teEther: Gnawing at Ethereum to Automatically Exploit Smart Contracts

Krupp, Johannes and Rossow, Christian
(2018) teEther: Gnawing at Ethereum to Automatically Exploit Smart Contracts.
In: 27th USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 18), 15-17 Aug 2018, Baltimore MD.
Conference: USENIX-Security - Usenix Security Symposium

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Abstract

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin not only provide a decentralized currency, but also provide a programmatic way to process transactions. Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency next to Bitcoin, is the first to provide a Turing-complete language to specify transaction processing, thereby enabling so-called smart contracts. This provides an opportune setting for attackers, as security vulnerabilities are tightly intertwined with financial gain. In this paper, we consider the problem of automatic vulnerability identification and exploit generation for smart contracts. We develop a generic definition of vulnerable contracts and use this to build TEE THER, a tool that allows creating an exploit for a contract given only its binary bytecode. We perform a large-scale analysis of all 38,757 unique Ethereum contracts, 815 out of which our tool finds working exploits for—completely automated.

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