Metaverse officially made it to the Webster's Gen-Z lexicon only last year, most likely on the back of the announcement made by Mark Zuckerberg of rebranding Facebook as Meta. However, the credit should go to Neal Stephenson, who coined it for the first time in his science fiction novel "Snow Crash," published in 1992. The word itself is an intelligent play on the Greek word "Meta," meaning "after" and "Verse" as in a component of the universe. The hybrid suggests a world built on the back of a real-world but in another realm.
Components of Metaverse
Over these past several years rise and subsequent mainstreaming of technologies like;
- Augment Reality (AR) & Virtual Reality (VR),
- Cryptocurrency & Blockchain technologies,
- 3D rendering,
- Artificial Intelligence
- Internet of Things (IoT),
- Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT)
It created the necessary building blocks for a true Metaverse. Interestingly, most of these technologies have been around for years, if not decades. It is, however, a perfect storm accessible internet, covid led virtual consumption growth along with the popularity of convergence of virtual and physical world has made it now part of our lexicon and soon our lives as well.
Unlike some of the other recent innovations, Metaverse is likely to depend on specialized (potentially non-standardized) hardware similar to what happened with the Industrial IoT (IIOT). The companies that are part of the IIOT ecosystem built their products on either custom or hardened operating systems with limited interoperability with their surrounding environments. In the initial years, it is believed that the AR/VR and IIoT technologies that will be part of the Metaverse will follow a similar trajectory of OEM driven custom technology till it reaches mass acceptance where some sort of global standards for build and interoperability emerges.
Complex and closed hardware ecosystem
The closed and complex nature of the Metaverse's hardware ecosystem could lend itself to zero-day vulnerabilities creating a potential for a loophole that hackers could exploit. With so much sensitive data likely to be consumed in the Metaverse, we could be looking at an exponentially high data theft concern.
Old tricks in a new avatar (pun intended)
The tried and tested attacks like phishing, malware, and hacking will continue. But, with Metaverse, it could take severe dimensions because of cryptocurrency and NFT based assets, offering an attractive target for cybercriminals.
Man in the room
While we are familiar with the man-in-the-middle attacks in the internet world, a variant of the same is likely to impact the Metaverse. There are serious concerns about a silent watcher or a listener who can spy into your virtual room without your consent and watch your every move, leading to blackmail or social engineering attacks.
Hey, that's my seat
In the internet era, website squatters take in popular domains and look to make money for releasing the same. We can expect Cyber Squatters to grab e-Real Estate that mirrors your physical world and look to make money for releasing the same.
There are many unknowns about how the Metaverse is likely to pan out - from technology, mass acceptance, and the underlying regulatory framework perspective. The technology itself holds a great promise, and like always, there will always be early adopters for the same. There is a risk, just like with anything new. With its multiple layers of AR/VR, Metaverse offers an opportunity for the hackers to hide their identity, and the legal framework, at least at this point, is missing for the victims of data theft, financial fraud, or privacy violations.