Axie Infinity NFT game reopens transactions months after $625 million theft

Ronin Bridge, the link that enables users to transfer funds to and from accounts in the “play to earn” Axie Infinity game, has reopened following a $625 million theft that took place in March. Sky Mavis, the developer group behind Axie Infinity and the Ronin blockchain that powers the game, announced that players can now use the bridge to make deposits and withdrawals.

Since March, the Ronin Bridge has been closed off as Sky Mavis worked to bolster its security protocols and recover users’ funds. The attack went unnoticed for six days until a user tried to withdraw funds and couldn’t do it. In a postmortem, Sky Mavis blamed a spear-phishing attack that compromised an employee’s account, saying that person no longer works with the company, as well as its lack of a tracking system to monitor large outflows.

After conducting an investigation, the US Treasury Department attributed the hack to the North Korean hacking group Lazarus and issued sanctions on the wallet address containing the stolen cryptocurrency. Sky Mavis initially planned to have the bridge up and running by the end of April but later delayed its reopening, citing that “this is not a process we can afford to rush” because the bridge “will secure billions of dollars in assets.”

Sky Mavis appears to have followed through on its promise to compensate players affected by the theft. Although it notes that users’ funds are “fully backed 1:1 by the new bridge,” Sky Mavis still hasn’t made up for a large portion of the Ronin network’s stolen funds. After pooling money from the founding members of the Sky Mavis team and receiving $150 million in funding from a number of companies, including Binance, the firm says Ronin’s currently down 71,600 ETH (~$85.8 million) and 25.5 million USDC ($25.5 million). Sky Mavis says it’s reimbursing these liabilities in full.

But this still doesn’t account for the 56,000 wETH (~$67.2 million) drained from the Axie DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) Treasury, the group of people who vote on decisions for the Axie community. Sky Mavis says it’s working with law enforcement to retrieve these funds. If it doesn’t recover them within two years, the DAO will cast a vote on the “next steps.”

In a message on Discord, developers told players they’re also on track to add Land Staking this week, which is another scheme to help generate rewards for players who’ve invested money in the game. The Verge senior entertainment editor Andrew Webster tried playing the game and said, “The creatures are all extremely similar, and experimentation is nonexistent unless you want to fork out a bunch of cryptocurrency.”

It’s unclear what these changes will do to improve the actual gaming experience, even if the back end is, now, more secure. Shortly after the attack, Sky Mavis launched Axie Infinity: Origin, a newer version that includes free-to-play elements to try and attract new players who don’t have blockchain wallets yet.

To help prevent future thefts, the Ronin Bridge has undergone one internal audit and two external audits by blockchain security firms Verichains and Certik. The bridge also has a new “circuit-breaker system” designed to stop suspicious users from making unusually large withdrawals. You can read more about Ronin’s update in its blog post, as well as read up on its technical documentation.

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Tech News

Twitter verification reopens: Here’s how applications work

Twitter is relaunching verification, opening up the blue check program after reworking its confusing – and at times controversial – policies. The social network has long used a blue logo on usernames to identify that individuals are who they say they are, but questions about just what degree of trustworthiness that implies had forced Twitter to go back to the drawing board to rework the system.

It’s been a few years since Twitter – officially, at least – decided to stop its existing verification program. Since then, new blue checks have been added, but the method by which that’s happened has been even more circumspect.

Lending to the confusion, verification has also been used as a way of punishing users as well. Contravening Twitter rules has seen some people lose their blue tick, for instance, and changing your username can also lead to it disappearing. Questions around whether individuals or news organizations which share and promote “fake news” or even help incite violence such as that at the US Capitol on January 6 should keep their verification mark has only made the process murkier.

Last November, Twitter said it had reworked its system and would launch it in due course. Today, it’s getting the first roll-out, complete with new verification guidelines.

“These verification guidelines are intended to encourage healthy conversations for the betterment of the Twitter community overall,” the company explained today. “They follow the philosophy to lead by example, Tweet others how they want to be Tweeted, and serve the public conversation authentically, respectfully, and with consideration. As always, all accounts, including verified accounts, must follow the Twitter Rules. And as we previously shared, verified accounts that repeatedly violate the Twitter Rules are subject to have the blue badge removed.”

Those who want to be verified will need to have a complete account, including a profile name, profile image, and either a confirmed email address or phone number. They’ll also need to have been active within the past six months, and “a record of adherence to the Twitter rules,” the company warns. If you had a 12 hour or 7 day lockout within the past 12 months for violating those rules, for example, you won’t be able to get verified. Finally, they’ll have to fall into one of six categories:

Companies, brands and organizations
News organizations and journalists
Sports and gaming
Activists, organizers, and other influential individuals

As for how you apply, Twitter will be adding a verification application option in the Account Settings tab. From there you’ll be able to choose a relevant category, and then verify your identify – either with government-issued ID, an official email address, or an official website – after which point Twitter will process the application.

“Once you submit your application, you can expect an emailed response from us within a few days, but this could take up to a few weeks depending on how many open applications are in our queue,” Twitter explains. “If your application is approved, you’ll see the blue badge automatically on your profile. If you think we made a mistake, reapply 30 days after receiving our decision on your application.”

There’ll be new categories added later in 2021, Twitter says, such as for scientists, academics, and religious leaders. Automated accounts, which tweet automatically, will also be supported as account types in due course, and there’ll be a way to memorialize accounts for users who have died.

Access to the new verification application will be rolling out to all Twitter users over the coming weeks. Meanwhile, leaks have hinted that a new, paid subscription option is in the pipeline, complete with premium features only accessible if you pay a fee.

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Tech News

Universal Studios Hollywood reopens and it has a new dinosaur to celebrate

As expected — and after a very long wait — Universal Studios Hollywood has reopened to the public, though it’s not quite the same as it was before it shut down. The theme park opened its doors on Friday in California, giving the public access to its attractions, including a new ride and an updated Jurassic Park attraction with a massive new dinosaur.

As with many theme parks, Universal Studios Hollywood was down for months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Several weeks ago, California made it clear that given its then-current COVID-19 cases and how they were trending (combined with vaccination rates) that it would start reopening things in the near future.

That process is already underway, with Disney having recently announced that it will open its Avengers Campus at Disneyland in California this upcoming June. Joining it is Universal with the announcement that its Universal Studios Hollywood destination is back and it has two new arrivals to show off.

Most notable is the change to ‘Jurassic World – The Ride’ at Universal, which now features a massive Indominus rex measuring about 22ft tall and 55ft long. The dinosaur makes her appearance at the end of the ride where she faces off with the similarly massive T-rex, giving riders something to marvel at just before they drop down the waterfall and again at the end of the ride.

Joining the new dinosaur is ‘The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash!,’ a ride that Universal describes as: “Join Max, Duke, Gidget, Snowball, and all your favorite Pets characters for a thrilling new ride through the streets of New York City.” Note that the park comes with some other distinct changes compared to the last time you were there, including a required temperature check, face mask, social distancing via floor markings, and more.

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