Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that his company was going to create a metaverse – a virtual world where people could interact with one another, free from the constraints of reality – seemed like the next huge step in the digital takeover of our daily lives. Depending on who you ask, it’s either an exciting prospect that will bring us all closer together as a global community or a terrifying, irreversible step in our gradual descent into a techno-dystopia where we have no control over our personal reality.
The outcome will probably be somewhere between these two extremes. The more technology we bring into our lives and homes, the more we open ourselves up to potential risks. Technology moves quickly and security measures are usually at least one or two steps behind. It often takes a data breach or other security failure for effective safeguards to be put in place.
It is a constant game of cat and mouse as tech developers try to keep hackers and other cybersecurity threats from accessing our personal data and other sensitive information. Let’s take a look at the past year and see how online security has improved in 2021.
The Zoom example
Zoom is a great example for demonstrating how developers often have to play catch-up as issues they didn’t even know they had are exploited for nefarious purposes. When Zoom suddenly became the most popular program for online communication, the company wasn’t prepared for all of the security issues that would be exposed.
During 2020-21, Zoom was the target of a massive hack that resulted in the theft of over 500,000 passwords, a version of its upload software was bundled with malware, there were issues with encryption, and ‘Zoom bombing’ became a phenomenon. The company has had to constantly update and patch its software to protect its users.
The main development in online security that this example provides is that it shows that with enough resources and a dedicated team, it is possible for a company to move nearly as fast as the threats they face. It has also shown that users are fairly loyal and understanding when a company makes it clear that they are working to fix any and all existing weaknesses.
Online casinos form part of another industry that has grown quickly in the last year. One drawback of this rise in popularity is that some shady operators have realized just how lucrative the market is and have set up scam casinos that make it impossible for players to actually access their winnings.
One security development is the crowdsourcing of security information. Users often have the best insight into how legitimate and secure an online casino is, so giving them platforms to review and rate how secure they feel is very helpful for others. Using a secure online casino such as this provides players with a sense of security that makes it possible to enjoy the games without worrying about your data or deposit being stolen.
NFTs – non-fungible tokens – have burst onto the scene and introduced the art world to a whole new approach to creating, displaying and owning art. If you’re not familiar with them, NFTs are one-of-a-kind digital art pieces that exist through blockchain technology, just like cryptocurrencies. Some NFTs, such as CryptoPunks, are tied to one cryptocurrency (Ethereum, in the case of CryptoPunks). Some of the most popular NFTs have sold for millions of dollars. Others have become popular with celebrities and become highly sought after by their fans.
Just like with any new technology, especially one that has attracted a lot of media attention and started generating a lot of money, NFTs have become a huge target of hackers. Already this year, we have seen stories about NFT wallets being hacked and art collections being stolen – one collector lost roughly $2.3m worth of NFTs. There is obviously a long way to go towards making crypto and NFT wallets more secure.
One development that has been made has been to close a vulnerability that allowed hackers to get into users’ wallets and steal their collections. Essentially, hackers were using gifted NFTs as a sort of Trojan horse – once the targeted user had accepted and interacted with the gifted NFT, the hackers were able to trick users into transferring the entire contents of their NFT wallets over. As soon as the vulnerability was detected by a security firm working with the OpenSea platform, they found a way to prevent it from happening.
These examples show that progress has been made in 2021 but it will be a constant process to outsmart and outmaneuver those people trying to use the internet to steal money and data.