The metaverse is fashionable, and many projects are spreading, promising community-based virtual worlds where everyone can find each other. But could these new uses be accompanied by a specific crime? This is the hypothesis developed by some cybersecurity experts.
The coming rise of the “darkverse”?
The computer security company Trend Micro recently published a report on the subject. It details the potential security risks of the metaverse, which remains a relatively new field. According to the company, the virtual worlds of Web3 could have their own illegal counterpart, dubbed the “darkverse” for the occasion.
The darkverse could be used to offer illegal marketplaces, but also for other uses not related to crime:
“This space could also be used to promote freedom of expression in the face of oppressive entities or governments.”
If the darkverse sees the emergence of illegal digital venues, access could require identification tokens, probably in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). This would then pose a problem for law enforcement, who would have no way to enter. Another hypothesis to limit access: users could potentially only enter such places if they are physically present in a certain area.
As we can see, the potential risks raised by the report are not really different from those that already exist with the darknet. The presence of “pseudo-physical” users does not fundamentally change the way this type of network works, as the addition of an avatar is in itself only a means of interacting in a different way with these virtual worlds.
Of course, these are only projections, and it is difficult to estimate at this stage if criminals will take advantage of these new tools or not, and what the real extent of the thing would be.
As a reminder, the dark web is a part of the web not indexed by conventional search engines, which is only accessible using specific protocols. These networks are often mediatized for the illegal content and services they can offer, including platforms for the sale of drugs such as the defunct Silk Road.
According to Trend Micro’s report, these practices could extend to the metaverse, creating a darkverse:
“In some ways, [the darkverse] is more dangerous than the dark Web, because of the pseudo-physical presence of users. It mimics clandestine physical meetings, in contrast to the open threads on the dark Web’s criminal forums.”
Other risks of the metaverse
The report is more concrete, however, when it talks about the generic risks associated with the metaverse. For example, it points to money laundering related to digital properties offered in the form of NFTs. This is already a practice assumed by a part of the community, as non-fungible tokens can reach colossal prices.
Moreover, privacy issues are also raised. The actions of metaverse users can indeed theoretically be monitored by the operators of virtual worlds, which could give them great indirect power. The “real” movements of users of helmets or other connected objects could also be monitored. This collected data could then be used for social engineering attacks. Not to mention the ethical issues this may raise.
The report also points to the use of deep fakes, which are increasingly present and could find a place of choice in the metaverse. The blurred line between real and virtual could facilitate certain practices.
Like any new technological sector, the evolution of the metaverse will necessarily be accompanied by problems to be solved:
“We expect that there will be many problems to solve in order for the metaverse to become a reality. No company has the means to build the metaverse alone.”
The media treatment of a possible “darkverse” should in any case follow the codes established with the current darknet. It will therefore be necessary to discern what reveals FUD and what really poses a problem for users.