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Can NFTs be Faked, and What Did We Learn from Monsieur Personne?

coincodex.com 24 October 2021 10:17, UTC
Reading time: ~3 m

OP-ed disclaimer: This is an Op-ed article. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own. CoinCodex does not endorse nor support views, opinions or conclusions drawn in this post and we are not responsible or liable for any content, accuracy or quality within the article or for any damage or loss to be caused by and in connection to it.

By Mike Dickens, operations manager at Blockasset.co

The NFT market has been expanding since the start of 2021, with more and more projects engaging with it one way or another - in the same way many were eager to grab their piece of the DeFi pie in autumn 2020. 

According to the report by Nonfungible, the number of NFT buyers has increased by 38% in the first quarter, while the number of NFT sellers has increased by 25%, which shows that demand is exceeding supply. This data, however, excluded a few large platforms such as Rarible, Nifty gateway and NBA TopShot, so the actual numbers will be bigger. The industries where NFTs are seeing greatest adoption are collectibles (66%) art (14%), sports (7%), and metaverse (7%).

This dynamics shows the NFT market is on the rise. However, earlier this year a pseudonymous hacker Monsieur Personne made a point on non-fungible token security and uniqueness when he attempted to counterfeit the most expensive NFT created by Beeple ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’. In his own words, the idea was to “show you just how ludicrous the situation with the NFT hype is.” 

So is this point valid? How secure and unique are NFTs? Are there ways to tell an original non-fungible from a counterfeit one? Let us explore the hack closely and try to find answers together.

Looking into Personne’s hack

Did Personne really manage to counterfeit the NFT? Yes and no. The hacker created his own ERC-721 smart contract and designed it to mint an NFT that would have the same identifier as the one created by Beeple – 40,913. He also programmed his smart contract to transfer its minted NFT to the address of Beeple, and then send it back. This type of operation is very common on the DeFi market: you transfer your coins to a smart contract, and retrieve them to your wallet address after a certain period of time.

This operation made Beeple’s address the second in the NFT’s transaction history, which could be misleading to an inexperienced eye. However, an attentive user would go one step further to check the validity of the NFT.

Verifying NFT authenticity

It does not require much technical knowledge to identify a counterfeit NFT. Here I am going to explain how to tell a counterfeit NFT from its original NFT on the Ethereum blockchain. 

First, go to Etherescan and enter the smart contract address used to mint the NFT. Personne used this one.

The first thing to pay attention to is that the smart contract is not verified: verified smart contracts have a green tick next to them. Also, inside the smart contract, there’s an absolute cryptographic mess:

Let us now find the smart contract that Beeple used to mint his NFT. Go to Beeple’s profile on Etherscan. Find the profile summary, then click on the smart contract.

You can see the smart contract that Beeple used above. In the contract description, you will see that the contract is verified.

The contract name will be DigitalMediaCore. If you check out Beeple’s profile and the transactions section, you will see that this smart contract features as the issuer of his famous NFT.

This confirms that this NFT is the original one.

To cut it short, if you need to verify the authenticity of the NFT, check out the smart contract that is used to mint it. It should be a publicly sourced verified contract marked with a green tick. If the contract is illegible and looks like Monsieur Personne’s NFTheft contract, then it’s a good idea to invest your money in something else.

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