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News/How the Curve Finance Exploit Shakes the DeFi Landscape

How the Curve Finance Exploit Shakes the DeFi Landscape

Jul 31 2023

12 months ago4 minutes read
A robotic figure holding a shield and spear, taking on a battle-ready stance in the Curve Finance exploit.webp

Dissecting the Curve Finance Exploit: A Harrowing Tale of Vulnerability

Written by Van

Curve Finance, a pivotal player in the bustling world of Decentralized Finance (DeFi), fell victim to a debilitating exploit, stemming from a crack in the armor of the Vyper programming language.

This exploit set in motion a draining spree on multiple Curve liquidity pools, previously reported to leave roughly $100 million in digital assets precariously teetering on the edge. 

The malicious exploit exploited a flaw nestled within the Vyper versions 0.2.15, 0.2.16, and 0.3.0. The pitfall lay in a dysfunctional reentrancy lock, a system designed to block recurrent function calls during the execution of initial function calls. 

Four Curve pools found themselves torn asunder in this digital onslaught: alETH/ETH, msETH/ETH, pETH/ETH, and CRV/ETH. The harsh toll bore by these casualties materialized in the loss of approximately 7 million CRV tokens in conjunction with $14 million in wrapped ether (WETH).

curve tweet (2).webp

As a tremor runs through a spider's web when the anchor point shakes, so did the native token of Curve Finance (CRV). The calamity echoing from the draining of several pools led to a significant dip in CRV's price.

The CRV token, in a calamitous nosedive on decentralized exchanges, struck a low of $0.086. However, its exchange on centralized exchanges (CEXs) for $0.60 a piece enacted a safety net, forestalling a total zero fall.

Millions of CRV tokens were stolen from Curve DAO just before a white hat rescue operation to secure the funds, according to blockchain data and Curve contributor Banteg.

banteg tweet.webp

To thicken the plot yet further, an intriguing twist emerged. The Curve DAO debacle arrested the attention of security analysts who unearthed that the wallet pressed into the service of the attack was bankrolled by Binance. Among other breakthrough moments, this revelation sent shockwaves through the crypto sphere. 

According to DeFiLlama data, the amount of assets locked on the decentralized finance protocol Curve Finance (CRV) has decreased by almost 50% over the past 24 hours, dropping from $3.26 billion on July 30 to $1.731 billion.

In a compelling demonstration of the tussle between ethical hackers and malicious exploiters, a prominent MEV bot operator sporting the ENS tag "c0ffeebabe.eth" returned a substantial sum of 2,879 ETH, equivalent to $5.4 million, to Curve's deployer contract. 

Thrust into high alert by the exploit, Curve DAO also sounded alarm bells about a looming attack on Arbitrum's tricrypto pool. They advocated a swift withdrawal by users to sidestep potential losses. 

Curve tweet.webp

In a grim fallout from the exploit, the Curve DAO (CRV) price was on a downward spiral, erasing roughly 13% in value within an ensuing 24-hour period.

This dark episode left a lingering imprint, noteworthy not just for the turmoil it triggered, but for the piercing insights it offers in vulnerability and risk management.


The Unsettling Market Impact of the Curve Finance Hack

As the dust began to settle after the cataclysmic Curve exploit, the market began to adjust in unusual ways. Unforeseen consequences and surprising reactions played out, painting a picture of a troubled yet resilient DeFi landscape. 

A staggering $11 million in Miner Extractable Value (MEV) rewards was raked in, all attributed to the fallout from the Curve breach. In the midst of this havoc, some found opportunities to amass wealth. 

Exchange platform Bithumb bore witness to a contrasting scenery, with Curve Finance's token (CRV) demonstrating a remarkable surge, inflating by 500% in the aftermath of the exploit.

However, the seemingly unstoppable CRV rocket met a grinding halt on Upbit, which was compelled to freeze trading of the Curve Finance token in the wake of the $100 million debacle. 

