In the early 2000s, Web 2.0 ushered in a new era of user-generated content with interactive websites and web applications. Data breaches, input validation attacks and social engineering defined the cybersecurity risk landscape of Web 2.0.
With advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning accelerating at a breathtaking pace, the transition to Web 3.0 is on the horizon. But what exactly can you expect from this next version of the internet and what are some key Web 3.0 cybersecurity characteristics? This article answers both questions.
The classic definition of Web 3.0 is a version of the internet in which all web data is machine-readable. Each web page has semantic metadata that describes to computers the meaning of the page’s elements.
Through semantic metadata, the web operates as an enormous, connected database. Search queries leverage this machine readability to provide far more accurate and contextually aware search results.
In Web 2.0, search engines base the results they serve to users on keywords found in web content without much understanding of context. A deeper understanding of every page on the internet allows for better information analysis and exchange. Think of a version of Alexa that uses all information on the internet to answer a question rather than simply rehashing the first paragraph from Wikipedia and you get an idea of Web 3.0’s potential.
As time went on and decentralization through blockchain technology became more widespread, the definition of Web 3.0 expanded to incorporate this. Now, in addition to being machine-readable, a core tenet of the new vision of the internet is distributed networking.
Currently, platforms like Twitter, Google, YouTube and Facebook act as centralized gatekeepers controlling access to internet services and content through their servers and databases. In Web 3.0, sites and apps run on public blockchains, which means users can add and control their own content without the need for a centralized gatekeeper.
Decentralization in particular promises greater individual control and privacy over data. Here are a few Web 3.0 cybersecurity features and challenges to think about.
Countless data breach scandals defined the era of Web 2.0. People lacked control over what organizations were doing with the information they collected. Data harvesting became a real issue, and the data centers owned by popular platforms became veritable treasure troves of sensitive information found all over the web. Scandals such as Cambridge Analytica showed the extent to which people lost control over information about them online.
Since centralized systems evidently don’t keep data safe or protect privacy, a new approach is needed. Web 3.0 is an identity-native ecosystem of distributed applications in which users own their data and content. Users can authorize access to their data anonymously with smart contracts and defend against privacy risks.
In addition, web applications can determine the privileges to grant to users or their eligibility to participate based on reputation metrics tied to their digital identities. With less reliance on centralized gatekeepers of information, such as big tech companies, there should be fewer high-profile data privacy breaches in a Web 3.0 world.
Zero trust is a security paradigm attracting a lot of attention in the information security world. Even at the Federal level of the U.S. government, all agencies now need to meet specific zero trust network requirements by 2024. The idea of zero trust is to treat everything on a network as untrusted by default.
From a Web 3.0 perspective, decentralization shifts the internet in alignment with something resembling a zero trust security model. In the era of Web 2.0, users trusted the companies that owned the websites and platforms they interacted with online. Instead of data passing through intermediaries that users trust, Web 3.0 is trustless because data flows peer-to-peer in decentralized applications (dApps).
The coming internet evolution also carries a high likelihood of introducing Web 3.0 cybersecurity risks. Where there are new ways of doing things, there are opportunistic threat actors looking to exploit any weaknesses they find.
The vast library of integrated and interlinked metadata in a Web 3.0 world poses potentially more dangerous channels through which spam attacks can proliferate. With websites, search engines and applications using the entire internet’s resources as databases to serve responses to users, adversaries can target, exploit and pollute specific resources to distribute spam.
Since blockchain technology underpins Web 3.0, records contained on the blockchain are tamper-proof. But this tamper-proof data isn’t immune from being compromised. Phishing attacks on Web 3.0 will see malicious threat actors impersonating legitimate third parties in an attempt to harvest confidential information about individuals or businesses. Other social engineering attacks will attempt to exploit authentication mechanisms to access user data.
A big change with Web 3.0 is the proposed use of self-sovereign identity to provide a globally portable set of credentials, claims and permissions for individuals interacting with websites, other users and web apps. This identity is blockchain-based and enables people to control the aspects of their identity that they share depending on the parties with whom they wish to interact.
A 2022 European report indicated some identity risks associated with the implementation of a self-sovereign identity infrastructure. For example, hackers could piece together sensitive information about a person from the same identifier being used for a particular user in all their interactions with a specific website or app. Insecure authentication mechanisms could even create identity theft risks.
Security needs to be baked in from the outset of Web 3.0’s design and functionality if this next internet evolution is to succeed without introducing a bevy of new cybersecurity threats to users and businesses alike.
With personal data stored at the edge, on the devices people use to interact with applications, there’s an even greater need for adequate protection of endpoints and networks through detection and response capabilities.
Contact Nuspire to start preparing for the future of the internet today.