BSidesSF 2022 Writeups: Tutorial Challenges (Shurdles, Loadit, Polyglot, NFT)

Hey folks,

This is my (Ron's / iagox86's) author writeups for the BSides San Francisco 2022 CTF. You can get the full source code for everything on github. Most have either a Dockerfile or instructions on how to run locally. Enjoy!

Here are the four BSidesSF CTF blogs:

Shurdles - Shellcode Hurdles

The Shurdles challenges are loosely based on a challenge from last year, Hurdles, as well as a Holiday Hack Challenge 2021 challenge I wrote called Shellcode Primer. It uses a tool I wrote called Mandrake to instrument shellcode to tell the user what's going on. It's helpful for debugging, but even more helpful as a teaching tool!

The difference between this and the Holiday Hack version was that this time, I didn't bother to sandbox it, so you could pop a shell and inspect the box. I'm curious if folks did that.. probably they couldn't damage anything, and there's no intellectual property to steal. :)

I'm not going to write up the solutions, but I did include solutions in the repository.

Although I don't work for Counter Hack anymore, a MUCH bigger version of this challenge that I wrote is included in the SANS NetWars version launching this year. It covers a huge amount, including how to write bind- and reverse-shell shellcode from scratch. It's super cool! Unfortunately, I don't think SANS is doing hybrid events anymore, but if you find yourself at a SANS event be sure to check out NetWars!

Loadit - Learning how to use LD_PRELOAD

I wanted to make a few challenges that can be solved with LD_PRELOAD, which is where loadit came from! These are designed to be tutorial-style, so I think the solutions mostly speak for themselves.

One interesting tidbit is that the third loadit challenge requires some state to be kept - rand() needs to return several different values. I had a few folks ask me about that, so I'll show off my solution here:

#include <unistd.h>

int rand(void) {
  int answers[] = { 20, 22, 12, 34, 56, 67 };
  static int count = 0;

  return answers[count++];

// Just for laziness
unsigned int sleep(unsigned int seconds) {
  return 0;

I use the static variable type to keep track of how many times rand() has been called. When you declare something as static inside a function, it means that the variable is initialized the first time the function is called, but changes are maintained as if it's a global variable (at least conceptually - in reality, it's initialized when the program is loaded, even if the function is never called).

Ironically, this solution actually has an overflow - the 7th time and onwards rand() is called, it will start manipulating random memory. Luckily, we know that'll never happen. :)

Polyglot - Technically correct!

Polyglot claims to be a polyglot. It's distributed as a .exe file. It runs fine-ish under wine:

$ wine ./polyglot.exe
Figure out the polyglot and enter the key here --> hello

If you look at the source, it'll be pretty obvious that it's XORing a 40-character key, provided by the user, with a 40-character "encrypted" string. If you make the logical assumption that the flag is CTF{...36 characters…}, you will find that the key is, This????????????????????????????????????.. That might be a hint!

So it turns out that every PE file (*.exe) is actually a Polyglot - it's an MZ executable with a PE executable glued on. When you run the executable on Windows, it runs the PE portion, but when you run on DOS (or DOSBox), it runs on the MZ portion.

If you run it in DOS mode, you'll instantly see the answer:

The password is: "This program cannot be run in DOS mode."

It's a bit of a troll, but easy enough to solve. :)

In case you're curious, here's the header:

$ cat stub.asm 
ORG 0h ;# Offset 0, for NASM

push cs
pop ds

call thepasswordis
  ; db "The password is: '$"
  db 0xab, 0x97, 0x9a, 0xdf, 0x8f, 0x9e, 0x8c, 0x8c, 0x88, 0x90, 0x8d, 0x9b, 0xdf, 0x96, 0x8c, 0xc5, 0xdf, 0xdd, 0xdb, 0

pop dx
mov cx, dx

  cmp byte [ecx], 0
  je decoder_bottom
  xor byte [ecx], 0xff
  inc cx
  jmp decoder_top

mov ah, 09
int 0x21

call cannotberun
  db "This program cannot be run in DOS mode.$", 0

pop dx
mov ah, 09
int 0x21

dec cx
dec cx
mov dx, cx
mov ah, 09
int 0x21

; # terminate the program
mov ax,0x4c01
int 0x21

If you did Shurdles (see above), some of that will be familiar! Then I just used a small Ruby script to replace the start of the executable.

If you're interested in the PE format, be sure to check out the writeup for Loca!

Not for taking

Not for taking - or NFT - is just a joke challenge. It's a photo of my bird, with the flag embedded in the image like a caption. But! - the image is cropped by CSS so you can't see the flag, AND right clicking is disabled. So you have to view source (ctrl-u) or use developer tools (F12) or.. like 100 other ways to get it.


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