USENIX Security '21 - Frontrunner Jones and the Raiders of the Dark Forest: An Empirical Study of Frontrunning on the Ethereum Blockchain
Christof Ferreira Torres, SnT, University of Luxembourg; Ramiro Camino, Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology; Radu State, SnT, University of Luxembourg
Ethereum prospered the inception of a plethora of smart contract applications, ranging from gambling games to decentralized finance. However, Ethereum is also considered a highly adversarial environment, where vulnerable smart contracts will eventually be exploited. Recently, Ethereum's pool of pending transaction has become a far more aggressive environment. In the hope of making some profit, attackers continuously monitor the transaction pool and try to frontrun their victims' transactions by either displacing or suppressing them, or strategically inserting their transactions. This paper aims to shed some light into what is known as a dark forest and uncover these predators' actions. We present a methodology to efficiently measure the three types of frontrunning: displacement, insertion, and suppression. We perform a largescale analysis on more than 11M blocks and identify almost 200K attacks with an accumulated profit of 18.41M USD for the attackers, providing evidence that frontrunning is both, lucrative and a prevalent issue.
View the full USENIX Security '21 Program at https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity21/technical-sessions