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Australian tech industry warned to shore up metaverse defences

Trend Micro warns of a “darkverse” of criminality, which could quickly evolve to fuel a new industry of metaverse-related cyber crimes.

user iconReporter
Tue, 09 Aug 2022
Australian tech industry warned to shore up metaverse defences
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The "darkverse" as imagined by Trend Micro, will resemble a metaverse version of the dark web, which would be designed to enable threat actors to coordinate and carry out illegal activities with impunity. The global cyber security company predicts that underground marketplaces operating in the darkverse would be impossible for police to infiltrate without the correct authentication tokens.

Although we don't know exactly how it will develop, according to Mick McCluney, technical director at Trend Micro, "We need to start thinking now about how it will be exploited by threat actors."

"The metaverse is a multibillion-dollar hi-tech vision that will define the next internet era.

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"Given the high costs and jurisdictional challenges, law enforcement will struggle to police the metaverse in general in its early years.

"The security community must step in now or risk a new Wild West to develop on our digital doorstep," McCluney said.

There's an additional level of protection for closed criminal communities due to darkverse access being enabled for users inside a designated physical location.

The cyber-physical nature of the metaverse has the potential of opening new doors to threat actors, which could provide a haven for multiple threats to flourish according to Trend Micro research, from financial fraud and e-commerce scams to NFT theft, ransomware and more.

Trend Micro's report seeks to start an urgent dialogue about what cyber threats to expect and how they could be mitigated.

The company has outlined the top five metaverse threats as the following:

  • NFTs will be hit by phishing, ransom, fraud and other attacks, which will be increasingly targeted as they become an important metaverse commodity to regulate ownership.
  • The darkverse will become the go-to place for conducting illegal/criminal activities because it will be difficult for law enforcement to trace, monitor and infiltrate. In fact, it may be years before police can catch up.
  • Money laundering using overpriced metaverse real estate and NFTs will provide a new outlet for criminals to clean cash.
  • Social engineering, propaganda and fake news will have a profound impact in a cyber-physical world. Influential narratives will be employed by criminals and state actors targeting vulnerable groups who are sensitive to certain topics.
  • Privacy will be redefined, as metaverse-like space operators will have unprecedented visibility into user actions – essentially when using their worlds, there will be zero privacy as we know it.

Cyber criminals might look to compromise the "digital twin" spaces run by critical infrastructure operators, for sabotage or extortion of industrial systems. There is also potential for threat actors to deploy malware to metaverse users' full body actuator suits to cause physical harm.

Assault of avatars has already been reported on several occasions.

Although a fully fledged metaverse is still some years away, metaverse-like spaces will be commonplace much sooner.

[Related: Palo Alto Networks introduces new Unit 42 MDR service]

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