The metaverse was one of the hottest topics of 2022. Not so long ago, this concept was only present in the minds of idealistic pioneers of the web. Recently though, it has gained some steam as certain technologies that would support a metaverse have been fleshed out and even launched as products.
This modern gold rush has led several renowned technology companies to make significant changes in their business priorities to take advantage of potential metaverse business opportunities. Facebook created an umbrella company for all their apps called Meta to indicate that they will eventually become part of such a project.
As with most technologies that emulate human social lives, hackers and scammers have already found ways to exploit the metaverse to their advantage and launch phishing attacks. This blog post will provide details on the various aspects of the metaverse, how they might be exploited and how you can protect yourself.
What Is the Metaverse?
Various versions and conceptions of the metaverse range from practical to highly idealistic, and understanding them is crucial to assessing the inherent risks. The most basic version of this concept is a group of digital avatars interacting in a video game, trying to emulate regular life.
The business application of this would allow people to have more interactive meetings and brainstorming sessions. The metaverse would allow employees to do so no matter where they are in the world without having a camera constantly pointed at them.
The more extreme metaverse applications aren’t as fleshed out as the current business applications of the metaverse as what we see from Microsoft. Still, they are usable even though they are in their infancy. Rather than replicating things like human interaction, these versions take it up a notch with digital assets.
Cryptocurrency and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT) have taken the metaverse to new heights. Specific NFT projects, such as Bored Ape Yacht Club, have promoted their products as avatars for yourself in the metaverse. The concept has been pushed even further with the sale of digital land, allocating specific plots in this new digital world.
What Do Metaverse Hackers Target?
While the metaverse opens new possibilities and creates realities never thought of before, the way it operates is somewhat familiar. People still need accounts, logins, and passwords, and they own assets, even if they are digital.
This reality means that social engineering, phishing, and spoofed websites are still tools that hackers can use in the metaverse. There are, however, a few twists because of the nature of this new medium.
These unique on-chain tokens have been used to represent a variety of digital assets, from art to passes to exclusive communities and titles to digital land. In the last year, these assets have experienced unprecedented levels of volatility, both positive and negative. Combined with the unregulated nature of NFTs, this has made them attractive targets for hackers.
Every metaverse project has incorporated some cryptocurrencies to acquire digital assets. This relatively new concept for many users has led to many unsafe behaviors. These currencies don’t have government protections and are often hosted on exchanges and websites with insufficient security measures.
Most metaverse experiences are validated through NFT or cryptocurrency ownership. However, these still require traditional accounts and passwords. This need has led to a new breed of phishing attacks from hackers pretending to be cryptocurrency exchanges or fake buyers of digital assets.
Protecting Yourself from Metaverse Cyber Attacks
Unlike typical cyber attacks, the assets targeted here are entirely unregulated and are often not even considered by laws and regulations. This lack of regulatory oversight means that you’ll often be left without traditional recourses if you are the victim of an attack.
As a result, strong security measures are becoming increasingly crucial while operating in the metaverse.
The most common metaverse-related phishing attempts relate to NFT sales. Most users keep all their NFTs for sale on marketplaces like Opensea with a price floor to sell the asset automatically. Many metaverse users may receive a “sale completed” email daily.
NFT ownership is recorded on a public blockchain, which means it’s possible to send compelling phishing emails by including images of an NFT owned by the victim. These scam emails then direct to bogus websites to complete the transaction and steal the asset.
As with any other phishing attack, it’s essential to double-check email domain names, logo placement, design, and preview the links in any button you click. Doing this will keep you safe from phishing attacks, metaverse-related or not.
Every digital asset, whether a cryptocurrency or an NFT, is linked to a recovery key. In the event of a phishing attempt or if the exchange your asset is hosted on gets hacked, users can still recover their goods by using the recovery key.
Cold wallets are physical devices that cannot connect to the internet where you can safely host these recovery keys. These devices have become affordable for anyone and are an absolute necessity if you plan to interact with the metaverse.
Will Our Future Be the Metaverse?
Opinions on this matter are all over the spectrum. While the metaverse looked like a sure thing just a few months ago, the recent cryptocurrency crash has reminded everyone that this type of endeavor can be highly volatile.
Anything involving digital assets and cryptocurrencies has likely been set back a few years because of these recent events. This means that metaverse applications will likely be relegated to business interactions like meetings, brainstorms, and team-building exercises. There’s no better time to refresh your cyber security awareness training to include the metaverse as a subject!