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The Dark Side of Metaverse, Cryptocurrency & NFTs

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The Dark Side of Metaverse, Cryptocurrency & NFTs

Digital ponzi schemes promise high financial returns by exploiting breaches in the metaverse, cryptocurrency and NFTs.

Organisations that engage in a ponzi scheme focus all of their energy into attracting new customers to make investments.

Due to the lack of regulation in new technologies, fraudulent arrangements are premised on using new investors’ funds to pay the earlier backers.

Criminals are now using the metaverse, cryptocurrency and NFTs to scam investors.

What is a Ponzi Scheme?

A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investing scam promising high rates of return with little risk to investors. A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investing scam which generates returns for earlier investors with money taken from later investors. This is similar to a pyramid scheme in that both are based on using new investors’ funds to pay the earlier backers.

Ponzi schemes rely on a constant flow of new investments to continue to provide returns to older investors. When this flow runs out, the scheme falls apart.

Anatomy_of_a_Ponzi_Scheme.png

The term “Ponzi Scheme” was coined after a swindler named Charles Ponzi in 1920. However, the first recorded instances of this sort of investment scam can be traced back to the mid-to-late 1800s, and were orchestrated by Adele Spitzeder in Germany and Sarah Howe in the United States. In fact, the methods of what came to be known as the Ponzi Scheme were described in two separate novels written by Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit, published in 1844 and Little Dorrit in 1857.

In 2008, Bernard Madoff was convicted of running a Ponzi scheme that falsified trading reports to show a client was earning a profit on investments that didn’t exist.

How to Spot A Digital Ponzi Scheme

The_Ponzi_Pyramid.jpeg

Regardless of the technology used in a digital Ponzi scheme, most share similar characteristics: 

  1. A guaranteed promise of high returns with little risk
  2. A consistent flow of returns regardless of market conditions
  3. Investments that have not been registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
  4. Investment strategies that are secret or described as too complex to explain
  5. Clients not allowed to view official paperwork for their investment
  6. The investment opportunity seems too good to be true 
  7. Customers facing difficulties removing their money

The Dark Side of the Metaverse

Harassment, assaults, bullying and hate speech already run rampant in virtual reality games, which are part of the metaverse.

Most of metaverse’s envisioned activity will have a financial aspect, and much of it will be unburdened by today’s technological, regulatory, legal and even logical/ethical constraints, opening the doors wide to an army of fraudsters, large and small crime cartels, and cyber criminals, thieves, spies, blackmailers, and every vice in between. Both legit players and every type of criminal under the sun is sure to try to exploit the obvious benefits of anonymity coupled with the luxury of enhanced presence and access, enabling crooks to cast their malign nets far and wide in search for victims – the naïve, uninitiated, old, and impressionable.

The_Metaverse_Ecosystem.png


Criminals will surely flock to the metaverse
, since it promises to be a rich source of potential recruits, operational capabilities and funds. The metaverse will expand the reach and impact of online recruiters, help them to fine-tune their message to optimise impact and help them press with accuracy every button in their targets’ psyche.

State-sponsored and commercial intelligence outfits, including North Korea, and, of course, Meta, Amazon and Google, are already investing time and resources to learn about and probe the operational limits of the upcoming interface between reality and virtuality to collect more information about everyone and everything.

The Dark Side of Cryptocurrency

Scammers exploit the fact that so many people are still fairly unfamiliar with cryptocurrency aside from its supposed “get rich quick” potential. 

Crypto_Scams.png

Chainalysis reports that a single Ponzi scheme based in China by itself brought in at least $2 billion last year, which would make it one of the biggest ever. PlusToken was a cryptocurrency wallet service that promised users high returns if they used Bitcoin or Ethereum to buy the fake company’s own token, called Plus. An elaborate marketing campaign convinced more than three million people—the majority of whom were in China, Korea, and Japan—to invest by reaching them through the popular messaging platform WeChat, holding in-person meetups, and posting ads in supermarkets. 

In June 2020, Chinese authorities arrested six people alleged to have been behind the scam, but it appears that at least one still hasn’t been caught, since someone has continued to launder the funds and even cash some of them out.

The Dark Side of NFTS

To buy your first NFT, you’ll need to sign up for a wallet that transacts on the Ethereum blockchain. MetaMask is perhaps the most popular Ethereum wallet for NFT collectors. However, MetaMask users were recently targeted in a phishing scam involving phoney advertisements that asked for users’ private wallet keys or 12-word security seed phrases (a big red flag). There are also fake malicious pop-ups operating via Discord, Telegram and other public forums that link to normal-looking login pages, such as MetaMask or other popular websites.

