An exhibition of works by the artist Bansky in Rome, Italy.
Samantha Zucchi | Inside photo | Mondadori portfolio via Getty Images
Street artist Banksy’s website briefly took users to an auction for a digital artwork that sold for more than $ 300,000. The problem? It wasn’t authentic.
A web page added to Banksy’s website on Tuesday featured an image with an avatar resembling one of the many popular NFT collectibles known as CryptoPunks.
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique crypto tokens designed to represent ownership of a rare digital item such as art or sports memorabilia. Sales of such digital assets have soared to record highs this year thanks to increased interest in cryptocurrencies and collectibles.
You can think of an NFT as a digital proof of ownership. Buyers of the tokens practically have a certificate of authenticity to confirm that they own the original item – but that does not grant them copyright, and the media can still be viewed by other internet users for free.
Anyone who clicked on Banksy’s NFT website on Tuesday was directed to a link to an auction for a collector’s item called the Great Redistribution of the Climate Change Disaster. The page was added to Banksy’s website on Tuesday morning and was later deleted, fueling speculation that the website may have been hacked.
A web page added to Banksy’s website on Tuesday linked to an NFT called “Great Redistribution of the Climate Change Disaster”.
The listing published on the OpenSea marketplace ended prematurely with the sale of NFT for 100 Ethereum tokens worth around 336,000 US dollars at the time.
Banksy’s Pest Control agency confirmed that the NFT was not created by the pseudonymous graffiti artist, but did not comment on whether the Banksy website was hacked.
“The artist Banksy did not create any NFT artwork,” Pest Control told CNBC in an email statement Tuesday. “All Banksy NFT auctions are in no form or form affiliated with the artist.”
Strangely enough, all of the money was later returned to the buyer, an anonymous man who goes by the pseudonym “Pranksy”.
“My ETH from the #Banksy #NFT purchase has just been returned to me, ethical hacker proves a point?” Pranksy tweeted on Tuesday.
“Just to add a comment for those who think this might have been some kind of ploy. I would never risk a future relationship with Banksy or any other artist by hiring someone to hack their website and then myself buy a #NFT what? an unusual day! “
The man had previously told the BBC that he had been brought to the attention of the NFT by an anonymous user on the Discord social chat app and that he suspected that person might have hacked Banksy’s website.
“It remains unclear whether this episode was the work of a hacker or perhaps a pre-planned work of art by Banksy himself,” said blockchain analytics provider Elliptic in a blog post on Tuesday.
Fraudsters take advantage of NFTs
Jake Moore, a cybersecurity specialist at internet security firm ESET, said NFTs are “still in their infancy,” which means they are “guaranteed to attract” cyber criminals and scammers.
“Buying from verified locations is critical, but unfortunately this advice is flawed once the authentic website is hacked,” Moore told CNBC. “Potential buyers should remain largely skeptical of NFTs at this early stage as they are easily exploited and always on the safe side.”
“Scammers are very good at manipulating people, and the makeup of NFTs can be even more abused due to the lack of a physical product or service,” added Moore.