Dan Robinson stands as a research partner for Paradigm, a crypto-asset investment firm. In a recent blog post, Robinson revealed that Ethereum might be vulnerable to frontrunners.
Predators On Ethereum’s Mempool
In this blog post, Robinson stated that the design of Ethereum’s set of unconfirmed transactions, called a mempool, is where this vulnerability is based. He explained that arbitrage bots frequently monitor pending transactions within Ethereum’s mempool. They then try to exploit the profitable opportunities that this mempool creates, in turn.
In particular, arbitrage bots prowl about for specific kinds of transactions within the Mempool. Prime examples of this would be oracle update or DEX trade transactions. From there, the bot tries to front-run this through a predetermined algorithm.
Frontrunners hunt for any transaction that they could forward trade profitably, then copy it with the addresses replaced with their own. They’re even capable of executing the transaction, then copying the profitable internal transactions that get generated by the execution trace.
A Dark Forest On Ethereum
Robinson described it much like the book “The Dark Forest,” which focuses on the premise of this environment where advanced predators instantly kill those that they detect. The situation where he realized this, is when he tried to help someone out when they accidentally lost some Uniswap liquidity tokens within the network.
Robinson realized that he could recover the funding quickly, but the process would make him subject to attack from these frontrunner bots. Thus, much like the predators in the book, the moment the transaction is seen, it will fall prey to these predators.
As such, Robinson highlighted a plan to extract the money, doing so with the aid of a team of Ethereum security engineers and another team of smart contract engineers. As such, the plan involved confusing the transaction to such a point that these bots couldn’t detect that there was a connection to the Uniswap spouse.
Best Intentions Failing At Execution
Sadly, the plan failed, with the money itself being seized by frontrunners despite the best efforts of the team as a whole.
In regards to this, Robinson issued out a warning about the frontrunners, urging miners to pay close attention to the mempool. Alongside this, he highlighted the experiences he learned in this little venture. With any luck, the network will be capable of solving this crisis.
Ethereum has had a rocky time, as of late, but it seems that, if nothing else, the space is very aware of its issues at hand, and is trying to fix it internally. With any luck, Ethereum will become stronger as a result of it.