Metaverse, society and cybersecurity

(To Alessandro Rugolo)
13/06/22

For some time now I have been thinking of writing something about it. As I reflected, time passed and the web has now reached version 3. and soon it will pass to 4.0. 

Among the novelties of web 3.0 you can include everything that has to do with "Metaverse"

Some time ago Federica Maria Rita Livelli and Alberto Monici wrote a nice article ("The metaverse is now a reality, what challenges await us?") which I invite you to review if you can, before continuing reading.

In this short article, however, I will try to highlight problems that today have not yet been fully addressed and of which we rarely hear about, this is because I believe it is appropriate to increase awareness towards a "virtual world" which, however, has many implications for the world. real. 

It seems to me essential that society takes on time to study, analyze and if it is necessary to prevent or prohibit behaviors that could become problematic, to avoid finding themselves, as often happened, having to manage uncomfortable and not well-known situations. 

I begin with a question, as I often do, to which I will try to answer, if within my reach. Do not take it if there is no answer from me, but rather try to find one.

My first question is: must there be rules in the metaverse, for those who immerse themselves in it or for their avatars?

It may seem like a stupid question, the answer to which is trivial, but I don't think so. 

To demonstrate what I mean I will try to clarify the question. For example, in the metaverse can an avatar insult another avatar? Can you threaten him? Can he commit a theft? Can commit acts that are considered crimes in the real world, such as assault, rape, pedophilia?

As I already told you at the beginning, these may seem trivial questions with a logical or immediate answer, but perhaps this is not always the case.

Someone might answer me that it makes no sense to prohibit acts performed from avatar to avatar. It's not about people! Yet, avatars are chosen in the likeness of those who create them, they often have their features, their main psychological characteristics, they imitate their behavior ... 

But this is not reason enough, I am told from the wings. I agree.

But what about the fact that there is a real person behind an avatar? With his fears, his weaknesses, his instincts and above all a brain committed to processing what is happening around him, whether it is the real world or the virtual one in which his "other self", his avatar, is.

Now, suppose that a particularly fragile person in the real world suffers an attack on his avatar in the virtual world, and on his "re-entry into the real world" decides to commit suicide. 

Does someone have to answer for his death or was it a simple accident?

Some might say that these things don't happen, avatars perform well. For those who think so, I invite you to read this article, on an avatar kidnapping in the metaverse, committed against the avatar of a researcher who was studying human behavior in the virtual environment ... the positive thing is that the researcher does not she committed suicide, but this does not mean that this cannot happen to particularly fragile people.

But let's take another example: what happens if political propaganda is made in the metaverse the day before the elections? Is a crime committed? And if it is a crime, who commits it, the avatar or his human "double"? And in case the man behind the avatar doesn't exist, perhaps because it is an avatar produced by an artificial intelligence, then who is the possible culprit? The owner of the virtual platform? As I said earlier I don't have an answer. 

Another example: what if a disabled person, perhaps without legs due to an accident, finds it more interesting to remain attached to a console, with a helmet on, which allows him to live a "virtual life" in possession of both legs? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Honestly, I can't tell you, but is that what we want?

What if an avatar decides to sell their property, perhaps a digital artwork to another avatar? For the exchange he can use an electronic money which then the human being can change into real currency. None of you see the possibility of laundering dirty money? Am I the only one?

Let's move on to another, last example. What happens if you use the metaverse and therefore environments and avatars to carry out acts of espionage? Imagine how many possibilities for exchanging information there may be in addition to those already existing today.

If you think about it for a moment, we can find as many of similar situations as we want.

I tried to give simple examples of situations that could be considered to the limit, but I remind you that today there are few users of these virtual worlds for which there are few chances of accidents, but one day, at least according to investors, there will be many to use the metaverse, as today there are many who use social networks. 

This is why it is necessary to start thinking about which behaviors are allowed and which are not and to try to prevent potentially harmful effects for the individual and for society.

And we haven't talked about cyber risks yet!

The metaverse is a space created by man, in which man, through his avatar, will have the opportunity to move, live, perform acts of all kinds. Acts that will undoubtedly have implications both in the virtual world and in the real world. This is why it is important to understand what these interactions are and what are the possible risks for the individual and for society as a whole.

Think people think!

To learn more:

Researcher Says Her Avatar Was Raped on Meta's Metaverse Platform (businessinsider.com)

The Metaverse is now a reality: what challenges await us? - Online Defense

Cisco Talos Intelligence Group - Comprehensive Threat Intelligence: On the Radar: Securing Web 3.0, the Metaverse and beyond

e-privacy XXX - We suspend privacy (winstonsmith.org)

rheinmetal defense