Decentralization Paradox: A Study of Hegemonic and Risky ERC-20 Tokens

Nikolay Ivanov, Qiben Yan

In this work, we explore the class of Ethereum smart contracts called the administrated ERC20 tokens. We demonstrate that these contracts are more owner-controlled and less safe than the services they try to disrupt, such as banks and centralized online payment systems. We develop a binary classifier for identification of administrated ERC20 tokens, and conduct extensive data analysis, which reveals that nearly 9 out of 10 ERC20 tokens on Ethereum are administrated, and thereby unsafe to engage with even under the assumption of trust towards their owners. We design and implement SafelyAdministrated - a Solidity abstract class that safeguards users of administrated ERC20 tokens from adversarial attacks or frivolous behavior of the tokens' owners.

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