This document describes the process for a PQ Review (Process Quality) on a deployed smart contract. The focus of this process is on DeFi contracts but it could be applied to any smart contract.
The intent is generation of a simple quality score for the smart contract application being reviewed. It will indicate the overall quality of the development process and the documents that the process generated. The readers can dig into the details of the review in order to learn how the score was generated. Every step will be documented and available for review.
The basic premise of these reviews is that developers following and documenting a good software development process should have secure code and maintain security that users can trust. For blockchain developments a good process should have public readily auditable documents and other traces, making the process clear.
These reviews are developed and focused towards released operating smart contract applications. The initial focus is on DeFi applications as these bring in many new users investing significant sums that are trusted by the smart contracts.
PQ reviews are initially done without the organization’s permission or support using exclusively documents publicly available such as the website, the software repository of the code (GitHub, etc), and the code available from Etherscan. After the initial audit report is generated, it will be presented to the developers of the reviews organization for correction or improvement. The results of these corrections will be clear and publicly documented in a new version of the report.
The author has no commercial arrangement with the organizations being audited. These reviews are not funded by the organization being reviewed. The author is aiming for community support to review as a public good.
Very simply, the review looks for the following declarations from the developer's site. With these declarations, it is reasonable to trust the smart contracts.
Here are my smart contracts on the blockchain
Here is the documentation that explains what my smart contracts do
Here are the tests I ran to verify my smart contract
Here are the audit(s) performed on my code by third party experts
The author of this process has a long history in the avionics industry. Aerospace software development has always maintained that a rigorous and frequently audited software development process leads to safe and secure software that can be supported for many decades. The avionics process is DO-178C. It is significantly more rigorous than the expectation of this review process, however the steps used an overarching philosophy has guided the specification of this review process.
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The process breaks the scores into the following sections;
Code -- Executing Code Verification
Documentation --Documentation for the Executing Code
Test --Overall test strategy for Executing Code
Audits -- Review of Software Security Audits
The final review score is indicated as a percentage. The percentage is calculated as (Total Possible Points) / (Achieved Points). For each element the answer can be either Yes/No or a percentage. For each element there is a “Scoring Weight”. The element points achieved is the scoring weight times the answer. The Achieved Points is the sum of every element’s points.
The scoring matrix for each element is highlighted as below;
Some development teams, especially in DeFi prefer a private repo to reduce the ability for an easy fork of their development. We clearly understand the business incentive for this and want to allow developers to keep the repo private and still get a good score.
Normally the software repo also holds the tests. If the repo is private, it is up to the developers to publicly show that they have a full test suite in order to get the score.
The developers will be penalized by not having a public repo, but not significantly. There are two questions "Is there a private repo?" and "Is there evidence of steady development?" which without a public repo you cannot score well.
Audits are also a special case. With a public repo, anyone can check the differences between the audited and deployed code because all the information is publicly available. Assuming the audit takes place on code that cannot be seen publicly, then 25% is deducted from the usual score. So a 100% become 75% and 890% become 65%.Cap if the auditing firm indicates that there audit report is relevant to the deployed code, then full marks are regained.
Any PQ review starts with the code being executed and used by the application. It answers and generates a score on the following questions;
Are the executing code address(s) readily available? (Y/N)
Is the code actively being used? (%)
Is there a public software repository? (Y/N)
Is there a development history visible? (%)
Is the team public (not anonymous)? (Y/N)
Are the addresses of the deployed contract on the mainnet clearly available on the public documents for the service? This is a very important question as it impacts the audits score also. It is virtually impossible to have a passing score without a Yes. All the contract addresses must be visible, not just the token address. This includes AMM strategies that may update regularly. The addresses can be over multiple pages as long as one page has the latest addresses or links to their locations.
Why? Because if a user cannot easily see the contracts he is using (even if he does not understand Solidity) then how can he trust that the code?
An image of the web page with the addresses will be recorded as part of the review. Readily available means clearly labelled on the website or on a page on the GitBook or in the readme of the software repository.
If the contract address is found through alternate, unclear means (such as in an audit report), then this score will be No but the rest of the review will take place using the addresses. Audits will keep their score.
If the addresses are not found, the rest of the audit takes place without code. The audit results will be zero, even if an audit is available as there is no confidence on the code that is executed wrt to the code audited. The test and documentation sections will receive scores based on the software repository contents as these indicate the care of the developers.
Make the ethereum addresses of the smart contract utilized by your application available on either your website, Gitbook or your github (in the README for instance). Ensure the addresses are up to date.
This looks at the transaction history of the contract through Etherscan. The results are scored as indicated below. The proof is documented in an appendix. The reviewer should choose an important contract, not the token, that is executed regularly.
