December 26th, 2022
Getting a smart contract audit before launching on mainnet has become an industry standard for blockchain developers. Smart contract audits help mitigate costly errors while giving users some assurance of the project’s security.
However, it may be difficult to know the right time to commission a smart contract audit. This is especially true for developer teams that must deal with competing priorities in the early phase of a project. In this article, we discuss the best time for a smart contract audit and highlight the importance of optimal timing for audits.
The most ideal time to commission a smart contract audit is right before the project is scheduled for deployment. At this point, the project’s code should have been thoroughly debugged, reviewed, and refined by the in-house development team.
There are good reasons audits should come in the last phase of smart contract development. For instance, testing smart contracts rigorously before auditing ensures auditors can focus on finding serious vulnerabilities instead of wasting time on fixing minor bugs.
Freezing your code (i.e., halting active development) before commissioning an audit also reduces the workload for auditors. Modifying even minor components in your code midway into an audit forces auditors to rethink their assessment of the system’s security. This is particularly the case for projects that adopt a modular architecture with multiple contracts sharing dependencies.
That said, audits aren’t only meant for new projects—existing projects will have to consider scheduling an audit before a large release or protocol upgrades. This way, you can be sure that changes to a dApp’s business logic don’t create new attack vectors or introduce exploitable flaws.
As smart contract audits incur considerable costs, developers will want to maximize value from the investment and getting the timing right is one way to get the most out of the audit process.
For starters, you don’t want to bring in smart contract auditors too early in the development lifecycle. Your codebase is likely to evolve at this stage, and auditing a codebase undergoing active development will likely be ineffective. In most cases, auditors will have to delay or restart an audit since changes may introduce vulnerabilities or affect the threat model.
Likewise, you don’t want to commission a smart contract audit after launching on mainnet. If any vulnerabilities or weaknesses are identified at this point, the options to fix them are quite limited. You may choose to upgrade your contract to fix bugs, but this will require getting approval from stakeholders (e.g., users)—which is a non-trivial task, to say the least.
It also helps to add a buffer in your project timeline to account for the duration of the audit. This gives you enough time to properly review feedback from auditors and implement the desired changes. With clear expectations around the delivery timelines of a smart contract audit, you can better plan your project and avoid pressure to rush through any phase.
As Web3 adoption grows, developers building new products must make sure their projects are secure and immune to smart contract hacks. A smart contract audit is a particularly important part of securing blockchain applications. With extensive experience in finding bugs and possible edge cases, smart contract auditors – like Halborn – can assist you in building highly secure dApps.
Of course, it is not enough to simply commission an audit—the timing of an audit is as important as any other detail (as explained in the article). Taking steps to find the right schedule for an audit such as discussing with auditors beforehand can improve the process and provide more benefits.