Cybersecurity could be the Metaverse’s Kryptonite—or its Cornerstone.

Published October 06, 2022

On behalf of F5, YouGov surveyed 500 IT decision makers to get a snapshot of priorities as they balance the need to empower people and organizations against a global backdrop of economic worries, physical and digital security concerns, and shifting data policies.

It gave us an interesting glimpse into the future of IT as Web 3.0, Metaverse, and other emerging technologies become prominent topics. Notably, IT pros are increasingly thinking about the Metaverse since it is expected to be the next frontier for business, retail, entertainment, healthcare, and education. 

Today people are dating in the Metaverse and buying fancy shirts for their avatars, and increasingly brands are helping create digital twins for individuals to visit a virtual store when the brick-and-mortar variety is too far away, and soon we will see true ecommerce capabilities.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same, and when it comes to Metaverse adoption there’s a familiar threat lurking behind the curtain: cybersecurity (or a lack thereof) could be the Kryptonite that brings the whole thing down.

Simply stated, all the Metaverse’s potential to fuel growth, innovation, and emerging industries is at risk if we don’t make security foundational to its evolution.

A massive new industry is in the making—with massive new risks.

The appeal of capitalizing on the Metaverse momentum is undeniable. Recent research from McKinsey & Co. estimates that Metaverse technologies will account for a $5 trillion industry by 2030.

While technologists and companies are still figuring out what’s possible in the Metaverse and how it will work, forward-thinking organizations are moving ahead today. Our survey showed that one in 10 IT decision makers is already operating in the Metaverse—and 51% expect to be there in five years or sooner.

At the same time, a world of virtual reality storefronts and augmented digital experiences will undoubtedly drive new types of attacks. If a criminal floods a Metaverse business front with avatars, could that significantly hinder the operations of a casino, bank, or healthcare portal? What will ransomware look like in the Metaverse?

We are only beginning to understand the threats to people and organizations as they navigate this new virtual world, and as physical and digital experiences become more intertwined.

For IT pros, the Metaverse means more complexity in an already challenging environment.

IT pros understand that technologies are generally at their most vulnerable when they’re new and that cybercriminals use disruption to cause disruption. With the Metaverse being the next big disrupter, it is not surprising that around half report that security concerns and data privacy risks are impeding adoption. Six in 10 say the Metaverse has introduced security complexities their organization may not be equipped to address. And alarmingly, over one in three (37%) say their organization has already been attacked in relation to the Metaverse.

Make security foundational to ensure the Metaverse does not become the Wild West.

Still, there is good news: The survey data shows that IT decision makers have learned from years of racing to modernize and adapt during the pandemic. Survey answers and concerns highlighted that they are cognizant that the Metaverse presents risks.

The idea that any new digitization comes with correlating vulnerability is now ingrained in the IT industry and will undoubtedly have a positive impact as the Metaverse evolves. It does not have to be the Wild West, so long as investment and innovation in cybersecurity go hand-in-hand with the development of the underlying technologies.

That is why, as organizations build out their visions of what the Metaverse can be, we must simultaneously address the associated security, privacy, and reliability concerns. For the Metaverse to ascend, it must be continuously designed and shaped by solutions that are both seamless and secure.

Removing complexity with visibility and automation will help tremendously, as will protecting apps, data, and individuals with AI, machine learning, and thoughtful security policies. As the Metaverse develops, our security toolkit must keep pace with both familiar and unknown threats as they manifest in this new digital world.

We have many of the fundamental technologies and best practices today. Now it’s up to organizations and the security industry to apply and contextualize them for a new era.

Learn more about these and related topics in the findings of our YouGov survey of IT decision makers.