The exploit sent shockwaves beyond the confines of Curve Finance. Crypto futures began to swerve in favor of Uniswap's UNI token. The exploit spun a web that drew in disparate tokens, affecting their trading patterns, and further underlining the interplay that makes up the crypto market dynamics.

In an attempt to mitigate potential financial hazards, CRV transactions came to a standstill on two major exchanges. Trading of the Curve DAO (CRV) token, which had drawn significantly from the exploit, slumped by as much as 11.54% to $0.6493, as a defective reentrance lock placed Vyper 0.2.15 under fire.

This swift market reorientation is a testament to the intricate DeFi ecosystem. It's a world where the faltering of one giant can be the stepping-stone for another, a cycle of devastation and emergence, powerfully demonstrating the vibrancy of the DeFi ecosystem.

chart.webp

DeFi Protocols and the Damaging Fallout from the Vulnerability Exploit

The catastrophic crescendo of the Curve Finance exploit rippled through the DeFi landscape, throwing multiple protocols into churning waters of uncertainty. Consequently, an alarming number of DeFi protocols encountered considerable losses, attributed to vulnerabilities existing in the Vyper smart contract language. 

The bleak tally of losses encompassed an excess of $45M drained from DeFi protocols Alchemix, Metronome, and JPEG'd, and an additional $25M leaking from Curve’s CRV/ETH pool. These troubling figures etched a stark picture of the significant financial fallout. 

At first, these platforms were said to have witnessed over $70M drained from their coffers. The actual damage was reportedly closer to $47 million as some of the attacks were orchestrated by white hat hackers. 

Unnerving revelations emerged from the Vyper team, casting a spotlight on the latest versions of their compiler's inability to correctly implement protective safeguards against reentrancy attacks. This lapse constituted a critical vulnerability that enabled the exploit. 

To the dismay of many, it was found that the bug nesting within the earlier versions of the Vyper code harked back at least 1.5 years, eluding the radar until the recent exploit. On Twitter, a prominent contributor to the programming language suggested that the hackers probably spent "weeks to months" searching for the vulnerability.

Vyper contributor tweet.webp

The tumultuous consequences of these events brought Curve DAO’s CRV token to a staggering plummet, shedding as much as 86% of its value on decentralized exchanges. The fall was swift and brutal. 

Yet, amidst these digital ruins, a shining beacon of hope glimmered. Substantial assets were secured by white-hat hackers and MEV bots, offering the comforting possibility that some of the stolen wealth may still be salvageable.

This unprecedented incident raised a cloud of skepticism around the DeFi borrowing activities of Curve founder, Michael Egorov. Under scrutiny were his sizable loans acquired against his stash of CRV, worth more than $100M, gathered from leading lending protocols, such as Aave, Fraxlend, Abracadabra, and Inverse Finance. 

These unsettling events incited a wave of withdrawal among DeFi lenders. Financial lifeboats were launched from Aave and other protocols, leading to a surge in borrowing fees as the market response was swift and drastic. 

Due to a defect in the reentrancy lock of Vyper versions, a spate of incursions spanned multiple protocols. Notably, the BNB Smart Chain (BSC) weathered multiple attacks, resulting in a theft of around $73,000 in cryptocurrencies. Other DeFi projects, such as Ellipsis, reported a yet unspecified amount lost in BNB stable pools. 

blocksec tweet.webp

The panic that ensued sent shockwaves across the DeFi ecosystem, inciting a flurry of transactions across pools. Moreover, this digital mayhem spurred a rescue effort from white hats in another commendable display of ethical hacking.

In these chaotic times, it has become starker than ever that continuous vigilance, robust security measures, and a collaborative spirit are crucial to mitigating risks and forming a sturdy bulwark against potential pitfalls in the tumultuous world of DeFi.


The Aftermath of the Curve Finance Exploit

In the wake of the exploit, the price of Curve's native token (CRV) took a significant hit. This price drop put a large loan position of Michael Egorov, the founder of Curve Finance, at risk of liquidation. 

