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As the Metaverse gains in popularity, it’s going to become the Wild Wild West of cybercrime.

There is so much hype about getting society into the Metaverse to utilize countless new virtual 3D applications like buying and selling digital real estate and collecting and trading unique NFTs (non-fungible tokens), but no one is highlighting the obvious downsides. The ‘Crimaverse’ will be the dark side of the Metaverse where all the counterfeit scams, ransomware, fraud, money laundering, and other chicanery and virtual crimes will await naïve investors, virtual inhabitants, and visitors.

The Metaverse will be impacted by crime and will have just as much, if not more, criminal presence as the current cryptocurrency markets. The amount of cryptocurrency-based crime was over $14 billion in 2021. $14 billion could be a lowball figure because there are many variables that happen in the shadows with crypto transactions and not every crime has been reported, or for that matter, even uncovered.

The promoters of the Metaverse keep pointing to the safety and security of the “blockchain technology,” but that is not the end-all in guaranteeing security and clean transactions.

In fact, blockchain technology did not keep criminals out of the cryptocurrency markets. They were still able to maneuver and circumvent what was thought to be a secure transaction environment to create some successful scams which created a multi-billion-dollar criminal industry within the cryptocurrency market. And, instead of being stopped, the amount of crime has increased.

First of all, there are no legal frameworks or strict regulations to be adhered to at this point. There is also no government or regulatory oversight. Regulations and safeguard parameters have yet to be fully addressed and developed as well.

Secondly, with a projected value of digital commerce in the area of trillions of dollars in the Metaverse by 2030, you can be assured that criminals will be looking at how to establish scams and commit fraud.

Third, criminals go where the money is. And those selling virtual NFT investments pointing to “blockchain technology” as some universal silver bullet for safeguards against these cyber villains, do not appreciate the ingenuity of criminals to work in some other con which may not overcome the blockchain security directly, but nonetheless, will develop a way to abscond with the value of the NFT from its rightful owner.

No one can guarantee the virtual world of the Metaverse will not be susceptible to intrusions of various types of cybercrimes and cyberscams. If they are at this point, they are just blowing smoke because much of the Metaverse is still vaporware.

Forget the promised security of blockchain technology and other virtual safeguards. If there is money involved, crime follows, and crime will work its way into the Metaverse just as it did in the cryptocurrency markets with a myriad of phony coin offerings, money laundering, counterfeit digital wallets, and other deceptions.

In August 2015, a cybersecurity concept was introduced to improve effectiveness in electronic warfare. It parallels the concept of aerial superiority in traditional warfare and was called global net superiority. It was further discussed in an article for the American Intelligence Journal in 2017 that focused on cyber threats in electronic warfare.

The article, “Nanokrieg: Attaining Global Net Superiority,” analyzed the current protection of cybersecurity software which was at a 90% level of effectiveness. In creating global net superiority, the software would try to attain a higher percentage of effectiveness as close as it could get to 100%. That concept should have been attained by now, but because of so many side issues, we are still at about 90% effectiveness in stopping various types of cyberthreats. So, security on any platform, including the Metaverse, has a large enough hole to allow many types of cyberthreats through to establish the Crimaverse.

With big-ticket items like digital real estate and NFTs ranging from unique artwork to anything else that can be monetized and traded in a blockchain environment, the possibilities for fraud and deception are endless. Additionally, rogue governments and terrorist organizations may look to the Metaverse to create chaos or create ransomware on NFTs or some other type of crime that has yet to be created.

You may buy a parcel of digital real estate or a unique NFT representing some artwork or music with the correct blockchain identification, but what if you store it in something that is not 100% protected? Or, what if you store this “unique and irreplaceable” item in a digital wallet that has been counterfeited or somehow has duplicate keys that can be shared by someone else? Other problems can occur and unless they have been fully addressed in a framework of regulations and safeguards, your item’s value might vanish into thin air.

What types of crime will the Crimaverse include? It depends on how creative the criminals are. There will be a learning curve as far as what will work. Once, the new crime happens, the next issue will be, was there an in-place safeguard for that crime or does it have to be developed?

Spontaneous speculation or a fast increase in value or decrease in value could create a rush to buy or sell a valid NFT with no one knowing the outcome of the run except the entity that initiates it. This type of run happens in the stock market, why wouldn’t it happen in the Metaverse? A property or other NFT looks like it is skyrocketing in value and there is a rush to buy it. If the example is digital real estate, people pay big money for adjacent properties just to find out it was a scam to develop a property which was never intended to be developed.

Will there be any safeguards against hyper-volatility like this, as they have in the stock market by stopping trading, or will it go unchecked? These are the types of questions that need to be answered before saying, “Crime does not pay in the Metaverse.”

James Carlini is a strategist for mission critical networks, technology, and intelligent infrastructure. Since 1986, he has been president of Carlini and Associates. Besides being an author, keynote speaker, and strategic consultant on large mission critical networks including the planning and design for the Chicago 911 center, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading floor networks, and the international network for GLOBEX, he has served as an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University.