The Platform

Unit 2 Games Limited

When it comes to electronic and digital warfare, we must also include studying and understanding the impact of the next “big thing” appearing on the horizon of social media platforms: the Metaverse.

As the Metaverse is introduced as a next-generation, 3D virtual platform, new tools and technologies will be developed to perform data analytics and other critical analysis on it. We need to be vigilant about what is put on the Metaverse and how it can be accessed as well as secured. Safeguards are critical.

In a recent article for the National League of Cities, the Metaverse was described as: “It’s an online space that digitally recreates the real world. For others, it is a shift in how people interact with their world, using technologies like 3D computing, augmented reality, virtual reality, and blockchain to form new immersive virtual world experiences.”

The Metaverse, which is still in the developmental stage, incorporates artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and other “augmented reality” software to create a whole new virtual platform for information gathering, interactive communications, and counterintelligence. This emerging platform already has some real applications which you may have heard of like virtual digital real estate and other new applications.

The question becomes, will it have the potential to be used for criminal or terrorist activity? Will it have adequate safeguards built in to protect all the applications which are being developed for it?

Social media platforms are used by hundreds of millions of people every day, but did you know they are also a huge source for intelligence gathering? There are many tools that can be used to collect and analyze data across all the major platforms including Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. These tools are used by both corporate as well as government and military entities to gather information on all sorts of data.

What happens if Metaverse information falls into the wrong hands?

As mentioned in my recent whitepaper, “Developing Skills for Open-Source Intelligence Operations,” the Metaverse could be a new source of both intelligence-gathering and terrorist activities.

Because it can also act as an exchange for cryptocurrencies and NFTs, it has the underpinnings of being another tool in the arsenal for asymmetric warfare performed by terrorist organizations. It could be used for ransomware demands as well as the plotting of violent attacks on a city’s destination points or transportation facilities.

Whenever you have the ability to access cryptocurrencies, there is a huge potential for cybercrimes. Blockchain technology was supposed to make transactions safe, but the “bad guys” figured out how to create schemes around that “security” and use it for ransomware and other criminal endeavors.

Since the beginning of cryptocurrencies being offered, there have been billions of dollars lost to fraud and other schemes to a point where the FBI is now actively monitoring activities from fraudulent mobile apps for ransomware with a special unit.

A good example of a positive application for the Metaverse would be to put on blueprints for buildings and have a lot of information regarding all the systems present in a building for maintenance operations and other types of property management. Some say it could be helpful in the building and managing of smart cities.

Another positive application was discussed by the National League of Cities in an article on monitoring bus routes and knowing exactly where a bus is at any given time. Getting the exact timetable for critical transportation infrastructure may not be as great an idea as someone thought it would be.

If terrorists can access information about building structures, vital city operations, or other municipal information, they could utilize it to rehearse their intended terrorist event in a virtual setting, until they actually execute it in the real world.

These are the types of issues and concerns which need to be thoroughly thought through before adding certain applications and sensitive information to the Metaverse.

Unfortunately, new 21st-century online capabilities require sophisticated 21st-century safeguards which in the past are usually not thought through or well-established until after the platforms come out to be used by the public.

As I observed in my whitepaper, all the work a city does to create an accurate virtual image of itself will also give terrorists a crystal-clear blueprint outlining its vulnerabilities and security soft points. They can then plot, plan, rehearse and refine a violent terrorist event in a virtual setting before ever initiating it in the real world.

Let’s not blindly provide a virtual training ground for terrorists with a powerful 3D platform offering capabilities which could potentially lead up to unintended consequences.

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.