The UMBC Cyber Defense Lab presents

Transparent Dishonesty: Front-Running Attacks on Blockchain


Professor Jeremy Clark
Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering
Concordia University, Montreal, Canada


12–1 pm ET Friday, March 26, 2021
online via WebEx


We consider front-running to be a course of action where an entity benefits from prior access to privileged market information about upcoming transactions and trades. Front-running has been an issue in financial instrument markets since the 1970s. With the advent of blockchain technology, front-running has resurfaced in new forms we explore here, instigated by blockchain’s decentralized and transparent nature. I will discuss our “systemization of knowledge” paper which draws from a scattered body of knowledge and instances of front-running across the top 25 most active decentral applications (DApps) deployed on Ethereum blockchain. Additionally, we carry out a detailed analysis of Status.im initial coin offering (ICO) and show evidence of abnormal miner’s behavior indicative of front-running token purchases. Finally, we map the proposed solutions to front-running into useful categories.


Jeremy Clark is an associate professor at the Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering. At Concordia, he holds the NSERC/Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton/Catallaxy Industrial Research Chair in Blockchain Technologies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo, where his gold medal dissertation was on designing and deploying secure voting systems including Scantegrity—the first cryptographically verifiable system used in a public sector election. He wrote one of the earliest academic papers on Bitcoin, completed several research projects in the area, and contributed to the first textbook. Beyond research, he has worked with several municipalities on voting technology and testified to both the Canadian Senate and House finance committees on Bitcoin. email:


Host: Alan T. Sherman, Support for this event was provided in part by the National Science Foundation under SFS grant DGE-1753681. The UMBC Cyber Defense Lab meets biweekly Fridays. All meetings are open to the public. Upcoming CDL Meetings: April 9, (UMBC), MeetingMayhem: A network adversarial thinking game; April 23, Peter Peterson (University of Minnesota Duluth), Adversarial thinking;
May 7, Farid Javani (UMBC), Anonymization by oblivious transfer.