The chart for the appendix is generated by searching the address, clicking Analytics, then Transactions (for the Transaction chart) and scale it to one month.
100% More than 10 transactions a day 70% More than 10 transactions a week 40% More than 10 transactions a month 10% Less than 10 transactions a month 0% No activity
This checks if there is a public software repository. If it is visible, even one just made for deployment, then this scores as Yes. For teams with not public software repository, then No.
Ensure you contracts and tests are available for viewing on a public software repository (like GitHub). The link can be from the website or GitBook documentation.
This checks if the software repository demonstrates a strong steady history. This is normally demonstrated by commits, branches and releases in a software repository. A healthy history demonstrates a history of more than a month (at a minimum).
For a yes in this question the real names of some team members must be public on the website or other documentation. If the team is anonymous and then this question seems a No.
The documentation section describes the quality of the system and software documentation and commenting. This version of the Process Audit standard requests only basic documentation. For perspective, the aerospace software requirements are mentioned below.
Required questions are;
Is there a whitepaper? (Y/N)
Are the basic software functions documented? (Y/N)
Are the requirements available publicly? (Y/N)
Does the software function documentation fully (100%) cover the deployed contracts? (%)
Are there sufficiently detailed comments for all functions within the deployed contract code (%)
Is it possible to trace from software documentation to the implementation in code (%)
This is simple. Is there a white paper or other basic description of what the project is doing referenced by either the web site or the GitHub. Yes/No. We accept Medium articles explaining the application.
Ensure the white paper is available for download from your website or at least the software repository. Ideally update the whitepaper to meet the capabilities of your present application.
This is also simple but very important. Are the basic software functions of the smart contracts documented in either the website, GitBook or the GitHub? Yes/No. This document says what the application does in some technical detail. The information may be in the white paper but this requires more specific technical detail than the white paper score requires.
Write the document based on the deployed code. For guidance, refer to the SecurEth System Description Document for guidance. This document can be written after deployment.
This score requires documentation specifically on the contract code. Generalized math formulas or state diagrams without directly referencing the code do not count. The goal for a 100% score is for documentation (in either the website, GitBook or the GitHub) that cover all of the developed source code. It does not have to cover public libraries. The requirements do not need rigid requirement diction (such as a "shall" in every requirement). For guidance, refer to the SecurEth System Description Document.
100% All contracts and functions documented 80% Only the major functions documented 79-1% Estimate of the level of software documentation 0% No software documentation
This score can improve by adding content to the requirements document such that it comprehensively covers the requirements. For guidance, refer to the SecurEth System Description Document . Using tools that aid traceability detection will help.
Software requirements are not the same as system requirements (that are referenced in the previous questions). Software requirements refer specifically to the code implementation. It is an additional layer of documentation within the code and must exclusively be in comments in the source file. Ideally the comments have fixed formatting giving consistent comments for all authors in all source files for the project. For guidance refer to the SecurEth Software Requirements.
The Comments to Code (CtC) ratio is the primary metric for this score.
Guidance: 100% CTC > 100 Useful comments consistently on all code 90-70% CTC > 70 Useful comment on most code 60-20% CTC > 20 Some useful commenting 0% CTC < 20 No useful commenting
For this initial version of the Process Audit process the auditor qualitatively determines the number between 0 and 100 and include example source in the appendices to justify the score.
This score can improve by adding comments to the deployed code such that it comprehensively covers the code. For guidance, refer to the SecurEth Software Requirements.
Traceability is a documented link between the software and the code. It can be code snippets withing the docs, a simple identifier (such as a shortened content hash) that connects a text requirement to the code it implements. Since requirements are usually in separate documents from the software requirements/comments traceability links each requirement to the code that implements it. Ideally there are requirements for every piece of code, 100% requirement traceability. For reference, check the SecurEth guidelines on traceability.
Guidance: 100% - Clear explicit traceability between code and documentation at a requirement level for all code 60% - Clear association between code and documents via non explicit traceability 40% - Documentation lists all the functions and describes their functions 0% - No connection between documentation and code
This score can improve by adding traceability from requirements to code such that it is clear where each requirement is coded. For reference, check the SecurEth guidelines on traceability.
For reference, this presents the software and system requirements for aerospace code certification in an extremely simplified format. It makes a useful comparison.
All System Requirements documented in proper requirements diction
There is documented traceability from each system requirement to software requirements or low level requirements
All software requirements (or low-level requirements/comments) exist for each part of software code
There is documented traceability from the low level requirements to the software code they cover
Every piece of software code is covered by both unit tests and system tests. If a unit test covers the requirements of the system test, the single test suffices.
