Metaverse is coming, but so are all these security issues

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Big tech shows no desire to stop trying to make the metaverse happen, whether we like it or not. It remains to be seen which particular version will prevail, and when (the arrival of virtual reality and augmented reality for the masses has been around for about five years for about three decades now, after all).

But when and how that happens, it’s hard to see how the Metaverse will overcome the privacy and security issues that we’ve been trying to address in our current technology for far too long.

Chances are, this will make them all a lot worse.

Never forget that a large part – perhaps even the majority – of the modern web is underpinned by surveillance capitalism. This means that the ability to monitor and analyze ourselves, and gather information about who we are and what we like, is central to the business model of nearly all major tech companies.

Another problem that doesn’t go away: Tech companies continue to speed up the use of buggy software code that developers haven’t had time to properly secure, because there’s more to being first in the market than protecting customer data and privacy. As a result, privacy leaks are so common that most consumers are so upset that they shrug their shoulders and continue to deal with the company that was hacked this time around.

Meanwhile, scammers keep upping their game, whether it’s phishing, ransomware or data theft, most cops won’t understand the crime and even if they do, scammers disappear in another jurisdiction or even turn to work for the government; Hard to hunt anyway.

The metaverse will likely make all of these problems worse.

If you think big tech knows a lot about you simply based on the websites you visit or the links you click on, imagine what they’ll know about you once they can literally record everything. What you watch, and for how long. And if the big tech already knows enough, it’s even worse when that data inevitably gets leaked.

If you think phishing scams are bad now, thanks to carefully written emails or even fake audio or video files, prepare for your CEO to show up in a virtual artwork and ask you to transfer millions to a random bank account.

Or as Charlie Bell, Executive Vice President of Security, Compliance, Identity and Management at Microsoft, noted in a recent blog: Today: impersonation, credential theft attempts, social engineering, nation-state espionage, and the inevitable vulnerabilities — you’ll be with us at Metaverse.”

This is only the beginning. There are many other risks associated with creating physical representations of ourselves in a virtual world.

Thinking optimistically, perhaps the leap to the downside will make all of these issues so clear and urgent that big tech – and society as a whole – will have no choice but to go back and fix them. Privacy and security issues are also long standing. Long.

It is unlikely, perhaps even unreasonable. So maybe it’s time we start asking for better from tech companies before they impose on us a future that doesn’t solve any of the problems we already have — and just adds more.

The Monday morning ZDNet editorial is our first tech issue of the week, written by members of our editorial team. We are a global team, so this editorial is published every Monday at 8:00 AM EST, 6:00 PM EST on Sunday in the US and 11:00 PM in London.

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