Securing Tomorrow’s Metaverse Today: Why Safety in the New Frontier Must Leverage on Hardware

Securing Tomorrow's Metaverse Today
In 2022, the metaverse was all the tech world could talk about. While it has seemingly taken a backseat this year to Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications, it is important to recognise that the coming of the metaverse is still as imminent as before. Though Mark Zuckerberg has shifted his focus away from his metaverse ambitions, companies like Roblox and Sandbox are still vying for the leading position as the preferred portal, and Web3 studios such as TerraZero have not taken their foot off the gas. Thus, cybersecurity and data privacy concerns remain highly relevant.
Before life in the metaverse becomes an integral part of our digital lives, taking pre-emptive steps to heighten security is paramount. Cybercriminals are studying their opportunities and lying in wait too – and we must be ready to enter this new realm having taken pre-emptive action to fend off their attacks.

The new digital frontier holds exciting opportunities – for good and bad

Cyber defence in the metaverse will be a far greater challenge than protecting today’s networks and devices. This is because the attack surface represents a convergence of different connected physical and digital systems. In addition to known risks of phishing, ransomware and data theft, hackers could, for example, modify data, imitate avatars, feed fake information and severely compromise data servers that are essential to the workings of the metaverse.
Because the metaverse provides interfaces between the real and virtual worlds, the risks range from bitcoin theft and virtual vandalism to crimes that cross into ‘reality’ such as espionage and even assault. If data centres are targeted and compromised, countless stored information and access points will then be handed over to cybercriminals for abuse. The possibilities are frightening.
Robust cybersecurity must therefore be built into data centre infrastructure from the start to protect its inhabitants. Otherwise, the metaverse is doomed to fail. Providing only another playground for cybercriminals to prey on users attempting to explore new and exciting digital experiences.

Exponentially larger attack surfaces, greater unknowns, one big target

The metaverse will be accessible to billions of users via any web browser, mobile device or AR/VR system, with user data ultimately stored on servers in data centres used by platform and equipment providers. The attack surface expands from these data centres to all other potential interaction points between the attacker and the target, including hardware, software and interconnected communication channels.
Endpoint vulnerabilities include all physical devices that provide access to the metaverse, such as AR/VR headsets, controllers and sensors, but also IoT devices. The software attack surface includes programs and applications running on AR/VR hardware or other parts of the infrastructure that allow users to interact in the metaverse. Finally, communication channels can be the target of attacks: near countless connections between users, virtual objects and physical devices using computer code, text, voice, video and touch are conceivable.

Taking a hard stance on security through the hardware approach

Essentially, the ingenuity of attackers has no limits; the metaverse, with its vast amounts of data and networked systems, will provide them with an even larger playground. In our current state, platform providers, their chosen data centres, and users will mostly be unable to detect threats in real time.
Existing cybersecurity solutions have already failed time and again in protecting against virus or ransomware attacks. By adopting reactive approaches that continue to rely heavily on human intervention, hackers are able to exploit the lack of dexterity and ability of software solutions to detect known and unknown threats accurately, quickly and proactively.
The gap that exists lies in leveraging on security at the physical layer – which, due to proximity, provides the greatest ability to monitor and respond in real-time to threats of any nature. Even cleverly disguised attacks that can easily bypass anti-virus software and firewalls will face a new challenge when trying to remain unnoticed at the physical layer.
This gap is an opportunity to catch cybercriminals off guard. With comprehensive security across the server architecture, we will be able to achieve real-time monitoring and threat detection, the ability to identify known and unknown threats, and the removal of human decision making. Such a reality can be achieved, all by leveraging on AI-embedded hardware and firmware modules with self-learning capabilities to monitor communications between the memory medium and connected hardware devices. Within the server environment, we should holistically encompass the full process from booting up to operations.
By analysing the memory dump to assess if any abnormal memory activity patterns are occurring from the moment of booting up, attempts to hijack and compromise servers and devices can be stopped.

A safety-first step into the metaverse

As the metaverse continues to evolve and draw nearer to reality, securing data within this virtual landscape becomes increasingly vital. I personally look forward to delving into this digital universe, but not before we are able to implement proven solutions that secure our data in this new and exciting realm. Hardware solutions offer real-time protection against cyber threats, ensuring that users can enjoy immersive experiences without compromising their data security. By embracing these innovations, we can build a safer and more secure metaverse, enabling its full potential as a dynamic and secure virtual realm.

About the Author

Camellia Chan is Flexxon’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). She has a strong passion for technology and innovation, and an entrepreneur at heart. She is driven by the desire to use technology for good, and strives to create a safer space for citizens of the digital economy.
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