Gameover_for_Crypto.png

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have exploded into a multibillion-dollar sector of the crypto industry in the last 12 months alone. Top collector’s items, such as rare pieces from the Cool Cats and Bored Ape Yacht Club collections, trade for upwards of $30,000 or more.

If five- and six-figure price tags seem like a lot for a JPEG, NFT creators have a one-word answer for you: utility. Because NFTs create an indelible digital record of your ownership on the blockchain (aka the same tech on which crypto is minted), owning a digitally tokenized piece of art can also serve as your membership ticket to exclusive online clubs, gaming communities, Discord chat rooms and interactive experiences.

Conclusion

Regulation is needed to protect the reputation of the metaverse, cryptocurrency and NFTs markets. 

It also protects investors from fraud, ensuring fair competition and a level playing field. Good regulation is also good for the tech industry.

The metaverse, cryptocurrency and NFTs are still revolutionary. Patience is needed as these technologies have the potential to change the world forever. 

Given the rapid rate of technological change, professional financial advisors skilled in cryptocurrency, NFTs and the metaverse are required. That way, investors can understand technological, financial and cybersecurity risks to make informed decisions.


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TECHNOLOGY

Next-gen chips, Amazon Q, and speedy S3

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AWS re:Invent, which has been taking place from November 27 and runs to December 1, has had its usual plethora of announcements: a total of 21 at time of print.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the huge potential impact of generative AI – ChatGPT officially turns one year old today – a lot of focus has been on the AI side for AWS’ announcements, including a major partnership inked with NVIDIA across infrastructure, software, and services.

Yet there has been plenty more announced at the Las Vegas jamboree besides. Here, CloudTech rounds up the best of the rest:

Next-generation chips

This was the other major AI-focused announcement at re:Invent: the launch of two new chips, AWS Graviton4 and AWS Trainium2, for training and running AI and machine learning (ML) models, among other customer workloads. Graviton4 shapes up against its predecessor with 30% better compute performance, 50% more cores and 75% more memory bandwidth, while Trainium2 delivers up to four times faster training than before and will be able to be deployed in EC2 UltraClusters of up to 100,000 chips.

The EC2 UltraClusters are designed to ‘deliver the highest performance, most energy efficient AI model training infrastructure in the cloud’, as AWS puts it. With it, customers will be able to train large language models in ‘a fraction of the time’, as well as double energy efficiency.

As ever, AWS offers customers who are already utilising these tools. Databricks, Epic and SAP are among the companies cited as using the new AWS-designed chips.

Zero-ETL integrations

AWS announced new Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL, Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon Relational Database Services (Amazon RDS) for MySQL integrations with Amazon Redshift, AWS’ cloud data warehouse. The zero-ETL integrations – eliminating the need to build ETL (extract, transform, load) data pipelines – make it easier to connect and analyse transactional data across various relational and non-relational databases in Amazon Redshift.

A simple example of how zero-ETL functions can be seen is in a hypothetical company which stores transactional data – time of transaction, items bought, where the transaction occurred – in a relational database, but use another analytics tool to analyse data in a non-relational database. To connect it all up, companies would previously have to construct ETL data pipelines which are a time and money sink.

The latest integrations “build on AWS’s zero-ETL foundation… so customers can quickly and easily connect all of their data, no matter where it lives,” the company said.

Amazon S3 Express One Zone

AWS announced the general availability of Amazon S3 Express One Zone, a new storage class purpose-built for customers’ most frequently-accessed data. Data access speed is up to 10 times faster and request costs up to 50% lower than standard S3. Companies can also opt to collocate their Amazon S3 Express One Zone data in the same availability zone as their compute resources.  

Companies and partners who are using Amazon S3 Express One Zone include ChaosSearch, Cloudera, and Pinterest.

Amazon Q

A new product, and an interesting pivot, again with generative AI at its core. Amazon Q was announced as a ‘new type of generative AI-powered assistant’ which can be tailored to a customer’s business. “Customers can get fast, relevant answers to pressing questions, generate content, and take actions – all informed by a customer’s information repositories, code, and enterprise systems,” AWS added. The service also can assist companies building on AWS, as well as companies using AWS applications for business intelligence, contact centres, and supply chain management.

Customers cited as early adopters include Accenture, BMW and Wunderkind.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

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TECHNOLOGY

HCLTech and Cisco create collaborative hybrid workplaces

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Digital comms specialist Cisco and global tech firm HCLTech have teamed up to launch Meeting-Rooms-as-a-Service (MRaaS).

Available on a subscription model, this solution modernises legacy meeting rooms and enables users to join meetings from any meeting solution provider using Webex devices.

