Frontrunner Jones and the Raiders of the Dark Forest: An Empirical Study of Frontrunning on the Ethereum Blockchain

02/05/2021 ∙ by Christof Ferreira Torres, et al. ∙ 0

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 front-run 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 large-scale 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.

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