Cross-Chain Bridge: Is It Really Secure?

2 mn read

Navigating the Security Landscape

As decentralised finance (DeFi) is making speedy innovation in the sector, security is falling short to keep up the pace. As someone like me, who has been deeply involved in the industry of cybersecurity, I’ve seen firsthand how new technologies like cross-chain bridges can revolutionise the way we interact with digital assets. However, I’ve also witnessed the devastating consequences when security is often overlooked particularly in the DeFi sector.

Cross-chain bridges are becoming important within the DeFi deployments

Cross-chain bridges are becoming important within the DeFi deployments, enabling seamless interoperability between different blockchain networks. Imagine being able to move your assets from Ethereum to Binance Smart Chain with just a few clicks – that’s the power of these bridges. 

They work by using oracles to fetch data from one chain and relayers to trigger corresponding actions on another. In theory, it’s a straightforward process, but in practice, it’s a complex activity that introduces multiple points of failure, just like dancing to the tune of cha cha tunes.

I vividly remember the shock waves that rippled through the community when the Poly Network hack occurred in August 2021. Over $600 million was syphoned off due to a vulnerability in the bridge’s smart contract logic. It was a stark reminder that even the most promising technologies can be undone by a single line of faulty code.

And then there was the Thorchain attack just a month before, where a relayer exploit led to a $7.6 million loss. It’s a story I’ve seen play out time and time again – a bug in the code, a momentary lapse in security, and millions gone in an instant.

But here’s the thing: these incidents, while devastating, can be avoided. There are steps we can take to mitigate the risks and build more resilient cross-chain bridges.

Tamaghna Basu, Founder of DeTaSECURE

First and foremost, we need to prioritise decentralisation. Relying on a single oracle or relayer is like putting all your eggs in one basket – if that basket falls, everything breaks. By using decentralised oracle solutions like Chainlink, which aggregate data from multiple sources, we can significantly reduce the risk of manipulation.

Power of multi-sig schemes for relayers

Next, we need to embrace the power of multi-sig schemes for relayers. Imagine a vault that requires multiple keys to open – that’s essentially what multi-sig does for relayer transactions. No single entity can unilaterally execute a transaction, adding an extra layer of security.

But perhaps most importantly, we need to get serious about smart contract audits. I can’t stress this enough – every line of code needs to be rigorously tested and verified. Formal verification, a mathematical approach to proving the correctness of the contract’s algorithms, should be a standard practice. And regular audits by reputable firms should be non-negotiable.

I’ve been in this space long enough to know that there’s no such thing as perfect security. But by implementing these measures – decentralised oracles, multi-sig relayers, formal verification, and regular audits – we can significantly reduce the risks and build cross-chain bridges that are worthy of the DeFi revolution.

The stakes are high, and the recent bridge hacks serve as a sobering reminder of what’s at stake. But I remain optimistic. I’ve seen the incredible innovation and resilience of this community, and I know that together, we can build a more secure and trustworthy DeFi ecosystem.

So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. The future of cross-chain bridges – and of DeFi as a whole – depends on it.

author avatar
Tamaghna Basu
I'm the brain behind https://DeTaSECURE.com, a one-stop cybersecurity solution provider for companies of all sizes, both in web2 and web3. I've also developed a budget-friendly cybersecurity SaaS platform https://GetSECURED.ai to help startups & SMEs adopt early-stage security measures. We've been bootstrapping for the last 2.5 years. With a rich experience of nearly two decades in entrepreneurship, web3, cybersecurity, AI, and technology, I bring a treasure trove of expertise to the table. I've had the privilege of working with big names like PayPal, eBay, Walmart, and PwC, gaining a deep understanding of both product and service aspects. Before DeTaSECURE, I founded neoEYED.com 8 years ago, focusing on AI and financial fraud protection. We've developed a cutting-edge AI algorithm and a multi-factor authentication solution leveraging human behavioral analytics to safeguard company data from malicious hackers. Currently, we're on the lookout for acquisition opportunities for neoEYED. My passion for innovation has bagged me over 20 innovation awards from esteemed organizations, including Polygon, ETHNYC, Solana, the Government of India, Mastercard, Citi Bank, NPCI, and BBVA Mexico, amounting to almost $200K+ in cash & kind. As an influential advisor with over 30K followers on LinkedIn, I actively contribute to the industry's growth and knowledge sharing. Moreover, as an internationally celebrated keynote speaker and startup advisor, I have trained over 1000 individuals worldwide, including government and defense agencies, corporations, and universities. I've also served as an advisor to GIET University and acted as a mentor for Stanford's cybersecurity program. Additionally, I've built a strong community of cybersecurity experts as part of a non-profit organization since 2010. We are Asia's largest cybersecurity community, with 30K+ members and 24 chapters across 7 countries. Here are a few talks and media presence from the past: YourStory Article - https://yourstory.com/2018/12/security-startup-password-stolen-neoeyed Interview with Shradha Sharma from YourStory - https://twitter.com/YourStoryCo/status/1091280446766206978 Interview in Darkreading (a popular US media) - https://www.darkreading.com/theedge/attack-of-the-clone-next-gen-social- engineering/b/d-id/1338498 Conference Talk: How I cloned myself using AI (long before ChatGPT) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XafJT7I71yo Conference Talk: Detecting and fighting frauds using behavioral biometrics at YourStory Future of Work Conference - https://www.facebook.com/yourstorycom/videos/tamaghna-basus-talk-on-detecting- and-fighting-fraud-futureofwork/2133717203387134/ A few other talks that I can remember: 1. Digital Frauds and how to mitigate them - IIM Bengaluru NSRCEL, 2020 2. AI and ML in cybersecurity at C0C0N, 2019 3. Network Forensic at Ground Zero Summit, 2013 (www.g0s.org) 4. Web Application Security at ISACA Bangalore 2013 5. Public Exploit Held in Private at OWASP Conference Delhi 2012 (www.2012.owasp.in) 6. Client-Side Exploits using PDF at C0C0N Cochin 2010 (http://is-ra.org/c0c0n/) 7. JSON Fuzzing at NULLCON Goa 2011(www.nullcon.net) 8. Practical Exploitation at ISACA Bangalore Chapter 2011 9. Information Security, Past, Present and Future” at Amrita College Cochin 2012 And many more! You can google it. I am available at: 1. https://twitter.com/mnkbuddh 2. https://www.linkedin.com/in/tamaghnabasu/ Feel free to ping me if you need any help - advisory, training, guidance, mentoring, product engineering, architecture designing, security review, VCISO, or any cybersecurity requirements, or in AI or blockchain or all. I'm all ears!

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