The Platform


The Metaverse is a 3D platform that utilizes artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and augmented reality. The U.S. government and its intelligence agencies need to understand the full military significance of this emerging virtual platform and what it can provide as other countries, including China, are looking at it for various global commerce and military applications.

A November panel discussion held by the United Nations was just released which just skims the surface of this topic. Many issues have yet to be understood, let alone totally resolved.

A video from the discussion was not terribly enlightening as to safeguarding the Metaverse from bad actors. I think time would have been better spent watching Die Hard 4: Live Free Or Die Hard to see how a coordinated cyber-attack on pipelines or overloading the power grid could paralyze the United States. John McClane wouldn’t be there to save us.

The supposed “experts” largely did not impress me with their shallow insights. Let us first declare this: there are no experts in this largely misunderstood area which is being further accelerated by major players. Both governments and the private sector are developing new applications on almost a daily basis.

The best you can be at this point is a good student, always learning. Many people are already claiming to be “experts” in this field which is laughable. If they were experts, we would not already be seeing billion-dollar criminal schemes being carried out. Breaches in security in tech-platformed areas, like cryptocurrencies, which were originally hyped as being “super secure” due to blockchain technology, have already occurred and have led to significant damage. The latest is the collapse of FTX.

More cynicism is needed when assessing new Metaverse applications and their security because those companies who claim to have “best practices” embedded in their products need to be questioned as to how current those practices are. When it comes to fast-moving technology, many of those technologies could be obsolete tomorrow.

It is a foregone conclusion that the Metaverse will be impacted by crime and will have just as much, if not more, criminal presence as the current cryptocurrency markets. In 2021 alone. the amount of cryptocurrency-based crime was over $14 billion. $14 billion could be a lowball figure because there are many variables which happen in the shadows with crypto transactions and not every crime has been reported, or for that matter, even uncovered. The utter collapse of FTX added even more concern within global financial markets: inadequate safeguards can create immediate shortfalls and losses into the multi-billion-dollar range.

Mixing cryptocurrency markets with the Metaverse could create a perfect target of opportunity for those involved in asymmetric warfare looking to destabilize a government or the global economy without engaging in the traditional logistics and expenditures of resources and personnel necessary in traditional warfare to achieve the same effect.

With new areas for criminal opportunities, including the selling of digital real estate and NFTs, the Metaverse is a rich target environment for fraud, deception, and the stealing of real assets which were converted into digital assets. In addition, the Metaverse will offer targets of opportunity for those involved in asymmetric warfare by giving them the capabilities to refine terrorist attacks if proper safeguards are not put in place and rigorously enforced. By having a virtual representation of a city, just imagine the type of precision that can be achieved in planning, rehearsing, and refining a terrorist attack on a specific target or a level of transportation infrastructures like an airport, train station, or even a bus route.

In addition to criminal applications in cryptocurrencies, terrorist activities which are the foundation for asymmetric warfare including recruiting and training personnel, funding, managing espionage operations, and waging specialized surprise attacks seem to be another real possibility within the Metaverse. They are being quietly reviewed and researched, not only by the Chinese but by other adversaries as well as allies.

The United States needs to be prepared in this new virtual space as it matures and develops into more than what many may have first perceived as its applications for 21st-century society.

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.