The Future of The Fence: Who’s Shepherding Your Data in The Metaverse?
By Keisha Mitchell
Everyday we see the overwhelming and ever-expanding enmeshment of the physical and digital worlds.This fusion is seemingly happening faster than ever, expansion hasn’t been slowed down by the massive amounts of information (or energy) necessary to make things like the metaverse possible, which ultimately means yet another sphere that you’ll inevitably have to store and protect your information within. But when it comes to virtual reality, what does this mean, and more importantly what will this look like?
The Future of the Fence is a 3 part series dedicated to delving deeper into this question and discusses the possibilities of cybersecurity in a new dimension and what techies and consumers can expect for their info and protection moving forward:
Let us begin with a brief look at how cybersecurity has evolved alongside the internet throughout the years. What started off as pranks involving phone landlines has turned into a market forecasted to grow to 345.4 billion U.S. dollars by 2026.
Digital computers were first created in the 1940s, and though there were no interconnecting networks (due to the size and scarcity of the monstrous machines) and the threats of danger to the devices were nearly nonexistent, the theory of viruses was popping up in multiple places. Most notably recorded and eventually published by John von Neumann in his paper Theory of Self Reproducing Automata; Neumann’s paper consisted of theories that harm could be done to machines via“mechanical organisms” that could possibly imitate organic viruses' ability to replicate.
In the 1950’s, Phone “Phreaking’ was a small but disruptive hobby (involving pranksters tripping up channels that allowed engineers to work on the network remotely) that enabled consumers to make free and reduced calls both locally and long-distance. Though niche, this activity laid the foundation for what became the standards of guerilla attacks in cyberspace.This same mischievous energy continued into the 1960s where several innovations had been made throughout the industry but computers were still large and not commercially used. This meant the threat of attacks were still small but in 1967, a chance visit from a group of students to IBM dramatically pushed the cybersecurity industry forward. After being shown the companys’ newest computer model, they learned the programming code and gained access to it’s system, meaning that IBM had gained invaluable insight into their own weaknesses.
Cybersecurity officially arrived in the 1970s’ thanks to a project known as a project called The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET). This predecessor to the internet was used by Bob Thomas to prove his theory that programs can move from one computer to another within a network and leave bread crumbs along the way. He created a program called “The Creeper” that moved between terminals on the ARPANET network and left a message reading “I’M THE CREEPER: CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.” This innovation inspired a man named Ray Tomlinson (an acclaimed pioneer of email technologies) to create a program called the “Reaper”; with a sole purpose of catching and deleting “The Creeper.” While this was an amazing advancement, the program was a self replicating shield- making it both the first antivirus program and the first worm.
Fast forward to the 80s, and computer technologies and their corresponding threats exploded in both the private and commercial sectors thanks to the devices’ reduction in size and compatibility with phone lines. This also meant that phone lines needed more and better security than ever before and the pressing matter of The Cold War meant security solutions were needed sooner than later. Many minds rose to the occasion and by the end of the decade it had become elusive as to who could be crowned the “first” to provide a formal product but it was certain that a new billion dollar industry had been created. The 90s’ saw the birth of the internet and the boom of the dot com which meant the security solutions had to expand yet again and reach their current form, cyber. The first twenty years of the new millennium saw sustained evolution of digital disease (such as hidden malware and polymorphic viruses) alongside advancements in protection and maintenance (like two factor authentication, and biometrics) and there’s no end to the growth of the ecosystem in sight.
The journey of telecommunications, the growth of the internet, and the consumer’s love affair with all things digital means that the dangers of the virtual world are here to stay and our information will have increasing vulnerabilities. As of today, 7.26 Billion people (or only 91.54% of the world's population!) own a smartphone. That’s an unfathomable amount of information from just one piece of a much larger puzzle and begs a lot about how all of these components play into and most importantly are protected in the newest iteration of the internet, the Metaverse?
What do security solutions look like in a virtual or augmented reality world?/What types of security solutions or threats will the metaverse produce?
It’s still difficult for many in the physical world to conceptualize all the ways in which the metaverse will actually manifest. A combination of augmented and virtual realities will soon pervade our spaces in a way that the inner world of the internet has previously been unable to. What will this materially mean for our data and our tangible security? Will time spent physically in the online world detract from the safekeeping of our property? How will we protect our actual identities from nefarious entities in the metaverse when it’s existence relies on the merging of our real and digital properties? What are the types of threats that might be developed within a world such as the metaverse.
Will things like 2 factor authentication, biometrics, etc be used more or less in the metaverse?
will the metaverse impact the execution of authentication? Will a password become something you speak into a microphone or headset to gain passage into your favorite cyber clubhouse? Will biometric security measures work in a meta world? Will things like multifactor authentication become antiquated? How will things like aging, physical fluxes and even deepfake technological affect how we verify ourselves moving forward?
Will the cybersecurity industry be able to meet the demand of the meta market or are we witnessing the birth of a new sector?
Innovation spurs industry and technology has no reason (yet) to respond differently to the onset of the metaverse. But how long will it take for current security professionals to get acclimated to their new surroundings? When will the demands of the data outweigh the capacities of the current ways of securing things? Will there be a birth of a security 3 industry to compliment the possible dominance of the Web3 world?
Follow us as we ponder on these topics and more in the next installment (vol 2) of ‘The Fence”. Provided in partnership with Auth0, available exclusively at www.therootdir.blog.