Nomad Bridge incident evaluation

Nomad Bridge incident evaluation

Tl;dr: Building a greater crypto ecosystem means constructing a greater, extra equitable future for us all. That’s why we’re investing within the bigger neighborhood to verify anybody who desires to take part within the crypto financial system can achieve this in a safe method. In this weblog publish, we share classes concerning the nature of the vulnerability, exploitation methodology, in addition to on-chain evaluation of attacker habits through the Nomad Bridge incident.

While the Nomad bridge compromise doesn’t immediately have an effect on Coinbase, we strongly consider that attacks on any crypto business are bad for the industry as a whole and hope the knowledge within the weblog will assist strengthen and inform comparable tasks about threats and methods utilized by malicious actors.

By: Peter Kacherginsky, Threat Intelligence and Heidi Wilder, Special Investigations

On August 1, 2022 Nomad Bridge suffered the fourth largest DeFi hack with greater than $186M stolen in just some hours. As we’ve got described in our recent blog post, from the $540M Ronin Bridge compromise in March to the $250M Wormhole bridge hack in February of 2022, it’s not a coincidence that DeFi bridges represent a number of the costliest incidents in our business.

What makes the Nomad Bridge compromise distinctive is the simplicity of the exploit and the sheer variety of people profiting from it to empty all saved property piece by piece.

Vulnerability Analysis

Nomad is a bridging protocol supporting Ethereum, Moonbeam, and different chains. Nomad’s bridging protocol is constructed utilizing each on-chain and off-chain parts. On-chain good contracts are used to gather and distribute bridged funds whereas off-chain brokers relay and confirm messages between totally different blockchains. Each blockchain deploys a Replica contract which validates and shops messages in a Merkle tree construction. Messages may be validated by both offering proof with the proveAndProcess() name or for already verified messages they are often merely submitted with the course of() name. Verified messages are forwarded to a Bridge handler (e.g. ERC20 Router) which might distribute bridged property.

On April 21, 2022 Nomad deployed a Replica proxy contract to deal with processing and validation of customers’ claims of bridged property. This proxy would permit Nomad to simply change implementation logic whereas retaining storage throughout upgrades. As a part of the proxy deployment, Nomad set preliminary contract parameters outlined within the snippet under:

Notice the highlighted confirmAt map project which units an preliminary entry for the trusted _committedRoot to the worth of 1. The variable _committedRoot is offered as an initialization parameter by Nomad’s contract deployer. Let’s see what it was set to through the initialization:

Interestingly the initialization parameter _committedRoot was set to 0. As a consequence the confirmAt map now has a worth of 1 for a 0 entry that from April to this day:

On June 21, 2022, Nomad carried out a sequence of upgrades to its bridging infrastructure together with the Replica implementation. One of the modifications included updates to the message verification logic within the course of() perform:

The message verification movement now features a name to the acceptableRoot() methodology which in flip references confirmAt map we talked about above:

The vulnerability seems in a state of affairs when fraudulent messages, not current within the trusted messages[] map, are despatched on to the course of() methodology. In this state of affairs messages[_messageHash] returns a default null worth for non-existent entries so the acceptableRoot() methodology known as as follows:

In flip, the acceptableRoot() methodology will carry out a lookup towards confirmAt[] map with a null worth as follows:

As we talked about to start with of this part, confirmAt[] map has a null entry outlined leading to acceptableRoot() returning True and authorizing fraudulent messages.

Exploit Analysis

The exploit takes benefit of the above vulnerability by crafting a message which tips Nomad bridge into sending saved tokens with out correct authorization. Below is a pattern course of() payload in a transaction submitted by 0xb5c5…590e:

The Replica message has the next construction:

The recipient particular _messageBody accommodates transaction knowledge to be processed by the _recipient. Nomad recipients settle for a number of transaction and message sorts, however we’ll concentrate on the switch sort:

Decoding the above payload illustrates how 0xb5c55f76f90cc528b2609109ca14d8d84593590e was capable of steal 100 WBTC by submitting a specifically crafted payload to bypass Nomad’s message checks.

In order to raised perceive the foundation reason for the exploit we developed a PoC to reveal it draining all the token’s steadiness on the bridge in just some transactions:

While writing a PoC we discovered it curious that attackers selected to extract funds in smaller increments after they might have drained the entire quantity in a single transaction. This is probably going as a result of attackers not crafting bridge messages from scratch, however as an alternative replaying present transactions with patched receiving addresses.

On-Chain Analysis

Over $186M in ERC-20 tokens have been stolen from the Nomad Bridge between August 1, 2022 at 21:32 UTC and August 2, 2022 at 05:49 UTC. The highest quantity in stolen tokens have been primarily USDC, adopted by WETH, WBTC, and CQT. Within the primary hour of the exploit, solely WBTC and WETH have been stolen, then adopted by a number of different ERC-20s.

Source: Dune Dashboard

In analyzing the blockchain knowledge, we see that there have been varied addresses piggybacking off of the unique exploiters and utilizing nearly similar enter knowledge with modified recipient addresses with a view to siphon off the identical token for a similar quantity. Once the WBTC contract was principally drained, the attackers then went on to empty the WETH contract, and so on.

