BSidesSF CTF 2021 Author writeup: log-em-all, a Pokemon-style collection game [video]

This is a video walkthrough of Log ‘em All, a difficult Hacking / Reverse Engineering challenge based on a classic bug in Pokemon Red. You can view the video below, or directly on Youtube.

I’ve never done a video-based writeup before, so I’d love feedback!

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BSidesSF CTF 2021 Author writeup: glitter-printer, a buffer underflow where you modify the actual code

Hi Everybody!

This is going to be a challenge-author writeup for the Glitter Printer challenge from BSides San Francisco 2021.

First, a bit of history: the original idea I had behind Glitter Printer was to make a video game challenge involving cartridge-swap, where I’d write a handful of simple video games in 100% x86 code with no imports or anything (like an old fashioned cartridge game), and the player could swap between them without memory being re-initialized. Folks used to do this sorta thing on NES, and maybe I’ll use it in a future challenge, but I decided to make this a bit simpler.

While experimenting with writing libraries without libc, I realized just how much work it was going to be to write a bunch of games, and decided to simplify. My next ide was to write a “driver” type thing, where a blob of code is loaded into +RWX memory and the player could go wild on it. The the name Glitter Printer came across my radar, I don’t even remember why, and that gave me the idea to do an LPR server.

That’s quite the background!

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BSidesSF CTF 2021 Author writeup: secure-asset-manager, a reversing challenge similar to bot dev

Hi Everybody!

This is going to be a challenge-author writeup for the Secure Asset Manager challenge from BSides San Francisco 2021.

It’s designed to be a sort of “server management software”. I sort of chose that theme to play off the Solarwinds thing, the theme wasn’t super linked to the challenge.

The challenge was to analyze and reverse engineer a piece of client-side software that “checks in” with a server. For the check-in, the client is required to “validate” itself. The server sends a random “challenge” - which is actually a block of randomized x86 code - and that code used to checksum active memory to prevent tampering. If anybody reading this worked on bots for the original Starcraft (and other games), this might seem familiar! It’s based on’s CheckRevision code.

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BSidesSF CTF 2021 Author writeup: Hangman Battle Royale, where you defeat 1023 AI players!

Hi Everybody!

This is going to be a challenge-author writeup for the Hangman Battle Royale challenge from BSides San Francisco 2021.

This is actually a reasonable simple challenge, overall. I got the idea of using a bad mt19937 implementation (the Mersenne Twister PRNG used by Ruby and Python) from SANS Holiday Hack Challenge 2020 (which is still online if you want to play!), and wanted to build a challenge around it. I had the idea of Battleship originally, but ended up deciding on Hangman for reasons I no longer remember, but that I’m sure made sense at the time.

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BSidesSF CTF 2021 Author writeup: Reverseme and Reverseme2 – simpler reverse engineering challenges

This is going to be a writeup for the Reverseme challenges (reverseme and reverseme2 from BSides San Francisco 2021.

Both parts are reasonably simple reverse engineering challenges. I provide the compiled binaries to the player (you can find those in the respective distfiles/ folders), and you have to figure out what to do with them.

Both challenges use the same basic code as the runme challenges, where you send shellcode that is executed. Only in this case, the shellcode must be modified or “encoded” in some way first!

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BSidesSF CTF 2021 Author writeup / shellcode primer: Runme, Runme2, and Runme3

Hi Everybody!

This is going to be a writeup for the Runme suite of challenges from BSides San Francisco 2021.

The three challenges I’ll cover are runme, runme2, and runme3, which are increasingly difficult write-shellcode challenges. As always, the binary and info the player gets is in the respective distfiles/ folder, and source is in challenge/.

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BSidesSF CTF: Choose your own keyventure: rsa-debugger challenge!

Thanks to symmetric (aka Brandon Enright) for this wonderful guest post! I tried to proofread it, but holy math Batman!! –Ron / @iagox86

Hey all, this is symmetric here! I was thrilled to be once again involved in running the BSidesSF CTF with such creative teammates and skilled CTF players.

My favorite challenge this year was rsa-debugger which, despite getting 12 solves, was actually quite hard. In this post I’d like to tell you a bit about the genesis of the challenge and how to solve it.

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BSidesSF CTF: Hard reversing challenge: Chameleon

For my third and final blog post about the BSidesSF CTF, I wanted to cover the solution to Chameleon. Chameleon is loosely based on a KringleCon challenge I wrote (video guide), which is loosely based on a real-world penetration test from a long time ago. Except that Chameleon is much, much harder than either.

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BSidesSF CTF: Easy to hard Rust reversing challenges

As mentioned in a previous post, I was honoured to once again help run BSidesSF CTF!

This is going to be a quick writeup for three challenges: config-me, rusty1, and rusty2. All three are reversing challenges written in Rust, although the actual amount of reversing required is low for the first two.

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BSidesSF CTF: Difficult reverse engineering challenge: Gman

Once again, it was my distinct privilege to be a BSidesSF CTF organizer! As somebody who played CTFs for years, it really means a lot to me to organize one, and watch folks struggle through our challenges. And more importantly, each person that comes up to us and either thanks us or tells us they learned something is a huge bonus!

But this week, I want to post writeups for some of the challenges I wrote. I’m starting with my favourite - Gman!

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How do I start picking locks?

