avoid the risks

Any individual or organisation that decides to come into contact with this new reality should therefore be aware of the threats. But more importantly, they should be able to recognise a possible attempt at fraud and know how to guarantee the highest standards of privacy, data security and cybersecurity already necessary for the use of digital technologies.

This means not only having secure devices, hardware and software, updated with all the latest security patches, correctly configured, designed and set up, but also having received the right training on the topics of Cyber Security Awareness. Since it is always human error that causes the damage that can come from the web, it is precisely on the human factor that we must work. Awareness, continuous training, concentration and attention are the most powerful weapons against all types of cybercrime, whether it comes from the Internet or from the metaverse. Because prevention always remains the most effective cure.

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