Cyber Security Risks of the Metaverse

Cyber Security Risks of the Metaverse

The internet is moving in a new direction. A number of technological advances have been made with an emphasis on the blockchain, termed Web 3.0. So far, we have seen this manifest in ideas such as decentralised networks, cryptocurrencies and metaverses, which all support new platforms for people to interact with businesses and each other. As more people enter the metaverse, whether it's through virtual reality or other forms of immersive technology, there are a growing number of cybersecurity risks that individuals and businesses need to be aware of.


The metaverse concept has recently exploded in popularity. Here are some statistics on the popularity of metaverse search terms over time, based on data from Google Trends:

  1. "Metaverse" - This search term rose sharply in late 2021 and reached its peak popularity in January 2022. The term has since declined in popularity but remains significantly more searched for than it was prior to 2021.
  2. "Virtual reality" - This search term has been relatively stable in popularity over the past five years, with a slight uptick in interest in 2020 and 2021.
  3. "Augmented reality" - This search term has also been relatively stable in popularity over the past five years, with a slight uptick in interest in 2020 and 2021.
  4. "Blockchain games" - This search term has been on an upward trend since 2020 and reached its peak popularity in March 2021, after which it has declined slightly but remains significantly more searched for than it was prior to 2020. 
  5. "Play to earn" - This follows the same trend as "metaverse", rising sharply at around the same time in late 2021 to early 2022.

Overall, these statistics suggest that there has been a growing interest in the metaverse and related technologies over the past few years, with some hitting very high peaks in 2021 and 2022. This coincides with a period of rapid development in the cryptocurrency and blockchain world, spurred on by increased levels of investment during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Risks, attacks and exploits

One of the biggest risks associated with the metaverse is that cybercriminals could use the metaverse to steal sensitive data or commit fraud. For example, hackers could use phishing scams to trick people into giving away their login details or other personal information. They could also use malware to infect virtual environments or steal data from within them. A successful attack could lead to a range of consequences, from financial losses to the theft of valuable virtual assets.

  1. In 2018, a hacker was able to manipulate the value of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) he had purchased from Ethereum-based P2E (play-to-earn) project "CryptoKitties" by executing code which edited the number of 'likes' his NFTs had on the popular NFT marketplace MetaMask. Investors were fooled and purchased the hacker's NFTs for far more than their worth.
  2. In 2020, a group of hackers known as "Lizard Squad" targeted the popular virtual reality platform VRChat with a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. The attack caused the platform to become unavailable for several hours and disrupted the experience of thousands of users. 
  3. In 2021, researchers discovered a vulnerability in the Decentraland platform that could have allowed hackers to take control of the virtual world and steal assets from users. The vulnerability was related to the platform's governance system, which allows users to vote on changes to the virtual world's rules and policies. 
  4. In 2022, numerous reports surfaced of virtual real-estate on SandBox being stolen through investors clicking phishing links, which gave hackers access to their MetaMask accounts. The hackers were then able to steal all the user's digital assets worth tens of thousands of dollars.

With new technologies being rapidly rolled out, sometimes vulnerabilities are not noticed in time before being discovered and exploited by bad actors. The above examples demonstrate the real-world risks that exist within the metaverse and highlight the need for individuals and businesses to take cybersecurity seriously in these virtual environments.

In addition to these risks, there are also concerns about privacy in the metaverse. As people spend more time in virtual environments, they may unwittingly give away sensitive information about themselves or their activities. Facebook, Google and many other companies have received criticism for their misuse of personal data.

Staying safe

To address these risks, individuals and businesses need to know how to protect themselves. This includes:

  • using strong passwords;
  • keeping software and security systems up-to-date;
  • being cautious when sharing personal information online;
  • it also means using encryption and other security measures to protect sensitive data and assets within the metaverse.

For tips and tricks, refer to our other articles to learn about cyber hygiene, or password security.

As the metaverse continues to evolve, it's likely that new cybersecurity risks will emerge. However, by staying informed and taking proactive steps to protect themselves, individuals and businesses can minimize their exposure to these risks and enjoy the benefits of this exciting new technology.




The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice and is not guaranteed to be accurate, complete, reliable, current or error-free.


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