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Are Smart Contract Audits Enough?
Smart contracts are crucial to blockchain technology as they enable the automation and execution of agreements or transactions without the need for intermediaries. Given how mission-critical smart contracts can be, their security should be of the utmost importance in any project.
Process of Auditing a Project
Auditing a smart contract involves examining, testing, and evaluating its integrity, security, and performance. The primary objective is to identify vulnerabilities and security flaws to ensure the functions of the smart contracts are operating as intended and securely.
Security vendors may have different auditing processes. However, certain fundamental steps are typically involved such as:
Source code and documentation: These documents enable the auditors to assess and analyze the static source code.
Automation: Automated tools are often deployed to scan for basic errors and provide optimization suggestions for the source code.
Manual review: Manual review of source code is needed to look for uncommon flaws missed by automation tools, such as unclear logic flow, or missing documentation.
Reporting: The client receives a private report, documenting found vulnerabilities and fix recommendations to be acknowledged and remediated by the client. For larger, complex projects several remediation cycles may be needed to ensure the client has applied the proper fix.
Disclosure: When the remediation process is completed, the audit process concludes with the production and publication of the final public report.
Benefits of Auditing
Smart contract audit can yield significant benefits, including:
Ensuring smart contract integrity and security: Security audits verify the intended functionality of smart contracts and identify and mitigate any potential vulnerabilities.
Detection and mitigation: An audit helps identify and address potential security risks, including but not limited to buffer overflow, intrusion, and logical error before deployment.
Enhancement and optimization: By analyzing the source code and evaluating its methods and algorithms, auditors can suggest improvements to enhance performance and optimize the smart contract.
Trust and transparency: Publicly sharing information about the audit instills trust in the contract’s integrity and security.
Limitation of Auditing
Security auditing cannot uncover all existing vulnerabilities and even an audit in which no vulnerabilities are found is not a guarantee for a 100% secure smart contract. The two main factors that contribute to this are:
Code size and time constraints: The complexity of a project is not solely determined by the number of files in the source code; rather, it is influenced by various factors, including project size and business model. Additional constraints that can impede the quality of the audits such as large codebase containing numerous files and extensive logical documentation, as well as time constraints by the client. Consequently, it can be difficult to avoid overlooking basic logical flows that may be concealed within obscure files.
New vulnerabilities: Interactions within contracts that fall outside the scope of an audit can introduce additional vulnerabilities that may impact the project’s security. It's important to note that security research is an evolving field, with new attack vectors being continually discovered. As a result, there is a high probability that even projects that have undergone audits may still contain vulnerabilities.
Mitigating Security Risks
To further enhance the security of contracts beyond security contract auditing there are risk mitigation measures that project owners should take into consideration:
Security during development: Developers can minimize errors in smart contract development by leveraging frameworks and adhering to security standards. Utilizing tools like Slither, Mythril, and Foundry can assist in detecting common vulnerabilities and provide suggestions to enhance the quality of the source code.
Security diversification: To mitigate the risk of unforeseen or overlooked vulnerabilities, it is advisable for projects to diversify their security vendors and seek input from multiple independent experts. Implementing bug-bounty programs can provide the necessary incentives for white hat security researchers to proactively research new vulnerabilities and report them before they can be exploited by bad actors.
Incident response process: Establishing an incident response process enable projects to better understand the potential impact of exploits, and to develop policies that can help minimize the impact of such exploits. It is recommended that projects collaborate with their security vendors to establish an effective incident response process that aligns with their business needs.
A security audit is a crucial step for any project to identify vulnerabilities in their code and software. However, it is important to note that it cannot guarantee to detect all vulnerabilities. Smart contract developers themselves hold the responsibility of bolstering security measures by adhering to security principles, employing automated testing tools, and diligently maintaining the smart contract post-audit. By combining security auditing with robust security measures implemented by developers, a safer and more dependable blockchain environment can be established, ensuring the utmost security for users.
As a security auditor for over half a decade, Verichains had identified numerous critical vulnerabilities with effective and immediate remediation to projects of all sizes. Our auditors take into account and incorporate new attack vectors into our auditing methods to offer the best protection possible to projects and vendors.
However, regardless of the audit methodology employed, be it human-based or leveraging automated auditing tools, it is essential to recognize that no approach is immune to the possibility of errors. Therefore, in the event of any security incidents, whether they fall within the scope of the audit or not, we are committed to providing unwavering support to our clients.
We extend our sincere gratitude to our valued clients for their continued trust and for choosing our services over the years. We remain dedicated to our ongoing improvement efforts, prioritizing the security of projects and our clients' peace of mind.