Uniswap DAO debate shows devs still struggle to secure cross-chain bridges

Over $2.5 billion was stolen in cross-chain crypto bridge hacks from 2021 to 2022, in line with a report by Token Terminal. However, regardless of a number of makes an attempt by builders to enhance bridge safety, a debate from December 2022 to January 2023 on the Uniswap DAO boards has laid naked safety weaknesses that live on in blockchain bridges.

Prior to now, bridges like Ronin and Horizon used multisig wallets to make sure that solely bridge validators might authorize withdrawals. For instance, Ronin required 5 out of 9 signatures to withdraw, whereas Horizon required two out of 5. However attackers found out how you can circumvent these techniques and withdrew hundreds of thousands of {dollars} value of crypto, leaving customers of those bridges with unbacked tokens.

After these multisig bridges had been hacked, builders began turning to extra refined protocols like Celer, LayerZero and Wormhole, which claimed to be safer.

However in December 2022, Uniswap DAO started discussing deploying Uniswap v3 to the BNB Chain. Within the course of, the decentralized autonomous group (DAO) needed to resolve which bridge protocol could be used for cross-chain Uniswap governance. Within the dialogue that adopted, the safety of every resolution was challenged by critics, leaving some observers to conclude that no single bridge resolution was safe sufficient for Uniswap’s functions.

In consequence, some contributors concluded that solely a multibridge resolution can safe crypto property within the cross-chain surroundings of crypto as we speak.

Over $10 billion of crypto property are at the moment locked on bridges as of Feb. 15, in line with DefiLlama, making the problem of bridge safety an pressing one.

How blockchain bridges work

Blockchain bridges allow two or extra blockchains to share information with one another, akin to cryptocurrency. For instance, a bridge might allow USD Coin (USDC) to be despatched from Ethereum to BNB Chain or Dealer Joe (JOE) from Avalanche to Concord.

However every blockchain community has its personal structure and database, separate from others. So in a literal sense, no coin could be despatched from one community to a different.

Cybersecurity, Security, Web3, Smart Contracts, Hacks

To get round this downside, bridges lock cash on one community and mint copies of them on one other. When the consumer desires to “transfer” their cash again to the unique community, the bridge then burns the copies and unlocks the unique cash. Though this doesn’t transfer cash between networks, it’s related sufficient to go well with the needs of most crypto customers.

Nonetheless, the issue arises when an attacker can both mint unbacked cash on the receiving chain or withdraw cash on the sending chain with out burning its copies. Both method, this ends in the receiving chain having additional cash that aren’t backed by something. That is precisely what occurred within the Ronin and Horizon hacks of 2022.

Ronin and Horizon: When bridging goes improper

Ronin bridge was a protocol that allowed Axie Infinity gamers to maneuver cash between Ethereum and the Ronin sidechain to play the sport.

The Ethereum contracts for the bridge had a operate referred to as “withdrawERC20For,” which allowed Ronin validators to withdraw tokens on Ethereum and provides them to the consumer, with or with out burning them on Ronin. Nonetheless, the Ronin software program that validators ran was programmed solely to name this operate if the corresponding cash on Ronin had been burned. Calling the operate required signatures from 5 out of the 9 validator nodes, stopping an attacker from withdrawing the funds even when they acquired management of a single node.

To additional be sure that the funds couldn’t be stolen, Axie Infinity developer Sky Mavis distributed the vast majority of validator keys to different stakeholders, together with Axie DAO. This meant that if Sky Mavis’s computer systems had been taken over, the attacker nonetheless wouldn’t be capable to withdraw cash with out their backing because the attacker would solely have 4 keys.

However regardless of these precautions, an attacker might nonetheless receive all 4 of Sky Mavis’ keys, plus a fifth signature from Axie DAO to withdraw over $600 million value of crypto from the bridge.

Current: SEC vs. Kraken: A one-off or opening salvo in an assault on crypto?

Sky Mavis has since reimbursed victims of the assault and has relaunched the bridge with what the builders name a “circuit breaker” system that halts giant or suspicious withdrawals.

An identical assault occurred to the Concord Horizon Bridge on June 24, 2022. This bridge allowed customers to switch property from Ethereum to Concord and again once more. The “unlockTokens” (withdraw) operate might solely be referred to as if two out of 5 signatures from the Concord workforce licensed it. The non-public keys that would produce these signatures were encrypted and saved utilizing a key administration service. However by some unknown methodology, the attacker was capable of achieve and decrypt two of the keys, permitting them to withdraw $100 million of crypto from the Ethereum aspect of the bridge.

The Concord workforce proposed a reimbursement plan in August 2022 and relaunched the bridge utilizing LayerZero.

