Upgradeable contracts made safer with Crytic

Upgradeable contracts are not as safe as you think. Architectures for upgradeability can be flawed, locking contracts, losing data, or sabotaging your ability to recover from an incident. Every contract upgrade must be carefully reviewed to avoid catastrophic mistakes. The most common delegatecall proxy comes with drawbacks that we’ve catalogued before.

Crytic now includes a comprehensive suite of 17 upgradeability checks to help you avoid these pitfalls.

The how-to

Reviewing upgradeable contracts is a complex low-level task that requires investigating the storage layout and organization of functions in memory. We created a sample token that supports upgradeability to help walk through the steps in crytic/upgradeability-demo. This simple demo repository includes:

  • MyToken, our initial implementation of a simple token
  • Proxy, our proxy

Any call to Proxy will use a delegatecall on MyToken to execute its logic, while the storage variables will be held on Proxy. This is a standard setup for most upgradeable contracts.

Consider these two contracts are already deployed on mainnet. However, the code for MyToken has become stale and you need to change its features. It’s time for MyTokenV2! The code for MyTokenV2 is similar to MyToken, with the exception of removing the init() function and its associated state variable.

Let’s use Crytic to ensure that deploying MyTokenV2 does not introduce new security risks.


First, tell Crytic about your upgradeable contracts. Go to your Crytic settings and find this panel:

Here you can configure:

  1. The contract being upgraded
  2. The proxy used
  3. The new version of the contract

Note: (1) and (2) are optional; Crytic will run as many checks as are appropriate.

For example, if you only have the upgradeable contract, and no proxy or new version, Crytic can already look for flaws in the initialization schema. If you have the upgradeable contract and the proxy, but no new version, Crytic can look for function collisions between the implementation and the proxy. If you have multiple upgradeable contracts, or multiple proxies, you can then configure any combination that fits your setup.

Back to MyToken, we have these three contracts:

Once we configure Crytic, the upgradeability checks will run on every commit and pull request, similar to security checks and unit tests:

Crytic’s Findings

Occasionally, Crytic will find serious errors in your upgradeability code (oh no!). We built one such issue into our demo. Here’s what it looks like when Crytic discovers a security issue:

The was_init storage variable was removed, so balances has a different storage offset in MyToken and MyTokenV2, breaking the storage layout of the contract.

This is a common mistake that can be particularly difficult to find by hand in complex codebases with many contracts and inheritances—but Crytic will catch the issue for you!

What else can Crytic find?

Crytic will review (depending on your configuration):

  • Storage layout consistency between the upgrades and the proxy
  • Function collisions between the proxy and the implementation
  • Correct initialization schema
  • Best practices for variable usage

Here’s the detailed list of checks:

NumWhat it DetectsImpactProxy neededNew version needed
1Variables that should not be constantHighX
2Function ID collisionHighX
3Function shadowingHighX
4Missing call to init functionHigh
5initializer() is not calledHigh
6Init function called multiple timesHigh
7Incorrect vars order in v2HighX
8Incorrect vars order in the proxyHighX
9State variables with an initial valueHigh
10Variables that should be constantHighX
11Extra vars in the proxyMediumX
12Variable missing in the v2MediumX
13Extra vars in the v2InformationalX
14Initializable is not inheritedInformational
15Initializable is missingInformational
16Initialize function that must be calledInformational
17initializer() is missingInformational

Check your contracts with Crytic

In addition to finding 90+ vulnerabilities, Crytic can now detect flaws in your upgradeability code. It is the only platform that can protect your codebase in depth for so many issues. If you want to avoid catastrophic mistakes, use Crytic before deploying any upgradeable contract.

Got questions? Join our Slack channel (#crytic) or follow @CryticCI on Twitter.

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Trail of Bits Blog authored by Trail of Bits. Read the original post at: https://blog.trailofbits.com/2020/06/12/upgradeable-contracts-made-safer-with-crytic/