Egorov held a substantial amount in stablecoins on Aave, collateralized by a considerable sum in CRV. If these funds were to be liquidated, it could result in bad debt across several lending protocols, causing a ripple effect throughout the DeFi ecosystem.

Egorov's Response to the Crisis

To mitigate the liquidation risks, Egorov took a decisive step. He sold nearly $40 million in CRV tokens to different parties. 

Among the buyers was Justin Sun, the founder of Tron, who bought 5 million CRV tokens. An over-the-counter transaction was used to purchase a wallet labeled as "Curve.fi Founder" for an average cost of $0.4. 

Justin Sun bought CRV from Curve founder.webp

Other notable buyers included NFT owner Jeffrey Huang, who purchased 3.75 million CRV tokens, DWF Labs and Cream Finance, each buying 2.5 million CRV tokens. These sales were part of Egorov's strategy to stabilize his financial position and prevent a potential cascade of liquidations.


The Impact on the DeFi Ecosystem

The exploit had a significant impact on the total value locked (TVL) across Ethereum DeFi protocols, which dipped by $3.55 billion. This incident has highlighted the interconnectedness of the DeFi ecosystem and the potential systemic risk posed by such exploits.

DeFi Protocols Shore Up Defenses

In response to the potential catastrophic liquidations, DeFi protocols have been taking active measures to protect themselves. 

The DAO governing the lending platform Abracadabra, for instance, approved an emergency measure to change the way it tracks the prices of tokens to prevent inadvertent selling of CRV tokens that would accumulate bad debt.

Abracadabra forum.webp
Source: forum.abracadabra.money

Meanwhile, the Reserve Protocol is seeking to establish a more robust incident response strategy to coordinate across teams during crises like the one faced by Curve Finance. This proactive approach is aimed at strengthening the resilience of the DeFi ecosystem in the face of future exploits.

Insurance Claims on the Horizon

Nexus Mutual, an insurance-like service, is preparing for a wave of new claims following the exploit on Curve Finance. This situation underscores the importance of insurance-like services in the DeFi space, providing some level of protection against losses suffered from such exploits.


DeFi's Reactive Measures After Curve Finance Exploit

Arrayed against the backdrop of the Curve Finance exploit, notable shifts occurred in the DeFi space. Tactics arched toward safeguarding investments, along with strategies reoriented to curb future financial damage, characterized a marked slew of activities.

Abracadabra's Action Plan

abracadabra proposal.webp
Source: snapshot.org

In response to the looming risk associated with an $18 million loan held by Curve Finance founder, Michael Egarov, DeFi platform Abracadabra Finance has formulated a strategy that involves raising the already-existing 18% interest rate to an astounding 200%. This change is projected to protect the protocol from heavy reliance on CRV tokens. 

The proposed strategy has only gained approval from 27.74% of the Abracadabra community. Among the ones who voted "No,", one wallet named masterofdisaster.eth was the biggest contributor with 10 billion SPELL tokens involved.

Aave's Preventive Proposal

aave proposal.webp
Source: app.aave.com/governance

Further, Gauntlet, a risk management firm, has suggested that Aave, a leading lending and borrowing platform, pauses all its borrowing activities to deter a potential crisis incited by large CRV collateral. 

Following a recent and significant slump in CRV liquidity, this recommendation could alleviate increasing concerns over a potential asset liquidation. The proposal, open for voting until August 5, 2023, underscores the importance of risk management and preventative initiatives in maintaining stability in DeFi protocols.

Binance's Market Makers Lend Support to CRV's Price

Kaiko tweet.webp
Source: Clara Medalie/ Twitter

In the wake of the recent hack and sharp decline in the value of the CRV token, market makers added bid-side liquidity, thereby doubling the 2% bid-side market depth from roughly 500,000 CRV to over 1 million CRV on Binance. 

This act of plunge protection was unusual especially during significant market events, but it effectively helped to maintain CRV's price above certain key levels, indicating the incentives for market participants to prevent a further drop in price. This orchestrated action underscores the significance of a robust and responsive market in a constantly evolving DeFi landscape.