There is documented traceability from the software to the tests
They were requirement review meetings held according to a documented process to review every requirement
There are documented software requirement reviews held according to a documented process for each software requirement
There are test reviews held according to a documented process for each test
When there is a requirement to change software code for which already reviewed requirements, code or test must change than a change impact analysis document must review the changes and recommend which reviews must be held again on the requirements, software and tests
During the audit any test can be chosen by the auditor and the auditor can review traceability from the test through the code to the requirements with reviews for each step in the process
This section covers the test suite that the deployed passed before its deployment on the mainnet. Ideally the suite is in the same repository, completely covers all code as the deployed contracts and has a report indicating a successful run. Additional testing can include Formal Verification and active test/stress environments.
Full test suite (Covers all the deployed code) (%)
Code coverage (Covers all the deployed lines of code, or explains misses) (%)
Scripts and instructions to run the tests (Y/N)
Packaged with the deployed code (Y/N)
Report of the results (%)
Formal Verification test done (%)
Stress Testing environment (%)
Does the deployed code have a suite of tests and scripts to run them? Do the tests allow for comprehensive testing of the code? Are there both system and unit tests? It is better to test after deployment than never test at all. Testing is described in the SecurEth guidelines. Unit tests are written on a file by file basis and generally are used for code coverage. System tests are for functionality, testing usage of the
This score is guided by the Test to Code ratio (TtC). Generally a good test to code ratio is over 100%. However the reviewers best judgement is the final deciding factor.
Guidance: 100% TtC > 120% Both unit and system test visible
This score can improve by adding tests to fully cover the code. Document what is covered by traceability or test results in the software repository.
Here we consider if the unit tests fully cover the code. Ideally there is a report of a code coverage run with results in the repository. The normal goal is 100% code coverage. Without a report, the author determines a percentage based on the test suite percentage, artifacts in the test scripts and qualitative estimation. If there are any departures, there should be documentation on why certain pieces of code cannot be tested. This should be minimal and well-argued.
100% - Documented full coverage 99-51% - Value of test coverage from documented results 50% - No indication of code coverage but clearly there is a reasonably complete set of tests 30% - Some tests evident but not complete 0% - No test for coverage seen
This score can improve by adding tests achieving full code coverage. A clear report and scripts in the software repository will guarantee a high score.
Can 3rd parties run the full test suite using well documented scripts in the deployed software repository? Yes/No. If the scripts and tests are in a similar repository with the same code this is acceptable (but not ideal). This is a difficult score to get with a private repo.
Add the scripts to the repository and ensure they work. Ask an outsider to create the environment and run the tests. Improve the scripts and docs based on their feedback.
Simple question. Are the tests in the same software repository as the deployed code, Yes / No? With a private repo, this question is No.
Improving this score requires redeployment of the code, with the tests. This score gives credit to those who test their code before deployment and release them together. If a developer adds tests after deployment they can gain full points for all test elements except this one.
Ideally there is a test report in the repository of the test results before the code was deployed. Surprisingly most repositories don’t have one. Most testing tools make tests that only report errors. No output means a pass. When auditing deployed code this is not informative. A test report also indicates what is not covered and why. Often there are corner cases of code that are difficult or impossible to test. A report indicates this with a brief explanation.
Code coverage proof actually needs a report. The output should indicate the successful coverage, on what code and using what options.
The output is a percentage. This allows the author to “grade” the report, if it exists.
Add a report with the results. The test scripts should generate the report or elements of it.
Formal verification is a specific process of testing software processes that is well suited to some blockchain software. Its use is still limited, but it adds value in some cases. For this reason the weight is lower than other elements. The output is a percentage. This allows the author to “grade” the report, if it exists.
A Stress testing environment is an active test environment (not the active mainnet) that is used for testing limits of the application. This would run on a testnet with simulated inputs. By maintaining an up to date test environment, the developers can test possible limit cases as they develop. It adds another layer of protection. The output is a percentage determined by the author.
Smart contract audits are typically an indicator of quality in the blockchain world. The intent is to have 3rd party blockchain software experts review your code and tests to look for overall quality and the subtle blockchain specific weaknesses that could be utilized by an attacker.
If the smart contract address on the mainnet are not found, the audit results will be zero, even if an audit is available as there is no confidence on the code that is executed wrt to the code audited.
For this reason the score multiplier is high; 70.
Multiple Audits performed before deployment and results public and implemented or not required (100%)
Single audit performed before deployment and results public and implemented or not required (90%)
Audit(s) performed after deployment and no changes required. Audit report is public. (70%)
No audit performed (20%)
Audit Performed after deployment, existence is public, report is not public and no improvements deployed OR smart contract address' not found, question 1 (0%)