The Metaverse. If you follow tech, you’ve probably seen this term tossed around. Indeed, the Metaverse has emerged as one of the hottest buzzwords in recent months and tech giant Facebook went so far as to rebrand itself as “Meta.” So what is the Metaverse, and what opportunities and risks might it offer businesses? Let’s take a look.
The Metaverse was first coined in the classic cyberpunk novel “Snow Crash.” Published in the early 1990s, the book envisioned an online world where people could live, work, and play via avatars. You could buy property, go on dates, and engage in many other activities within the Metaverse itself.
Essentially, the Metaverse is a parallel reality where people can lead digital lives. The Internet has shrunk our physical world and many people spend hours upon hours online each day. Still, web users remain grounded in the real world and the web is still a mostly 2-D experience displayed on a screen. The Metaverse will start to break down the barriers between digital and physical worlds.
Ultimately, the Metaverse may revolutionize how we live both our physical and digital lives. Shopping, meeting people, and going on adventures, among many other things, may be easier within the Metaverse. Yet just as unscrupulous people currently use the Internet to engage in illicit activities, the Metaverse may also provide criminals with opportunities.
The Metaverse Offers Promise and Dangers Too
Right off the bat, it’s important to note that the Metaverse will present both opportunities and risks. And if it’s as revolutionary as many thought-leaders think it will be, it could revolutionize the way people shop and live. Even if the Metaverse falls short of the highest expectations, it’ll almost certainly prove disruptive. To understand the potential of the Metaverse, it’s helpful to consider the Internet and the change it brought.
The Internet revolutionized retail. Head back to the 1980s and shopping malls dominated retail. Now? Many malls are struggling simply to keep the lights on as online retailers and big box stores dominate the market. The web also changed how we watch movies, meet people, study, conduct research, manage businesses, and more. The Metaverse may disrupt all the above (and more) as well.
Many people still prefer to try clothing on before buying it to make sure that it fits and looks good. In the future, customers may be able to use avatars that match their body size and shape exactly. They could then “try on” digital clothing, which itself would exactly match real-world counterparts. This way, physical shopping malls are no longer needed.
Likewise, if you want to schedule a meeting, you’ll probably either use a program like Zoom or reserve a physical conference room. In the future, digital conference rooms where avatars can gather may become the norm.
However, while the Internet revolutionized the global economy, it also created opportunities for criminals to engage in illicit activities. The same may prove true for the Metaverse. While it might provide convenience and opportunities for businesses and customers alike, the Metaverse could also enable criminals.
The Metaverse Will Enable Meta Crime
Where ever there’s money or valuable assets, criminals won’t be far behind. This will almost certainly prove true with the Metaverse. Quite likely, hackers and other criminals will find security gaps they can exploit and other meta opportunities.
Many Meta assets could prove valuable in and of themselves. NFTs have made a lot of noise in recent month. Essentially, NFTs are unique digital assets that are typically created on a blockchain. An artist may create a piece of digital art, for example. Then an NFT could be generated, essentially creating a master or original copy of the digital art.
In the real world, we can create very convincing copies of artwork but the original piece will always be far more valuable than the copes. The same may prove true in the digital world, with NFTs potentially becoming very valuable. Some hackers and criminals are already working to steal NFTs just as art thieves might try to rob a museum or private collection.
Traditional Crime Could Also Be a Meta Problem
The Metaverse will also create opportunities for more traditional types of fraud, such as chargebacks. With a chargeback, a bank can claw back money sent to a merchant via a credit or debit card. Vitally, banks don’t need permission from the merchant to reverse a payment.
Chargebacks are meant to protect cardholders from fraud and unauthorized purchases. In practice, however, many fraudsters use them to rip off merchants. For example, a legitimate cardholder can purchase something from an online merchant. Then, once the goods are delivered, the cardholder can file and chargeback, lying and claiming that the order never arrived.
Customers shopping at a digital store in the Metaverse may use similar tactics. They could try on digital clothing, find that it fits and looks good, and then make a purchase. However, a few weeks later, they might claim that they never authorized the purchase or the goods never arrived. Then, they can file a chargeback, potentially absconding with the merchant’s money.
Criminals may also try to take over accounts to then make unauthorized purchases and to engage in other criminal activities. Account takeover is already a serious risk for online shoppers and merchants. In the Metaverse, criminals might hijack avatars. Account takeovers can result in security breaches, Metaverse chargebacks, theft, and more.
Some businesses and individuals may decide to skip the Metaverse altogether. Why put up with all the risks? However, it’s important to consider that many also viewed the Internet warily and were slow to tap into opportunities. Those companies that aggressively took advantage of the web, like Amazon, have found a lot of success. Meanwhile, flat-to-foot companies, like Blockbuster, were quickly overtaken by more technologically savvy companies like Netflix.
Thus, while the Metaverse may present risks, failing to adapt and adopt may present even graver dangers.
This article was contributed by ChargebackHelp.com