After these hacks, some bridge builders believed they wanted higher safety than a fundamental multisig pockets. That is the place bridging protocols got here in.

The rise of bridging protocols

For the reason that Ronin and Horizon hacks have referred to as consideration to the issue of bridge safety, a couple of firms have begun to specialise in creating bridge protocols that different builders can customise or implement for his or her particular wants. These protocols declare to be safer than simply utilizing a multisig pockets to deal with withdrawals.

In late January, the Uniswap DAO thought of launching a BNB Chain model of its decentralized trade. Within the course of, it wanted to resolve which protocol to make use of. Listed here are the 4 protocols thought of, together with a quick rationalization of how they attempt to safe their bridges.


According to the LayerZero docs, the protocol makes use of two servers to confirm that cash are locked on the unique chain earlier than permitting them to be minted on the vacation spot chain. The primary server known as the “oracle.” When a consumer locks cash on the sending chain, the oracle transmits the block header for that transaction to the vacation spot chain.

The second server known as the “relayer.” When a consumer locks cash on the sending chain, the relayer sends proof to the second chain that the locking transaction is contained throughout the block referenced by the oracle.

So long as the oracle and relayer are impartial and don’t collude, it must be unimaginable for an attacker to mint cash on chain B with out locking them on chain A or to withdraw cash on chain A with out burning them on chain B.

LayerZero makes use of Chainlink for the default oracle and gives its personal default relayer for utility builders that wish to use it, however devs also can create customized variations of those servers in the event that they wish to.


According to the Celer cBridge docs, Celer depends on a community of proof-of-stake (PoS) validators referred to as “state guardians” to confirm that cash are locked on one chain earlier than being minted on one other. Two-thirds of the validators must agree {that a} transaction is legitimate for it to be confirmed.

Within the Uniswap debate, Celer co-founder Mo Dong clarified that the protocol additionally affords an alternate mechanism for consensus referred to as “optimistic rollup-style safety.” On this model, transactions are topic to a ready interval, permitting any single state guardian to veto the transaction if the knowledge it has contradicts the two-thirds majority.

Mo argued that some app builders, together with Uniswap, ought to use the “optimistic rollup-like safety mannequin” and run their very own app guardian to ensure they will block fraudulent transactions even when the community is compromised.

In response to a query about who the validators for the community are, the Celer co-founder stated:

“Celer has a complete of 21 validators, that are extremely respected PoS validators securing chains akin to Binance Chain, Avalanche, Cosmos and extra, akin to Binance, Everstake, InfStones, Ankr, Forbole, 01Node, OKX, HashQuark, RockX and extra.”

He additionally emphasised that Celer slashes validators who try to get fraudulent transactions confirmed.


According to a discussion board publish from the workforce, Wormhole depends on 19 validators referred to as “guardians” to forestall fraudulent transactions. 13 out of 19 validators must agree for a transaction to be confirmed.

Within the Uniswap debate, Wormhole argued that its community is extra decentralized and has extra respected validators than its friends, stating, “Our Guardian set includes the main PoS validators, together with Staked, Figment, Refrain One, P2P, and extra.”


The deBridge docs say that it’s a proof-of-stake community with 12 validators. Eight of those validators must agree {that a} transaction is legitimate for it to be confirmed. Validators that try to cross by fraudulent transactions are slashed.

Within the Uniswap debate, deBridge co-founder Alex Smirnov stated that every one deBridge validators “are skilled infrastructure suppliers that validate many different protocols and blockchains” and “all validators bear reputational and monetary dangers.”

Within the later phases of the talk, Smirnov started advocating for a multibridge resolution somewhat than for utilizing deBridge as the only real resolution for Uniswap, as he explained:

“If deBridge is chosen for the temperature test and additional governance voting, the Uniswap-deBridge integration will likely be constructed within the context of this bridge-agnostic framework and thus, will allow different bridges to take part.”

All through the Uniswap bridge debate, every of those protocols was subjected to criticism by way of its safety and decentralization.

LayerZero allegedly offers energy to app devs

LayerZero was criticized for allegedly being a disguised 2/2 multisig and for placing all energy into the palms of the app developer. On Jan. 2, L2Beat writer Krzysztof Urbański alleged that the oracle and relayer system on LayerZero could be circumvented if an attacker takes management of the app developer’s laptop techniques.

To show this, Urbański deployed a brand new bridge and token utilizing LayerZero, then bridged some tokens from Ethereum to Optimism. Afterward, he referred to as an admin operate to alter the oracle and relayer from the default servers to ones below his management. He then proceeded to withdraw all the tokens on Ethereum, leaving the tokens on Optimism unbacked.

