Aave Safety Module

1 Executive Summary

This report presents the results of our engagement with Aave to review the Aave incentives smart contracts. The review was conducted over one week, from September 7th to September 11th by Sergii Kravchenko and Bernhard Mueller. A total of 10 person-days were spent.

2 Scope

Our review focused on the commit hash b125e181762a0318ce7dc1c9eed1b75d0520e343. The list of files in scope can be found in the Appendix.

The hash of the final commit with all fixes merged was a058e0e4443b775f403ee49062e304e7d857e07e.

2.1 Objectives

Together with the Aave team, we identified the following priorities for our review:

  1. Ensure that the system is implemented consistently with the intended functionality, and without unintended edge cases.
  2. Identify known vulnerabilities particular to smart contract systems, as outlined in our Smart Contract Best Practices, and the Smart Contract Weakness Classification Registry.
  3. Identify ways of gaming or abusing the system, e.g. to drain funds from the rewards contract.

We specifically focused on identifying possible ways of gaming the staking, rewards distribution and cooldown mechanisms, e.g.:

  • Ways of claiming rewards without any time passing between stake and unstake;
  • Incorrect updates of internal accounting (e.g. user can claim the same reward twice by transferring stakedTokens, etc.)l
  • Abusing or bypassing the cooldown.

3 Results Overview

We did not identify any critical issues that would have allowed to game the system.

It was noted that the cooldown mechanism for unstaking can be manipulated to a certain degree: A user could shorten the coolodown by splitting their stake into chunks and starting the cooldown at different points in time. However, while the mechanism isn’t perfect, it still achieves its goal of preventing users from unstaking if they anticipate being slashed. The effect of the mechanism can be improved by choosing appropriate values for the cooldowbn and unstaking window (see “issues” section).

Besides the above, only minor code quality issues and best practive violations were found.

3.1 Recommendations

Review the issues and code quality recommendations documented in this report.

4 Issues

Each issue has an assigned severity:

  • Minor issues are subjective in nature. They are typically suggestions around best practices or readability. Code maintainers should use their own judgment as to whether to address such issues.
  • Medium issues are objective in nature but are not security vulnerabilities. These should be addressed unless there is a clear reason not to.
  • Major issues are security vulnerabilities that may not be directly exploitable or may require certain conditions in order to be exploited. All major issues should be addressed.
  • Critical issues are directly exploitable security vulnerabilities that need to be fixed.

4.1 Unhandled return values of transfer and transferFrom Medium ✓ Fixed


The issue was fixed by using OpenZeppelin’s safeTransfer and safeTransferFrom wrappers.

ERC20 implementations are not always consistent. Some implementations of transfer and transferFrom could return ‘false’ on failure instead of reverting. It is safer to wrap such calls into require() statements to these failures.


IERC20(STAKED_TOKEN).transferFrom(msg.sender, address(this), amount);


REWARD_TOKEN.transferFrom(REWARDS_VAULT, to, amountToWithdraw);


IERC20(STAKED_TOKEN).transfer(to, amount);

4.2 Staking cooldown can be avoided for a part of the funds Minor ✓ Fixed


The cooldown window will be set to much higher value (to the order of days) in production. The mechanism is sufficient to prevent stakers from withdrawing if the cooldown window is long enough while also being larger than the withdrawal window.

Aave is planning to introduce a slashing mechanism for the staking system in the future. In order to prevent stakers from withdrawing their stake immediately, the team has added a “cooldown” mechanism. The idea is that whenever stakers want to redeem the stake, they should call the cooldown function and wait for COOLDOWN_SECONDS. After that, a time period called UNSTAKE_WINDOW starts during which the stake can be withdrawn.

However, depending on the settings (“COOLDOWN_SECONDS” and “UNSTAKE_WINDOW” values), various algorithms exist that would allow users to optimize their withdrawal tactics. By using such tactics, stakers may be able to withdraw at least a part of the stake immediately.

Let’s assume that the values are the same as in tests: COOLDOWN_SECONDS == 1 hour and UNSTAKE_WINDOW == 30 minutes. Stakers can split their stake into 3 parts and call cooldown for one of them every 30 minutes. That would ensure that at least 1/3 of the stake can be withdrawn immediately at any time. And on average, more than 1/2 of the stake can be withdrawn immediately.


Make sure that the COOLDOWN_SECONDS value is much larger than the UNSTAKE_WINDOW. This will make any cooldown optimization techniques less effective.

4.3 Minor code quality issues Minor ✓ Fixed


all issues have been fixed in production.

We recommend the following improvements:

Fix todos

Clean up all TODOs before going into production:


function configureAssets(DistributionTypes.AssetConfigInput[] calldata assetsConfigInput)
//    override TODO: create interface

Fix incorrect NatSpec comments

Clean up NatSpec comments to improve readability.

The function claimRewards() in StakedToken has the same description as the stake() function:


 * @dev Stakes tokens to start earning rewards
 * @param to Address to stake for
 * @param amount Amount to stake
function claimRewards(address to, uint256 amount) external override {

One function argument is missing from the docstrings for claimRewards() in AaveIncentivesController:


 * @dev Claims reward for an user, on all the assets of the lending pool, accumulating the pending rewards
 * @param amount Amount of rewards to claim
 * @param to Address that will be receiving the rewards
 * @return Rewards claimed
function claimRewards(
  uint256 amount,
  address to,
  bool stake
) external override returns (uint256) {

Appendix 1 - Files in Scope

This audit covered the following files:

File Name SHA-1 Hash
code/contracts/stake/AaveDistributionManager.sol d4538fad03eb23e1cb1c8d2ec5678066adb85182
code/contracts/stake/AaveIncentivesController.sol ae4e31b00899767366ffaf8245733f8b1e78a9cc
code/contracts/stake/StakedAave.sol f92b21fb160280e01f0a011e56e85a511da67b5c
code/contracts/stake/StakedToken.sol 58efb6d8aaee835bbd2f0879acd1d089d4b6b02b

Appendix 2 - Artifacts

This section contains some of the artifacts generated during our review by automated tools, the test suite, etc. If any issues or recommendations were identified by the output presented here, they have been addressed in the appropriate section above.

A.2.1 Surya

Surya is a utility tool for smart contract systems. It provides a number of visual outputs and information about the structure of smart contracts. It also supports querying the function call graph in multiple ways to aid in the manual inspection and control flow analysis of contracts.

Below is a complete list of functions with their visibility and modifiers:

A.2.3 Tests Suite

Below is the output generated by running the test suite:

Appendix 3 - Disclosure

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