- Constant monitoring in the metaverse is required for cybersecurity
- Users need to stay mindful.
The metaverse has its own challenges. A glitch in a virtual environment can only cause a digital replica of an infrastructure to vanish in a blink of an eye. However, a terrorist invasion in a digital world could bring such instances to life. A report published in a peer-review journal, Perspectives on Terrorism, sheds light on the issue.
Metaverse Could be Used as a Breeding Ground For Terrorists
The report by Gabriel Weimann, a professor at University of Haifa, and Roy Dimant, a teaching assistant at Reichmant University, focuses on risks related to terrorism in the metaverse. Furthermore, they discuss measures to keep the evil at bay.
Web2 or the current internet is a boon to extremist groups. They can easily deliver threats or communicate using social media platforms. However, the social media giant Meta Platforms recently hit the kill switch on WhatsApp accounts of fundamentalist group Taliban.
Bad actors have used the internet for a range of malpractices including psychological campaigns, fundraisers, to invoke violence and more, the report mentions. It is unwise to rule out the possibility that terrorists are learning about technological advancements for nefarious purposes. The metaverse is just another addition to their list of tools.
Terrorists can exploit the metaverse just like any other tech innovation. Additionally, the report notes it could become a new breeding ground for them. Virtual avatars and their embodiment are potentially deceptive weapons threat actors can use in the metaverse.
Metaversal advancements may bring new vulnerabilities leading to intricate counter-terrorism measures. According to the European Union (EU), fighting terrorism is a top priority. The paper also points toward a number of potential risks and threats in the metaverse including planning and coordinating attacks, virtual training, spreading disinformation and more.
Leaders of extremist organizations can leverage the emotional environment catered by the feeling of social presence to influence people to their advantage. Psychological manipulation could lead to horrendous circumstances outside the metaverse. The barbaric act carried out by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Barcelona, Spain, on August 17, 2017 is one blue instance.
Crypto Could Elevate Terrorist Funding
Furthermore, terrorists could use the metaverse to recruit people, training them to become agents of chaos. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices will start gathering biometric data. Threat actors could exploit people using this information.
Virtual training is one aspect that could give a boost to terrorist activities in the metaverse. Virtual reality is already gaining mainstream traction. The Ohio State team is using the metaverse to train first responders for extreme events, Ohio-based newspaper The Lantern reported in May, 2023.
The authors of the paper highlight that cryptocurrencies could assist terrorism financing. The underlying technology behind crypto, blockchain, is also a building block for the metaverse. Moreover, digital assets will play an integral part in virtual worlds to create a digital economy.
Given their anonymous nature and availability of currency mixers renders it easy to circulate money. According to the United States Treasury, currency mixer Tornado Cash laundered crypto assets worth over $7 Billion since 2019. Additionally, extremist groups can easily raise funds for their “glorious purpose.”
Users Need to Tread Lightly in Virtual Worlds
Global regulators have prevented cryptocurrencies’ entry to the mainstream. They are still assessing risks associated with them. However, South American nation El Salvador uses Bitcoin (BTC), the largest crypto asset by market capitalization, as their legal tender.
The document finally deals with possible measures to make the metaverse a safer place. Public-private partnerships are deemed crucial to combat cyberterrorism. Early engagement with the technology to identify possible risks could aid in security. The authors also propose to establish an application programming interface (API) standard to police virtual worlds.
Constant monitoring in the metaverse is required for cybersecurity, although it can raise questions regarding civil liberties, data privacy and free speech. Identity verification must be a mandate as threat actors can use virtual private networks (VPNs) to enter the metaverse from barred locations. Additionally, educating users about deceptive techniques used by bad actors will help prevent attacks.
Fear of missing out (FOMO) can draw users to invest (either time or money) in a new technology. However, malicious actors can use the emotion to trap them. The paper proposes them to stay mindful and not fall for their sentiments.
According to TerrorismTracker, a data aggregator, terrorist activities had declined by 28% between 2021 and 2022. To keep this momentum, the metaverse need not to be a safe haven, but needs to be a safe space as a necessity.