Every so often a new technology paradigm emerges which promises to fundamentally reengineer industries, economies, societies, and daily life. Roughly 10 years since the last such shift – Web 2.0 – we are on the cusp of the next one: the metaverse. A digitally enhanced and immersive world is here to transform the future of the internet.
While nothing is certain, particularly in a rapidly evolving space like this, the metaverse has the potential to change the way we live, work, and do business in ways we can only begin to imagine at present. However, before we rush to avail of the opportunities that this powerful new virtual world is likely to offer, we must consider the learnings from Web 2.0 and Cloud, and reflect on what we can do better to secure the cyber environment.
For the great majority of people, Web 2.0 manifested itself in the form of social media platforms that are almost entirely dependent on user-generated content. Unfortunately, in the haste to avail of easy-to-use services, privacy and security aspects were at times compromised.
We must ensure that we don’t allow that to happen again. No one may yet know the exact form that the metaverse/s will take, but we can ensure that all of them incorporate the concepts and principles of Security by Design, Privacy by Design, and Trust by Design from the very outset.
Identifying the weakest links
In the first instance, it is necessary to understand that this goes far beyond the IT and communications infrastructure and network security considerations normally focused on by cybersecurity professionals.
These are, of course, critically important, but so too are ethical considerations. Indeed, the potential impact of the metaverse on people’s physical and overall wellbeing, and the potential for data abuse and breach of privacy is immense.
The first step, naturally, will be to secure the IT infrastructure involved in the delivery of the metaverse. The way the metaverse will work will see millions if not billions of people simultaneously entering the new merged world of the physical and the digital, using a far greater range of devices than those in use for accessing social media and the internet today. It will be the largest IoT network ever seen.
The new virtual and augmented reality world will require people accessing it to wear devices such as headsets, haptic gloves, and other pieces of technology which may only exist in the imagination at present or haven’t even got that far yet.