A new study published today by Tenable®, the Exposure Management company, has found that 68% of UK businesses plan to do business in the metaverse. In fact, 18% claim to have already launched offerings in the past six months, with 32% saying they plan to do business in the metaverse within the next six months, and 23% in the next seven to 12 months. As with most things in business, opportunities are not without risk or consequences. Almost half of the respondents (47%) said managing cybersecurity risk, while 36% said managing privacy and the collection of information, were the biggest threats to their organisation when considering investing in the metaverse.
The report, titled ‘Measure Twice, Cut Once: Meta-curious Organisations Relay Security Concerns Even as They Plunge Into Virtual Worlds’, surveyed 500 professionals representing roles in cybersecurity, DevOps and IT engineering across the UK.
While still in its relative infancy, organisations have begun to explore the metaverse and its capabilities. Forward-thinking organisations are already moving decisively into this space, which McKinsey & Company predicts will grow to $5 trillion by 2030. With a truly immersive experience in the metaverse requiring the collection, processing and disclosure of personal data, the study determined that 80% organisations said they were very and somewhat comfortable collecting and sharing personal identification information (PII) with third-party services in the metaverse, even though 20% said they had concerns doing so. However, when asked about the biggest barriers to entry for their own organisation, 33% cited the prospect of security breaches and identity theft. In fact, 10% said they didn’t feel that organisations need to get cybersecurity right today before they offer their services in the metaverse, with 9% also saying that it wasn’t important to weave security into their service offerings in the metaverse from the start.
Traditional threats seen in the real world — such as phishing, ransomware and compromised machine identities, are very and somewhat likely to occur in the metaverse according to 80% of respondents. However the ‘unknown unknowns’ is a very real concern for businesses operating in this virtual realm. The study shows 74% of respondents think that malicious cyber activity that’s possible in immersive virtual settings — such as invisible-avatar eavesdropping or ‘man in the room’ attacks — are very or somewhat likely to occur in the metaverse. The threat posed by deep fakes lurking in the metaverse is also at the forefront of many organisations’ minds. The survey revealed 77% of respondents think it is very or somewhat likely that the cloning of voice, facial features and hijacking video recordings using avatars might occur in the metaverse.
With social media platforms currently under public scrutiny given the many instances of fake news, racial hate and bullying, the metaverse is expected to further amplify these issues. In fact, 24% of respondents said managing harassment and bullying are some of the biggest threats faced when considering investing. A further challenge is verifying that someone is who they claim to be, something that social platforms face given the scourge of scam accounts. The concern of managing complex and challenging access and identity management was voiced by 34% of respondents.
“As with any new business opportunity, first movers have the advantage and the risk,” said Bob Huber, chief security officer and head of research at Tenable. “With the UK having the highest number of cyber crime victims per million internet users, it’s vital that organisations take into account the new threat vectors that could be used as well as the traditional tactics that could transcend into the metaverse. Progressive organisations that start by re-evaluating their current existing infrastructure today will be better equipped to navigate and build out their metaverse worlds.”
Another major factor that is causing trepidation in many organisations’ future plans for the metaverse is an economic one. With the Bank of England’s recent interest rate hike amid inflation fears, 36% of respondents stated that their organisations will wait to see how the macroeconomic conditions unfold before committing resources to an unknown venture. Other businesses indicated they are more inclined to follow in the footsteps of others and want to gauge how other businesses fare in the metaverse first (36%).
Encouragingly, the survey indicates there is recognition that a proactive strategy to train, educate and encourage talent will be necessary to enable organisations to operate safely inside the metaverse. More than half (51%) of respondents say their organisation will need to invest in training their current employees about safe cybersecurity practices to support their investment in the metaverse. These organisations also acknowledge that hiring talent in specialised areas such as IT (44%), cybersecurity (44%) and software developers (39%) for the metaverse will be crucial.