The MRaaS solution helps enterprises simplify the design, implementation and maintenance of integrated meeting rooms, enabling seamless collaboration for their globally distributed hybrid workforces.

Rakshit Ghura, senior VP and Global head of digital workplace services, HCLTech, said: “MRaaS combines our consulting and managed services expertise with Cisco’s proficiency in Webex devices to change the way employees conceptualise, organise and interact in a collaborative environment for a modern hybrid work model.

“The common vision of our partnership is to elevate the collaboration experience at work and drive productivity through modern meeting rooms.”

Alexandra Zagury, VP of partner managed and as-a-Service Sales at Cisco, said: “Our partnership with HCLTech helps our clients transform their offices through cost-effective managed services that support the ongoing evolution of workspaces.

“As we reimagine the modern office, we are making it easier to support collaboration and productivity among workers, whether they are in the office or elsewhere.”

Cisco’s Webex collaboration devices harness the power of artificial intelligence to offer intuitive, seamless collaboration experiences, enabling meeting rooms with smart features such as meeting zones, intelligent people framing, optimised attendee audio and background noise removal, among others.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

Tags: Cisco, collaboration, HCLTech, Hybrid, meetings

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TECHNOLOGY

Canonical releases low-touch private cloud MicroCloud

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Canonical has announced the general availability of MicroCloud, a low-touch, open source cloud solution. MicroCloud is part of Canonical’s growing cloud infrastructure portfolio.

It is purpose-built for scalable clusters and edge deployments for all types of enterprises. It is designed with simplicity, security and automation in mind, minimising the time and effort to both deploy and maintain it. Conveniently, enterprise support for MicroCloud is offered as part of Canonical’s Ubuntu Pro subscription, with several support tiers available, and priced per node.

MicroClouds are optimised for repeatable and reliable remote deployments. A single command initiates the orchestration and clustering of various components with minimal involvement by the user, resulting in a fully functional cloud within minutes. This simplified deployment process significantly reduces the barrier to entry, putting a production-grade cloud at everyone’s fingertips.

Juan Manuel Ventura, head of architectures & technologies at Spindox, said: “Cloud computing is not only about technology, it’s the beating heart of any modern industrial transformation, driving agility and innovation. Our mission is to provide our customers with the most effective ways to innovate and bring value; having a complexity-free cloud infrastructure is one important piece of that puzzle. With MicroCloud, the focus shifts away from struggling with cloud operations to solving real business challenges” says

In addition to seamless deployment, MicroCloud prioritises security and ease of maintenance. All MicroCloud components are built with strict confinement for increased security, with over-the-air transactional updates that preserve data and roll back on errors automatically. Upgrades to newer versions are handled automatically and without downtime, with the mechanisms to hold or schedule them as needed.

With this approach, MicroCloud caters to both on-premise clouds but also edge deployments at remote locations, allowing organisations to use the same infrastructure primitives and services wherever they are needed. It is suitable for business-in-branch office locations or industrial use inside a factory, as well as distributed locations where the focus is on replicability and unattended operations.

Cedric Gegout, VP of product at Canonical, said: “As data becomes more distributed, the infrastructure has to follow. Cloud computing is now distributed, spanning across data centres, far and near edge computing appliances. MicroCloud is our answer to that.

“By packaging known infrastructure primitives in a portable and unattended way, we are delivering a simpler, more prescriptive cloud experience that makes zero-ops a reality for many Industries.“

MicroCloud’s lightweight architecture makes it usable on both commodity and high-end hardware, with several ways to further reduce its footprint depending on your workload needs. In addition to the standard Ubuntu Server or Desktop, MicroClouds can be run on Ubuntu Core – a lightweight OS optimised for the edge. With Ubuntu Core, MicroClouds are a perfect solution for far-edge locations with limited computing capabilities. Users can choose to run their workloads using Kubernetes or via system containers. System containers based on LXD behave similarly to traditional VMs but consume fewer resources while providing bare-metal performance.

Coupled with Canonical’s Ubuntu Pro + Support subscription, MicroCloud users can benefit from an enterprise-grade open source cloud solution that is fully supported and with better economics. An Ubuntu Pro subscription offers security maintenance for the broadest collection of open-source software available from a single vendor today. It covers over 30k packages with a consistent security maintenance commitment, and additional features such as kernel livepatch, systems management at scale, certified compliance and hardening profiles enabling easy adoption for enterprises. With per-node pricing and no hidden fees, customers can rest assured that their environment is secure and supported without the expensive price tag typically associated with cloud solutions.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

Tags: automation, Canonical, MicroCloud, private cloud

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