Unraveling the $190 Million Nomad Bridge Attack

Another bridge exploit has rocked the crypto community as Nomad lost almost $200 million on Tuesday.

On August 2, cross-chain bridging platform Nomad alerted users of an ongoing exploit. In the hours that followed, more than $190 million was drained from the protocol.

Nomad is a Layer 2 cross-chain token bridge for transfers between Ethereum, Avalanche, Milkomeda, and Moonbeam.

Security firm PeckShield reported that “an investigation is ongoing and leading firms for blockchain intelligence and forensics have been retained.”

How Did It Happen?

White hat hacker and crypto programmer “samczsun” broke down the attack, commenting that it was “one of the most chaotic hacks that Web3 has ever seen.”

PeckShield reported that 41 addresses grabbed around $152 million in the exploit. However, DeFiLlama revealed that the entire TVL of $190 million was drained. In addition to individuals, MEV bots and flashbots were among the attackers.

Samczsun said that the transactions were parsed without being proved first. Once one was successful, “attackers abused this to copy/paste transactions,” rapidly draining funds in a “frenzied free-for-all.”

He said that the attack was chaotic because the exploiters did not need to have any technical knowledge. They just found a transaction that worked, replaced the target address with their own, and rebroadcasted.

The exploit was due to a vulnerability in one of Nomad’s smart contracts following a routine upgrade, he added.

On August 3, Nomad posted that it was working with blockchain intelligence firm TRM Labs. It provided an address for ethical hackers to return funds. However, there was just 1.8 ETH in it at the time of writing.

Another Bridge Exploit

Nomad conducted a $22 million seed round in April 2021. Investors included Polychain Capital, Ethereal Ventures, Hack VC, Coinbase Ventures, and Crypto.com.

It is the latest token bridge attack victim this year. The exploit follows high-profile hacks of the Ronin Bridge, Wormhole, and Harmony.

Mudit Gupta, the chief information security officer at Polygon, said that the complexity of bridge software can lead to errors and make them vulnerable to exploitation.

Nomad is not alone this week. At the time of writing, PeckShield was reporting that the Solana ecosystem was under attack.

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