Even before the virtual cyber dimension takes off, all current cyber threats are already expected to meta-morphosize into doppelganger hazards therein

For years now, scammers and tech companies have abused user data to spoof accounts, target advertising, and steal currency—and they will continue to find ways to do so in the emerging metaverse.

Netizens wishing to dive into the world of 3D avatars and virtual interactions should stay alert about potential threats. As with any new technology, it is hard to know for sure about the cybersecurity risks users will encounter until the tech matures more over time.

Creating strong credentials and being extremely cautious about interactions will help users steer clear of hacks, scams, and data breaches, no matter how different they may appear in an unfamiliar virtual environment.

Meanwhile, here are three new risks that users should be alert to:

  1. Avatar hacking
    • With the ability for metaverse identities to customize avatars to take on a completely different persona, there is a sense of anonymity when navigating new virtual worlds. However, whenever there is a secret, hackers will try to find the answers behind it.
    • With this comes the possibility of hacked avatars finding out sensitive information or entering into and backing out of deals that the user has no say in. Hackers could use avatars to spend stolen funds fraudulently or commit other crimes.
    • It is believed that hackers will hack into metaverse accounts the same way they hack into email and social media accounts now: mostly by compromising clean login credentials and IP addresses.
    • To avoid becoming victims of avatar hacking, users will need to place a new and sustained emphasis on password hygiene. On the other side of the metaverse, developers will be expected to protect user data.

  2. NFT scams
    • It is expected that non-fungible tokens will be used everywhere in the metaverse. There are already various marketplaces to purchase and trade NFTs, and more are sure to appear within the metaverse itself.
    • As with all currency, there will be hackers trying to scam users out of NFTs. These scams are almost certain to increase once the metaverse is in widespread use:
      1. Counterfeit NFTs
        Scammers are already selling illegitimate NFTs in the real world. The content is plagiarized from the original piece and has no value when the unsuspecting user tries to spend or trade it. Expect this to continue in the metaverse.
      2. Phishing scams
        Scammers will post an advertisement on a popular website that, when clicked on, will ask for crypto wallet information. They also could send an email or warning users that their wallet has been suspended, to create urgency and fear to phish for login credentials.
      3. Giveaway scams
        Offering fake giveaways and online events will entice victims to enter their wallet information. Instead of getting their prize, the victims will be in for a rude shock.
      4. Pump and dump
        This scheme involves scammers buying up several NFTs to raise the tokens’ perceived value. The scammers then auction the NFTs off to make a large profit.
      5. Store impersonation
        Scammers will sometimes disguise their fake websites as well-known NFT marketplaces in order to steal funds from unwary victims.
      Users should never share access to their crypto wallets, and perform due diligence before trusting any metaverse entity.

  3. Data privacy breaches
    • With an entire virtual world to explore, tech firms will be able to gather data about their users, possibly without informed consent.
    • With the metaverse, it is thought that such firms can extract more data about users by taking into account their facial gestures or voices when wearing a headset. It is feared that this information can be used to identify who is wearing the headset and what they are doing when it is on. Also, the data can be used to control what users see and interact with in the virtual world, in order to sell products or limit interactions for financial/marketing gains.
    • The only real way to prevent this is if the US Federal Communications Commission expands current privacy laws to account for this type of data privacy breach. The FCC can fine and punish companies that flout regulations.

Firms creating virtual worlds are already working out the kinks and making their environments safer for users.