The European Commission (EC) is hosting its second public consultation on the 10th March to determine guidelines for a new EU metaverse policy – and experts believe cybersecurity should be at its forefront. 

The “Citizens Panel on Virtual World” consists of 150 EU citizens who will be discussing the potential pitfalls and opportunities of the ever-expanding metaverse industry. 

Research firm GlobalData defines the metaverse as a virtual world where users share experiences and interact in real time within simulated scenarios. The metaverse will make digital media experiences more immersive, inclusive and accessible than today. However, adoption of the metaverse raises several social concerns ranging from data privacy to other forms of online harm.

“The forthcoming policy on metaverses from the EC cannot afford to shy away from tackling cybersecurity,” Nick McKenzie, CISO of cybersecurity company Bugcrowd, told Verdict. 

“There is a general consensus around the principles by which the metaverse will operate – decentralised, interoperable, safe and trustworthy – despite the fact that the policy issues are yet to be clearly defined,” says McKenzie.

McKenzie believes that cybersecurity challenges like phishing and hacking will persist within the metaverse and could “expose vulnerabilities of VR headsets or avatars to misrepresentation or theft of sensitive information.”

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“Furthermore, criminals may buy and sell fake NFTs and malicious smart contracts,” McKenzie added. 

Laura Petrone, prinicipal analyst at GlobalData, believes the EU metaverse policy and other regulators will “increasingly focus on ensuring that metaverses are safe.”

Petrone told Verdict: “There is a real concern that these virtual worlds, which are an extension of social media and digital platforms, will face all the challenges that now plague these platforms, from data privacy issues, misinformation, and online harm to antitrust.”

The Citizens Panel on Virtual Worlds aims to create a set of guiding principles and actions for the further development of virtual worlds in the EU. 

“It will take the form of recommendations addressed to the EC to feed into an initiative on the topic,” an EU spokesperson said. 

The second session will be taking place this weekend (10-12 March) with the final third session taking place in Brussels on late next month (21-23 April).

“There is a big opportunity for the EC to play a key role in regulating the metaverse and setting the future agenda,” Petrone added.

GlobalData is the parent company of Verdict and its sister publications.