Sam Crowther, a Newcastle-born hacker who began his career “breaking stuff” for the Defence Signals Directorate, is one of those who former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull supports in his fight against the rampant increase of bot-related crime, notably in NFT marketplaces.
Amid the frenzy in crypto markets, Mr. Crowther, the founder of Kasada, which raised $23 million in Series C funding in December of last year, has begun tracking NFT fraud.
Malcolm Turnbull Helps Newcastle
A non-fungible token is a bit of tradeable code tied to a digital item that may be sold or traded. Limited-edition NFTs have been released by brands around the world, which can either be used as tickets to events or collectibles in and of themselves.
Bots are known for buying up limited-edition sneakers, concert tickets, and other hot commodities, which scalpers then sell for a hefty profit on third-party sites thanks to Mr. Crowther’s expertise. There are thousands of bot attacks every day on price websites like those of Hyatt Hotels, the Sydney Opera House, and other significant corporations.
Limited edition NFTs can occasionally offer a 30% to 40% markup when sold again. “The margins on NFT drops are simply outrageous,” Mr Crowther said, adding that people who were using bots to pursue money from shoes have now switched to NFTs. Mr Crowther said he hoped to use his new investment to battle the dramatic spike in malicious bot activity, which has seen limited-edition NFTs from labels like Gucci and Adidas released.
advertising campaign hailed as “unbelievably gigantic”
Existing investors Ten Eleven Ventures, Main Sequence Ventures, Westpac’s venture capital arm Reinventure, Our Innovation Fund, and Malcolm Turnbull’s investment business Turnbull & Partners joined new investor StepStone Group (who just bought venture financing platform Greenspring Associates).
After seeing an advertisement from the Defence Signals Directorate before watching a Mission Impossible movie one afternoon, Mr Crowther said he discovered his interest in “breaking systems” at high school in Newcastle, NSW. He was on the verge of expulsion for hacking into confidential school computers.
“It was an awesome ad,” he added. “It was an epic ad.”
It was then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s goal to recruit and bring in young people with technical skills, therefore he pushed for the release of the DSD commercials. His ability to “break things” led Mr. Crowther to realise that he may be in high demand outside of the Australian government as well. He was employed by Macquarie Bank’s head of security for a period of time.
My job was to test the bank’s systems for flaws, he explained.
In-Q-Tel, the venture capital group funded by the FBI, invested $50,000 in Crowther to construct a bot-related prototype that would become the backbone of Kasada, which has subsequently raised a total of $39 million from investors.
All it takes is one person writing a piece of code which repeatedly does the same activities and then using it against us, he claims.