Stealing NFTs? According to the mysterious “Banksy of NFT” it is possible
Under the pseudonym Monsieur Personne (“Mr. Nobody”), the artist tried to dampen the hype around Crypto Mania by raising thorny questions about NFT encoding, possible copyright violations, and the resulting damage to artists and collectors.
With the “NFThief” project, Personne would find a way to reproduce the NFTs produced by crypto artists, acquiring ownership of them.
This process is called “Sleep minting” and consists of a crypto counterfeiting operation that allows NFTs in artists’ wallets to be minted and their authorship to be transferred without them noticing.
How is this possible?
This would happen, again according to the “Banksy of NFTs,” due to a structural flaw in SMART CONTRACTs, which would cause transactions to appear legitimate on the Blockchain, exactly as if the artist had made them, but unknowingly.
“An artist can be forced to unconsciously assert authorship on the Ethereum Blockchain just as a sleepwalking disorder can force someone to dance out of their bedroom while in a deep sleep” – Personne argues.
To prove his point, on April 4 Personne created an alleged “second edition” of Beeple’s work “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days” sold for $69.3 million at Christie’s and purchased by collector Metakovan pseudonym Vignesh Sundaresan.
Personne later claimed to have given the counterfeit NFT (identified as Token ID 40914) to a user with the nickname Arsenio Lupin who in turn offered it for sale on Rarible and Opensea, two of the largest NFT marketplaces, which then blocked the transaction.
Monsieur Personne doesn’t want to sabotage the NFT market and question the potential of blockchain technology: his intent is to shed light on alleged technological flaws to show how they can be fixed. Personne believes from his perspective that the main security and vulnerability issues of smart contracts have been ignored to make way for the crypto gold rush.
We recall that NFTs are at the basis of the development of a new digital economy based on Blockchain and the so-called SMART CONTRACTs, i.e. digital “smart contracts”, through which the work is digitally signed by the artist, offering collectors the guarantee of its authenticity and origin.
Being aware of the critical issues that the crypto & NFT system, which is still poorly regulated and standardized, can present is critical during this initial frenzy.
On the other hand, even without Personne’s intervention, market participants would still have found out through channels other than the Blockchain if Beeple had actually coined a second edition of “Everydays.”
However, if malicious parties with advanced knowledge of the technologies presumably begin to exploit the vulnerabilities found by Personne in the ERC721 contracts, the NFT market could fall into a forgery crisis, just as is happening in the physical art market – for which there has been no shortage of research over the years showing that up to 50% of the art that comes to market is fake or misattributed.
Incidentally, Personne himself claims that 80% of the NFTs on the market are invalid and must be recreated because of their vulnerability to sleep minting.
It is a difficult estimate to confirm: however, the financial risks that the entire NFT system – and not only the art system – would face are so high that the major players have to clarify and resolve all the issues to protect artists, collectors and professionals.
And you, are you ready to discover the Banksy of NFT?