The Curve Founder's Strategic Maneuvers Amid Crisis

Michael Egorov, the founder of Curve Finance, recently enacted a series of strategic moves involving CRV tokens. Egorov sold a staggering 72 million of these tokens in OTC deals, with some prominent buyers such as Huobi's co-founder Jun Du, buying 10 million CRV tokens for a total of $4 million. 

This move was replicated by Aave Chan founder Marc Zeller, who proposed the acquisition of $2 million worth of CRV tokens from Egorov. These deals emerged in the wake of Egorov’s mounting realization of the risks surrounding his over $100 million in loans, a portion of which faced the threat of liquidation if CRV prices plummeted.

curve otc update.webp
Source: sandraaleow/ Twitter

Looming Risk: Potential CRV Dump

Concerns are mounting among CRV token holders due to the risk of a potential massive dump affecting the market. With Egorov's over $100 million worth of crowding the financial landscape, there remains an undeniable concern about a potential market crash, extensively affecting the CRV token holders. 

This undercurrent of apprehension has been exacerbated by Egorov's high-interest loans on Frax Finance that can catapult to an overwhelming 10,000% interest rate within a time frame of just three and a half days.


The Response: Mitigating Potential Damage

Curve Finance recently encountered a bruising setback on account of the $47-million hack that exposed a vulnerability in Vyper. In light of this, Egorov has been doggedly working to alleviate the debts and dilute the utilization rate, keeping in close quarters with other major investors in an attempt to forestall a total financial disaster. 

Vying for stability, Egorov sold off a vast sum of CRV tokens to a range of institutions and investors triggering a significant decrease in debt on hybrid DeFi platforms.


Encapsulation of the Scenario by Industry Analysts

Curve investors worrying about the crash (1).webp

Industry analysts from J.P. Morgan, coming to grips with the recent onslaught on Curve Finance, are of the standpoint that the contagion from the Curve Finance has been successfully kept at bay for the moment. They maintain, however, vivid caution against the stagnant or possibly shrinking condition that the DeFi ecosystem has been caught in. 

Nevertheless, they highlight a silver lining in the form of the robust performances showcased by components of the DeFi universe, notably the Tron ecosystem, and Ethereum Layer 2 networks, attributed mainly to swift and cost-effective transactions.


Curve's crvUSD Stablecoin Bounces Back from Temporary Dip

As a ripple effect of the July 30 exploit, Curve Finance's crvUSD stablecoin experienced a slight deviance of 0.35% from its peg to the U.S. dollar.

This transitory depegging threw spotlight on the stability mechanisms of crvUSD, chiefly the PegKeeper algorithm, instrumental in maintaining equilibrium in interest rates and liquidation ratios. 

At the moment, the value of crvUSD aligns approximately with the U.S. dollar, standing at $0.99. Given that the stablecoin has, for the most part, rigidly maintained its peg to the dollar since crafted in May, the divergence sparked rife speculation, marking crvUSD's premier significant shift from the peg.

Gleaning insights from the temporary depegging that USD Coin (USDC) underwent amidst the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank in March, Curve Finance highlighted this experience as the first stress test for the decentralized stablecoin since its inception.


Curve Finance, Alchemix, and Metronome Offer Bounty for Stolen Funds

In the aftermath of the recent attacks, Curve Finance, Metronome, and Alchemix offered a bounty on August 3rd, aimed at securing the return of pilfered funds.

Committed to the recovery, the trio offered a 10% cut of the stolen funds as bounty, with the remainder to be rechanneled to the exploiters.

curve message to exploiter.webp
Source: Etherscan

The DeFi platforms collectively pledged an absence of legal pursuit or law enforcement intervention if the attackers willingly surrendered the appropriated funds. A deadline has been set for August 6th for the attackers to step forward.

Seizing upon non-compliance, the 10% bounty will then be offered to anyone capable of identifying the responsible parties and securing a conviction in court.

