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Buying Digital Art NFTs – Don’t Fall Victim to Scammers & Hackers

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What is an NFT?

An NFT (Non-Fungible Token) is a unique digital asset that is stored on the blockchain and controlled by software to ensure authenticity and ownership. Digital assets can be photos, videos, audio and other types of digital files. When someone buys an NFT, they are buying a digital asset that can be traded using blockchain technology. Most NFT transactions occur on marketplaces such as SuperRare and OpenSea.

Are Digital Art NFTs secure?

While blockchains are deemed to be highly trustworthy decentralized online ledgers, digital art collectors still need to proceed with caution. First, the very fact that digital art is digital makes it easy for works to be copied, shared and duplicated. Moreover, blockchains by themselves cannot recognize whether a work is authentic (or not). 

Consider this: some noname can copy a well-known work of art, tokenize it as an NFT, and sell it on OpenSea masquerading as the original artist. There is no way for a buyer to know the NFT is a forgery. Other challenges include fake NFT platforms or marketplaces that steal credit card information and viruses that target buyers’ and sellers’ digital wallets.

Just like in the traditional art world, the value of original digital artwork is far greater than unauthenticated works and collectors need to ensure they protect themselves and their investments, especially considering that digital art can reach millions of dollars in value.

So how can collectors ensure their digital art is authentic and secure? 

Currently, digital art buyers are left to rely on NFT creation platforms and marketplaces to ensure the authenticity of the works they are purchasing, and each of these providers have drastically different processes that are opaque to the real world with no independent verification. Furthermore, no one is verifying the security of the signing key used to create the NFT.  A poorly secured key can lead to mass forgeries in the future.  This state of affairs is actually far worse than what exists in the traditional art world today. 

So what can be done to improve the trustworthiness of NFTs?

This glaring gap in the NFT space needs to be addressed so that collectors can be confident about the art they are acquiring.  Sellers and marketplaces also have a vested interest in tackling this challenge so that the issues of fraud and hacking can be alleviated, while proving to buyers the integrity of the works they are selling. 

For collectors, one easy way to ensure the digital art they purchase is authentic and secure is to seek out works that have been verified by independent, trusted third parties. Essentially, this means the digital artworks possess a third party validation of the artists’ signing keys, clearly defining their Root of Provenance, where root refers to the origin and provenance to the ownership history of the art . Similar to using notaries to validate signatures on legal documents, Root of Provenance not only proves the ownership and security of artists’ NFT signing key, it also is backed by independent verification.

Wivity’s Root of Provenance Service 

One such validation and verification process is Wivity’s Root of Provenance service which provides ownership and security information on an NFT signing key. The service leverages and extends the private key security transparency system standardized by the SunSpec Alliance. The service is open to any NFT marketplace, arts organization, or individual artists. 

Wivity’s Root of Provenance is free for collectors.  Most NFT marketplace listings show the blockchain address of the NFT creator.  Collectors can copy this address and paste it into a verification website to view the signing key’s Root of Provenance.  Eventually marketplaces will embed Wivity Root of Provenance so verification information on each NFT is clearly displayed. Wivity Root of Provenance gives collectors peace of mind that the digital artworks they purchase are authentic and secure. You can see the service in action at the Chinese Cultural Center’s first NFT art auction Nov 3, 2021.