Urbański’s article was cited by a number of contributors within the debate, together with GFX Labs and Phillip Zentner of LIFI, as the explanation why LayerZero shouldn’t be used as the only real bridging protocol for Uniswap.

Talking to Cointelegraph, LayerZero CEO Bryan Pellegrino responded to this criticism, stating {that a} bridge developer utilizing LayerZero “can burn [its] potential to alter any settings and have or not it’s 100% immutable.” Nonetheless, most builders select not to do that as a result of they concern imposing immutable bugs into the code. He additionally argued that placing upgrades into the palms of a “middlechain auth” or third-party community could be riskier than having an app developer management it.

Some contributors additionally criticized LayerZero for having an unverified or closed-source default relayer. This could allegedly make it tough for Uniswap to develop its personal relayer shortly.

Celer raises issues about safety mannequin

In an preliminary non-binding vote on Jan. 24, the Uniswap DAO selected to deploy to BNB Chain with Celer because the official Uniswap bridge for governance. Nonetheless, as soon as GFX Labs began testing the bridge, they posted issues and questions on Celer’s safety mannequin.

In line with GFXLabs, Celer has an upgradeable MessageBus contract below the management of three of 5 multisigs. This might be an assault vector by which a malicious individual might achieve management of the whole protocol.

In response to this criticism, Celer co-founder Mo acknowledged that the contract is managed by 4 highly-respected establishments: InfStones, Binance Staking, OKX and the Celer Community. Dong argued that the MessageBus contract must be upgradeable to repair bugs which may be discovered sooner or later, as he explained:

“We made the MessageBus upgradeable with the objective of creating it simpler to handle any potential safety points simply in case and add must-have options. Nonetheless, we strategy this course of with care and regularly consider and enhance our governance course of. We welcome extra energetic contributors akin to GFXLabs to be extra concerned.”

Within the later phases of the talk, Celer started supporting a multibridge resolution as a substitute of arguing for its personal protocol being the one bridge.

Wormhole not slashin’

Wormhole was criticized for not utilizing slashing to punish misbehaving validators and for allegedly doing a decrease quantity of transactions than it’s admitting.

Mo argued {that a} PoS community with slashing is often higher than one with out, stating, “Wormhole doesn’t have any financial safety or slashing constructed within the protocol. If there’s every other centralized/off-chain settlement, we hope wormhole could make them recognized to the group. Simply by this comparability, an inexpensive degree of financial safety in protocol >> 0 financial safety within the protocol.”

Mo additionally claimed that Wormhole’s transaction quantity could be decrease than the corporate admits. According to him, over 99% of Wormhole transactions come from Pythnet, and if this quantity is excluded, “there are 719 message per day within the final 7 days on Wormhole.”

DeBridge had little or no criticism directed in opposition to it, as most contributors appeared to assume that Celer, LayerZero and Wormhole had been the dominant selections.

Within the later phases of the talk, the deBridge workforce started advocating for a multibridge resolution.

Towards a multibridge resolution?

Because the Uniswap debate continued, a number of contributors argued that no single bridging protocol must be used for governance. As an alternative, they argued that a number of bridges must be used and {that a} majority and even unanimous determination from all bridges must be required to substantiate a governance determination.

Celer and deBridge got here round to this standpoint as the talk progressed, and LIFI CEO Phillip Zentner argued that Uniswap’s transfer to BNB must be postponed till a multibridge resolution might be carried out.

Finally, the Uniswap DAO voted to deploy to BNB Chain with Wormhole because the official bridge. Nonetheless, Uniswap govt director Devin Walsh explained that deployment with a single bridge doesn’t preclude including extra bridges at a later date. So the advocates for a multibridge resolution will seemingly proceed their efforts.

Can blockchain bridges be safe?

It doesn’t matter what in the end occurs to Unsiwap’s cross-chain governance course of, the talk has illustrated how onerous it’s to safe cross-chain bridges.

Placing withdrawals into the palms of multisig wallets creates the danger that unhealthy actors might achieve management of a number of signatures and withdraw tokens with out the consent of customers. It centralizes the blockchain world and makes customers rely on trusted authorities as a substitute of decentralized protocols.

Current: DeFi safety: How trustless bridges can assist shield customers

However, proof-of-stake-style bridging networks are complicated packages which may be discovered to have bugs, and if their contracts should not upgradeable, these bugs can’t be fastened and not using a onerous fork of one of many underlying networks. Builders proceed to face a tradeoff between placing upgrades into the palms of trusted authorities, who might get hacked, versus making protocols actually decentralized and, due to this fact, non-upgradeable.

Billions of {dollars} of crypto property are saved on bridges, and because the crypto ecosystem grows, there could also be much more property saved on these networks over time. So the issue of securing a blockchain bridge and defending these property continues to be essential.

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