The strategic offer was co-signed by Curve, Metronome, and Alchemix and publicized on Twitter, marking a unified front in the face of the exploit and a determined effort to repossess the stolen assets.


Curve Founder Continues to Offload CRV via OTC Deals 

In response to his financial disarray, Michael Egorov, founder of Curve Finance, adopted a strategic drawdown approach, offloading millions of Curve's native token (CRV) through over-the-counter (OTC) deals.

A key development in this direction has seen Egorov sell off an estimated 110M CRV, equivalent to $44M, according to the tracking tool of data analysis platform Dune.

Curve OTC dashboard on Dune (1).webp
Source: 0xramen/ Dune

OTC trades have long been viewed as a demonstration of swift consolidation in the DeFi space when faced with substantial leveraged positions. However, it raises concerns due to the privacy of these deals, which seemingly contravenes DeFi's spirit of transparency.

Generating liquidity from the selling spree, Egorov has been annealing his debt incurred from his extensive loans on platforms like Aave, Fraxlend, and Abracadabra.

Following this debt settlement strategy, Egorov's CRV offloading may persist until his massive debt of over $60M is fully settled with the various lending platforms.


Curve Finance Exploiter Reinforces DeFi Insecurity with a Taunting Refund

In an unprecedented move characterizing the DeFi landscape, the individual responsible for the Curve Finance exploit returned an alarming 4,820 alETH and 2,258 ETH to the protocol, equating to an approximate refund of $12.7 million.

Conducted during three separate transactions, the exploiter started with a 1 alETH test followed by subsequent returns of 1,000 alETH, equivalent to $1.7 million, and 3,819 alETH valued at $6.7 million. An additional 2,258 ETH, valued at over $4.2 million, found its way back into an Alchemix Finance wallet.

Loan-based DeFi protocol Alchemix Finance, heavily reliant on Curve pools, was the benefactor of the returned funds. At the time of the transaction's occurrence, an alETH (Alchemix ETH) was pegged at approximately $1,755.

In a motivated bid to avoid wrecking the project, the exploiter clarified that the refund wasn't oriented by the fear of repercussions but to avoid ruining the project. 

exploiter's message on etherscan (1).webp
Source: Etherscan

FAQs

1. What was the Curve Finance Exploit?

The Curve Finance Exploit was a major cybersecurity breach in which a flaw in the Vyper programming language was exploited, affecting multiple Curve liquidity pools and leading to a loss of approximately $100 million in digital assets.

2. What caused the Curve Finance Exploit?

The exploit targeted a dysfunction in the reentrancy lock system within Vyper versions 0.2.15, 0.2.16, and 0.3.0, designed to prevent repeated function calls during the execution of initial function calls.

3. Which Curve pools were affected by the exploit?

The exploit directly impacted four Curve pools: aETH/ETH, msETH/ETH, pETH/ETH, and CRV/ETH, leading to substantial asset losses. 

4. How did the exploit impact the price of the CRV token?

The exploit caused a significant dip in the price of the Curve Finance's native token (CRV). On decentralized exchanges, the CRV's price dropped sharply to $0.086. 

5. What were the broader market effects of the Curve Finance Exploit?

The exploit had far-reaching effects beyond Curve Finance, causing market adjustments, affecting trading patterns of various tokens, impacting the amount of assets locked in the DeFi protocol and displaying the intricacies and vulnerabilities of the DeFi ecosystem.


Conclusion

The Curve Finance exploit exposed critical vulnerabilities in the DeFi ecosystem. The aftermath unraveled staggering financial losses, disrupted market dynamics, and incited rescues and risk remediation actions. While the episode reflects the tumultuous nature of DeFi, it also underlines the importance of continuous vigilance, robust security measures, and collaboration in mitigating risks. 

Indeed, the incident serves as a glaring reminder that while digital finance offers unprecedented opportunities, it is not insulated from serious pitfalls, necessitating innovation in security and risk management strategies.

This article has been refined and enhanced by ChatGPT.

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