Quantum Technology’s Impact on the Metaverse

Web 3.0, or the “metaverse” as the term has been coined, refers to online spaces that allow people to interact in a more immersive way through virtual reality, augmented reality, and video all within a digital universe. Whether it’s multiplayer gaming, virtual workspaces, or remote education, the metaverse is a collaborative space that operates with its own economy based on decentralized finance. Users can interact with one another no matter where they are in the real world by being able to virtually travel and share information in a synchronous environment across different realms. For further explanation, see CNBC story What is web3.

The promise of this decentralized wonderland and collaborative space will no doubt require vast computing power, bandwidth, and present new hardware, software, and integration challenges. And we can’t ignore the legal, security, and privacy risks likely to come from this unknown and unprecedented reality.

This future vision of the Internet is based on transparent digital ledgers, the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like blockchain. Cryptocurrencies, like much of the Internet, are secured by public key encryption (PKE), a technology first introduced 45 years ago and in danger of becoming obsolete in the not-so-distant future. According to NIST, once large-scale quantum computers are built, they will be able to break many of the public-key cryptosystems used to secure most of our digital world including passwords, user accounts, financial transactions, websites, etc. Consider the following: a conventional computer would need 300 trillion years to break RSA – the gold standard for PKE. A quantum computer can do it in 10 seconds!

For these reasons organizations around the world should be preparing for a multiyear post-quantum crypto (PQC) migration project. NIST plans to release its final PQC standard candidates in early 2022 but have warned another 5-15 years will be needed before full transition is completed. As we enter the dawn of the greatest cryptographic migration in history, quantum-resistant security methods are certain to be at the forefront of plans to safeguard the future Internet, whatever form it takes.

It’s very likely that the Metaverse or Web 3.0 will come to maturity in the quantum era, which most experts agree will be here by 2030 or sooner. The tremendous processing power of quantum computers will play a huge role in helping the Metaverse operate and fulfil its promise of a fully immersed, interactive, user experience – making the impossible, possible. And with unchecked quantum computing power, the Metaverse may be subject to manipulation and misuse. Regulation and advanced quantum security methods (PQC, QKD, QRNG) will be necessary to protect this digital realm and the privacy and security of its global citizens.

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