The YouTube accounts of senior Indian journalist Barkha Dutt and YouTube creator Tanmay Bhat, were recently hacked, denying them access to the content uploaded to their YouTube channels. The incidents occured after their accounts were breached by hackers. Addressing the issues and challenges with keeping accounts and content safe online, former Twitter India head Manish Maheshwari says that people should give decentralised apps (dApps) a fair chance. An element of the Web3 space, dApps are built on the blockchain and are claimed to offer complete ownership and independence for users around decisions for their content.
Blockchain-based dApps keep content on their platforms away from the control of a single authority, protecting them from censorship to a certain extent. Despite constant ups and downs in the crypto market, Web3 developers are releasing dApps across verticals such as gaming, social media, and finance.
In conversation with Gadgets 360, Maheshwari pointed out unlike traditional Web 2.0 platforms where data is stored centrally, Web3 platforms distribute the storage of data across multiple nodes via the blockchain, making the process of hacking accounts on dApps more challenging.
“The threat landscape changes significantly with Web3 platforms. Traditional Web3 platforms store data centrally and thus they become an enticing target for hackers. Web3 platforms have the potential to be safer, owing to the decentralisation and encryption at their core,” said the 46-year-old Twitter India head-turned-entrepreneur.
In the beginning of the week, journalist Barkha Dutt revealed to her 180,000 Instagram followers that the YouTube channel of her news venture Mojo was compromised by hackers. She revealed that the hackers erased 11,000 videos from the channel.
“Felt violated and cried a lot,” Dutt wrote on Instagram. The issue was flagged to the YouTube team and Dutt’s content was restored on Mojo’s YouTube channel — the entire process took two days.
In the same way, YouTuber Tanmay Bhat took to Twitter to reach out to Google and YouTube after his accounts on YouTube and Gmail were breached by malicious actors earlier this month. “2FA (two factor authentication) bypassed. Need help urgently,” the 35-year-old had tweeted at the time.
In Bhat’s case, the hackers streamed a YouTube live — which drew YouTube a lot of criticism from Bhat’s followers for not identifying this hack and tackling it timely.
While pitting dApps as a replacement for centralised platforms, Maheshwari explained how similar situations would have unfolded if accounts on decentralised apps fall prey to cyber criminals.
— Manish Maheshwari (@manishm) June 6, 2023
“If a YouTube-like channel existed on a decentralised platform, the hacking scenario would have unfolded differently. In the case of a decentralised platform, there is no single point of failure, which makes hacking more difficult. If a hacker tries to modify the content of a channel, they would have to take control of more than half of the nodes in the network to achieve consensus, which is practically unfeasible and economically prohibitive,” he noted.
As per a 2022 report from DappRadar, over 12,000 dApps are already up and running on multiple blockchains. The report had also highlighted that the growth of dApps registered a 1200 percent spike since 2018, when only around a 1,000 dApps existed.
Maheshwari currently heads Web3 app Fanory, that lets creators monetise their content. The platform allows creators to build an engaging community of ‘superfans’ while retaining ownership of their work. This effectively reduces the risks associated with their reliance on centralised platforms like YouTube or Instagram that sometimes mistakenly or under legal pressures, end up removing certain accounts from their platforms.
Web3 platforms flaunt their reliance on blockchain technology, that offers transparency and immutability in record-keeping, making it extremely difficult for unauthorised changes to be made unnoticed. “Web3 social networking platforms will introduce a paradigm shift in the way we think about online interactions and personal data. They will allow users to own and control their own data, rather than surrendering it to central platforms. This means that users decide who gets to access their data and under what circumstances, offering an unprecedented level of privacy and control. Additionally, token economies inherent in many Web3 platforms provide both incentivisation and penalty mechanisms, which encourage fair play and deter malicious activities,” Maheshwari added.
It is worth noting that hack attacks on dApps or their use to trick unsuspecting victims for financial gains of the scammers cannot be completely ruled out. In April, Binance listed 191 dApps on its Red Alarm list, warning that the named dApps could pose financial threats to unsuspecting members of the crypto community. Many of the dApps listed on the Red Alarm index have raised suspicions about offering fake tokens or high tax fees, raising the number of ways unsuspecting investors could lose their hard-earned investment capital.
“While decentralisation reduces the risk of such attacks, it’s not a magic bullet. Much depends on the specifics of how the platform is designed. A decentralised YouTube would need to have rigorous security measures in place, both at the blockchain level and at the user level, to mitigate such risks,” Maheshwari concluded.
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