Hey folks,

I run a lot of lockpicking villages and such, and have a pretty big collection of locks, picks, and knowledge. A ton of people ask me how to get started, and unfortunately I don’t think there are any particularly good walkthroughs of how to get the basic stuff needed to start. Since Peterson just announced their winter sale, and I’ve had several requests to recommend lockpicking-based Christmas gifts, I figured this would be a good time to post some info!

Lots of the advice I see is around clear (acrylic) locks and progressive locks. I’m gonna be slightly controversial here by saying: clear and progressive locks are almost universally bad for learning or training - they’re badly made, unrealistic, have cheap parts, etc. They’re great for learning how locks work, but not for any serious practice.

In this post, I will talk about a few things: what are the first picks you should get, what are some good locks to practice on, and what are good resources to use for learning?

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In BSidesSF CTF, calc.exe exploits you! (Author writeup of launchcode)

Hey everybody,

In addition to genius, whose writeup I already posted, my other favourite challenge I wrote for BSidesSF CTF was called launchcode. This will be my third and final writeup for BSidesSF CTF for 2019, but you can see all the challenges and solutions on our Github releases page.

This post will be more about how I developed this, since the solution is fairly straight forward once you know how it’s implemented.

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Some crypto challenges: Author writeup from BSidesSF CTF

Hey everybody,

This is yet another author’s writeup for BSidesSF CTF challenges! This one will focus on three crypto challenges I wrote: mainframe, mixer, and decrypto!

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BSidesSF CTF author writeup: genius

Hey all,

This is going to be an author’s writeup of the BSidesSF 2019 CTF challenge: genius!

genius is probably my favourite challenge from the year, and I’m thrilled that it was solved by 6 teams! It was inspired by a few other challenges I wrote in the past, including Nibbler. You can grab the sourcecode, solution, and everything needed to run it yourself on our Github release!

It is actually implemented as a pair of programs: loader and genius. I only provide the binaries to the players, so it’s up to the player to reverse engineer them. Fortunately, for this writeup, we’ll have source to reference as needed!

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Technical Rundown of WebExec

This is a technical rundown of a vulnerability that we’ve dubbed “WebExec”. The summary is: a flaw in WebEx’s WebexUpdateService allows anyone with a login to the Windows system where WebEx is installed to run SYSTEM-level code remotely. That’s right: this client-side application that doesn’t listen on any ports is actually vulnerable to remote code execution! A local or domain account will work, making this a powerful way to pivot through networks until it’s patched.

High level details and FAQ at! Below is a technical writeup of how we found the bug and how it works.

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Solving b-64-b-tuff: writing base64 and alphanumeric shellcode

Hey everybody,

A couple months ago, we ran BSides San Francisco CTF. It was fun, and I posted blogs about it at the time, but I wanted to do a late writeup for the level b-64-b-tuff.

The challenge was to write base64-compatible shellcode. There’s an easy solution - using an alphanumeric encoder - but what’s the fun in that? (also, I didn’t think of it :) ). I’m going to cover base64, but these exact same principles apply to alphanumeric - there’s absolutely on reason you couldn’t change the SET variable in my examples and generate alphanumeric shellcode.

In this post, we’re going to write a base64 decoder stub by hand, which encodes some super simple shellcode. I’ll also post a link to a tool I wrote to automate this.

I can’t promise that this is the best, or the easiest, or even a sane way to do this. I came up with this process all by myself, but I have to imagine that the generally available encoders do basically the same thing. :)

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Book review: The Car Hacker’s Handbook

So, this is going to be a bit of an unusual blog for me. I usually focus on technical stuff, exploitation, hacking, etc. But this post will be a mixture of a book review, some discussion on my security review process, and whatever asides fall out of my keyboard when I hit it for long enough. But, don’t fear! I have a nice heavy technical blog ready to go for tomorrow!

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BSidesSF CTF wrap-up


While this is technically a CTF writeup, like I frequently do, this one is going to be a bit backwards: this is for a CTF I ran, instead of one I played! I’ve gotta say, it’s been a little while since I played in a CTF, but I had a really good time running the BSidesSF CTF! I just wanted to thank the other organizers - in alphabetical order - @bmenrigh, @cornflakesavage, @itsc0rg1, and @matir. I couldn’t have done it without you folks!

BSidesSF CTF was a capture-the-flag challenge that ran in parallel with BSides San Francisco. It was designed to be easy/intermediate level, but we definitely had a few hair-pulling challenges.

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Going the other way with padding oracles: Encrypting arbitrary data!

A long time ago, I wrote a couple blogs that went into a lot of detail on how to use padding oracle vulnerabilities to decrypt an encrypted string of data. It’s pretty important to understand to use a padding oracle vulnerability for decryption before reading this, so I’d suggest going there for a refresher.

When I wrote that blog and the Poracle tool originally, I didn’t actually know how to encrypt arbitrary data using a padding oracle. I was vaguely aware that it was possible, but I hadn’t really thought about it. But recently, I decided to figure out how it works. I thought and thought, and finally came up with this technique that seems to work. I also implemented it in Poracle in commit a5cfad76ad.

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dnscat2 0.05: with tunnels!

Greetings, and I hope you’re all having a great holiday!

My Christmas present to you, the community, is dnscat2 version 0.05!

Some of you will remember that I recently gave a talk at the SANS Hackfest Summit. At the talk, I mentioned some ideas for future plans. That’s when Ed jumped on the stage and took a survey: which feature did the audience want most?

The winner? Tunneling TCP via a dnscat. So now you have it! Tunneling: Phase 1. :)

Info and downloads.

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