July 12, 2022 | Updated: July 27, 2022
The metaverse seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue – and for good reason.
Advancements in immersive technologies such as virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), leveraged with other Internet-based technologies, can fundamentally change how we connect with one another.
The metaverse holds the promise of being the next iteration of the Internet, wherein everything from entertainment to social networking to shopping is more immersive, engaging and personalized.
However, new technologies bring new(ish) risks.
“We already have security challenges that we haven’t been able to adequately address,” said Kayne McGladrey, IEEE Senior Member. “The metaverse is likely to inherit these challenges – for example, phishing and theft of credentials has, unsurprisingly, carried over to the metaverse. We’ve seen NFT and cryptocurrency scams, too, in the metaverse.”
However, all is not doom and gloom, as the metaverse is in its nascent stages, providing an opportunity to develop the technology with security at the forefront of the design process.
IDENTITY MANAGEMENT AND USER BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS
In the metaverse, one’s digital avatar is essentially one’s identity – for better or worse.
“Identity management is probably where we’re going to be the most challenged when leveraging technologies associated with the metaverse,” said McGladrey. “Related to that, I expect user and entity behavior analysis to present security challenges unique to the metaverse.”
McGladrey is optimistic that metaverse-based technologies will be backended with artificial intelligence technologies to address these challenges or, at the very least, that these technologies will be bolstered through the inclusion of security operations and automated responses for authentication purposes.
For example, McGladrey says that AI-based solutions can be used to identify reliable patterns that correlate to users’ identities, and also automate detection of deviations that prompt a second factor of authentication to help prevent identity theft.
According to McGladrey, end-users will greatly benefit from approaches to security that focus on identity management and user behavior analysis, as identity and behavior are two core components of what will define the metaverse.
THE NEED FOR BLOCKCHAIN AS AN UNDERLYING SECURITY MECHANISM
One of the key ways to ensure that the metaverse is secure is to build security into devices and platforms from the start, as opposed to bolting on solutions after users are already engaging with the technology.
“I think that blockchain is going to ultimately be the underpinning of all transactions and all ownership of items in the metaverse,” said McGladrey. This would provide for a more secure metaverse, wherein permanent immutable records of user behavior, transactions, and item ownership would be captured for improved authentication.”
His sentiment was echoed by IEEE Member Qiqi Wang. “The security of the metaverse depends on its underlying structures,” said Wang. “A blockchain-based metaverse naturally has better user privacy protection and security.”
Additionally, Wang believes that existing and proven security tools should be incorporated into the metaverse early on to better understand how they may impact this new digital ecosystem.
Ultimately, according to Wang, the metaverse depends on centralized technology – and there are plenty of tools that can be built in at the early stage to help secure this.
“At the end of the day, the metaverse is similar to other iterations of the Internet in that users need security to protect their digital assets,” said Wang. “I have confidence that along the way, as the metaverse is developed, there will definitely be improvements and refinement, providing us with better security.”
We don’t know exactly what shape the metaverse will take. But we do know that IEEE members are working on the technological and social underpinnings of this immersive environment every day. If you’d like to learn more about how technologists are working to make the metaverse a safe and ethical place in this webinar from the IEEE Standards Association, which includes insights from IEEE Impact Creator Yu Yuan.
In the future metaverse, what will help to secure users’ identities and assets?
Kayne McGladrey, IEEE Senior Member: “If we treat the metaverse like a bank – banks have ‘know your customer’ laws and regulatory frameworks they must comply with so that not just anybody can anonymously open a bank and transfer funds for inappropriate uses.”
“And so identity management systems are going to be probably the foremost challenge associated with technologies in the metaverse. I think the second one – related to that – is going to be user and entity behavior analysis; and that’s hopefully going to be backended with some kind of Artificial Intelligence or, at least, some security operations and automated responses.”