Further analyzing the primary attackers in block 15259101, we discover that the preliminary two attacker addresses leveraged a helper contract to obfuscate the precise exploit. Unfortunately, inside that very same block, a number of indexes down one other exploiter deal with appear to have struggled interacting with the helper contract and determined to bypass it — and publicly expose the exploit enter knowledge within the course of. Other addresses in the identical and latter blocks then adopted swimsuit and used nearly similar payloads to conduct the exploit.

Following the preliminary exploitation, and as a result of ease of triggering the exploit, lots of of copycats joined an enormous exploitation of a single contract. While analyzing the payloads of assorted future attackers, we discovered that there was not solely the reuse of the identical tokens being bridged over and the identical quantities, but in addition that funds have been persistently being “bridged” from Moonbeam similar to the unique exploit.

The assault occurred in three phases:the vulnerability testing a day previous to the assault, the preliminary exploit concentrating on WBTC saved on the bridge, and the copycat stage involving lots of of distinctive addresses. Let’s dive into every of those together with partial return of stolen property.

Vulnerability Testing

Throughout July 31, 2022, bitliq[.]eth was discovered to set off the vulnerability utilizing small quantities of WBTC and different tokens. For instance, on Jul-31–2022 11:19:39 AM +UTC he despatched a transaction to the course of() methodology on Ethereum blockchain with the next payload:


The payload may be decoded as follows:

  • Originating chain: “avax”
  • Destination chain: “eth”
  • Recipient: a8c83b1b30291a3a1a118058b5445cc83041cd9d (bitliq[.]eth)
  • Token Address: 0x50b7545627a5162F82A992c33b87aDc75187B218 (WBTC.e on Avalanche)
  • Amount: 0.00062984 BTC

This corresponds to 0.00062984 BTC transaction despatched to the bridge on the Avalanche chain.

The payload was despatched utilizing the course of() methodology versus the extra widespread proveAndProcess() and was not current within the messages[] map within the previous to execution in block 15249928 :

$ forged name 0x5d94309e5a0090b165fa4181519701637b6daeba "messages(bytes32)" "bc0f99a3ac1593c73dbbfe9e8dd29c749d8e1791cbe7f3e13d9ffd3ddea57284" --rpc-url $MAINNET_RPC_URL --block 15249928

The transaction succeeded even with out offering essential proof by triggering the vulnerability within the acceptableRoot() methodology by supplying it with a 0x0 root hash worth as illustrated within the debugger under:

Source: Tenderly Debugger

Messages not current within the messages[] storage may be validated utilizing the proveAndProcess() methodology; nevertheless, for the reason that deal with known as course of() immediately they’ve triggered the vulnerability.

Interestingly sufficient, evidently bitliq[.]eth was additionally probably testing the ERC-20 bridge contract an hour previous to the exploit and bridged over 0.01 WBTC over to Moonbeam. [Tx]

Initial Exploitation

Active exploitation began on August 1, 2022 all inside the identical block 15259101 and resulted in mixed theft of 400 BTC.

All 4 transactions used similar exploit payloads apart from a recipient deal with as described within the Vulnerability part above:


Some observations on the above:

  • The first three addresses have been funded by Tornado Cash and have been actively transacting with one another which signifies a single actor group.
  • Unlike the primary two exploit transactions, 0xb5c5…590e and bitliq[.]eth despatched the exploit payload on to the contract and with out the usage of flashbots to cover it from public mempool.
  • bitliq[.]eth replayed an earlier exploit transaction in the identical block 15259101 as 0xb5c5…590e indicating both prior data of the exploit or studying about 0xb1fe…ae28 from the mempool.
  • All 4 transactions used similar payloads, every stealing 100 WBTC at a time.


In whole, 88% of addresses conducting the exploits have been recognized as copycats and collectively they stole about $88M in tokens from the bridge.

The majority of copycats used a variation of the unique exploit by merely modifying focused tokens, quantities, and recipient addresses. We can classify distinctive payloads by grouping them based mostly on contracts they name and distinctive methodology 4bytes invoked as illustrated under:

Based on our evaluation, greater than 88% of distinctive addresses known as the susceptible contract immediately utilizing the 928bc4b2 perform identifier which corresponds to the course of(bytes) methodology used within the authentic exploit. The the rest carry out the identical name utilizing middleman contracts akin to 1cff79cd which is the execute(deal with,bytes) methodology, batching a number of course of() transactions collectively, and different minor variations.

Following the preliminary compromise, the unique exploiters needed to compete towards lots of of copycats:

While the vast majority of priceless tokens have been claimed by simply two of the unique exploiters’ addresses, lots of of others have been capable of declare a part of bridge’s holdings:

Below is a chart exhibiting the tokens stolen over time in USD. It turns into obvious that the exploiters have been going token by token as they have been draining the bridge.

The Great Return

To date, 12% stolen from the Nomad Bridge contract has been returned — together with partial returns. The majority of the returns came about within the hours following Nomad Bridge’s request to ship funds to the restoration deal with on August 3, 2022. [TweetTx]

Below is a breakdown of the funds returned, which incorporates ETH and varied different tokens, a few of which have been by no means even on the bridge:

Funds proceed to be despatched again to the bridge’s restoration deal with, albeit extra slowly within the latest days than when the deal with was initially posted:

The majority of returned funds seem like in USDC, adopted by DAI, CQT, WETH, and WBTC. This is notably totally different from the breakdown of the tokens exploited. The cause being that the preliminary authentic exploiters primarily drained the bridge of WBTC and WETH. Unlike later stage exploiters, these exploiters moved funds round with no intent to return them.

Interestingly, one of many authentic exploiters, bitliq[.]eth, has returned solely 100 ETH to the bridge contract, however has begun cashing out the remainder of their proceeds by renBTC and burning it in trade for BTC.

Categorizing the “exploiters”

When assessing the Nomad Bridge exploiters, the attackers have been categorized into the next buckets:

  • Black hats: Those that don’t return funds and proceed shifting them onwards.
  • White hats: Those that absolutely ship funds again to the restoration addresses
  • Please word that whereas we’re utilizing the time period white hat for explanatory functions right here, the preliminary taking of the funds was not approved and isn’t an exercise we might endorse.
  • Grey hats: Those that partially ship funds again to the restoration addresses.
  • Unknown unknowns: Those which have but to maneuver funds.

Approximately 24% of funds proceed to take a seat untouched. We suspect these are both attackers ready out the warmth or shrewd degens holding out for a bounty from Nomad. However, the most important quantity of funds has moved onwards. As of August 5, we estimate that ~64% has moved onwards.

To keep updated with the newest by way of the funds returned, try this dashboard.

Delving Into the Blackhats

Of these funds which have moved onwards, we’ve got recognized a number of giant rings of addresses that each one commingle funds. In explicit, one cluster of addresses appears to have amassed over $62M in quantity. Interestingly, one deal with inside this cluster was the primary deal with to have carried out the exploit [tx hash].

To date, we primarily see these rings following one of many under patterns:

  • MEV bot exercise
  • Commingle and maintain on to attend out the warmth
  • Swapping funds and finally returning a partial quantity of funds to the restoration deal with
  • Swapping funds and investing DeFi tasks or cashing out at varied CEXs
  • Moving funds by Tornado Cash

Below is an instance of how some addresses have begun shifting funds by Tornado Cash, which as of August 8, 2022, is a sanctioned entity.

Beware of Scams:

Several white hats have already returned over 10% of funds to the bridge contract. However, this wasn’t with out hiccups.

Originally, the Nomad staff posted on each Twitter and on the blockchain the Ethereum deal with to ship any exploited funds to

However, scammers cleverly adopted swimsuit and arrange varied fraudulent ENS domains to pose because the Nomad staff and requested they’ve funds despatched to self-importance addresses with the identical preliminary characters because the professional restoration deal with.

For instance, under is a message despatched by one of many scammers. Note the fraudulent restoration deal with, ENS area, and in addition the ten% bounty off. Nomad has since provided that white hats declare 10% of exploited proceeds. [Tx]

Protecting Yourself

While most contracts are audited extensively by varied blockchain auditors, contracts should still comprise but to be found vulnerabilities. While chances are you’ll wish to present liquidity to a selected protocol or bridge over funds, listed below are some tricks to preserve in thoughts:

  • When supplying liquidity, don’t preserve your whole funds on one protocol or saved within the bridge.
  • Make positive to frequently evaluation and revoke any contract approvals you don’t actively want.
  • Stay updated with safety intelligence feeds to trace protocols you’ve invested in.

Coinbase is dedicated to bettering our safety and the broader business’s safety, in addition to defending our customers. We consider that exploits like these may be mitigated and finally prevented. Besides making codebases open supply for the general public to evaluation, we suggest frequent protocol audits, implement bug bounty packages, and actively work with safety researchers. Although this exploit was a tough studying expertise, we consider that understanding how the exploit occurred can solely assist additional mature our younger business.



Initial exploiters:

Ethereum: 0x56d8b635a7c88fd1104d23d632af40c1c3aac4e3
Ethereum: 0xf57113d8f6ff35747737f026fe0b37d4d7f42777
Ethereum: 0xb88189cd5168c4676bd93e9768497155956f8445
Ethereum: 0x847e74d8cd0d4bc2716a6382736ae2870db94148
Ethereum: 0x000000000000660def84e69995117c0176ba446e
Ethereum: 0xb5c55f76f90cc528b2609109ca14d8d84593590e
Ethereum: 0xa8c83b1b30291a3a1a118058b5445cc83041cd9d

See Dune Dashboard for an entire itemizing of exploiter addresses, transactions, and reside standing of stolen property.

Nomad Bridge incident analysis was initially revealed in The Coinbase Blog on Medium, the place persons are persevering with the dialog by highlighting and responding to this story.

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