Solving PwCTF Prequel



PwCTF is an on-site CTF event in Israel. It will take part on January 29-31 in Cybertech Tel-Aviv 2018. Honestly I’ve never heard of it before but I thought I’ll give it a try and ended up to be the first to finish the prequels. In the following writeup I’ll go step by step on how I solved each challenge. Here we go.


The first challenge

It was a morning time, I was eating my breakfast while reading messages on my security groups. One of the messages, by my friend Netanel Fisher, announced of the opening of CTF Prequalification Challenge. They said “challenge” and immediately caught my attention. I cannot say “no” to a challenge. So, I thought to myself that I’ll sign up and see what challenges are there. I clicked on the link to the CTF’s website and got into this lovely landing page:

It is clearly a login page, but since I didn’t have an account yet I (obviously) can’t log in. I searched for the register tab but couldn’t find it anywhere. There was only “Home” and “About” pages at the top navigation bar. I thought it might be a bug in the website so I changed the URL from /login.php to /register.php, ended up with “302 Not Found” and redirected back to the login page. There is where I started to think that the challenge is to register.

As every other initial web challenge, the first thing to do is to look at the source code. I pressed F12 on my browser and opened the source code. First thing to see is tons of comments, here are the most important of them:


From a quick glance, it is easy to spot some rows that seem like hints:

  • Line 13 says “<!– Rotation –>” ― Obviously ROT13 cipher
  • Line 64 says “Base” ― What else if not Base64
  • Line 1337 ― This leet line contains long string of numbers (HEX?) and a challenging sentence
  • Line 2048 is the last line and says “Reversing To Line esaB” ― The reversed “Base” seems like another hint

I started from the long sequence of numbers. To me it seemed like hexadecimal representation of something. The sequence only contains three numbers which repeat themselves in different order: 30, 31, and 62. I also noticed that 62 always comes after 30. Another things that immediately pops to mind is that 0x30 and 0x31 are the ASCII representation of “0” and “1” accordingly. 0x62 is the letter “b”. With that in mind, we should probably see this HEX string decoded into a binary string of zeroes and ones.

Let’s use python to decode the sequence and confirm whether my first impression was right:

Just as we thought, it is a binary sequence where each byte is starting with “0b”, a binary literal prefix. Now we’ll try to decode the binary string. Again, I’ll use python for this:

Cool! We decoded the binary string and came out with a Base64 sequence. Fit exactly to the hint on line #64. But wait a second, if a Base64 sequence has “==” it should be at the end, not at the beginning. Remember the last hint? The one on line #2048: <!-- I Think You Missed It :S. Bip, Bip, Bip, Reversing To Line esaB... --> . The word “Base” is reversed here. We should reverse our output and then decode it:

We didn’t end up with an output that makes any sense. First I thought that it might be some type of file, but I checked the list of file signatures and nothing matched 0xae. Then I remembered another hint which we didn’t use, the one about ROT13. Let’s rotate the characters and make another try with the decoding:

HOORAY! We solved it and got the credentials. Now we can log into the website.

The final code

Here’s the final script to solve the first challenge. It receives a hexadecimal sequence and prints the answer:

The second challenge

After using these credentials to login, we are facing this screen:

It’s a simple README screen with a description. Two of the words in the description are bolded and combined into “SOURCE CONTROL“. There’s also a button, let’s click on it.

This is the source of a file, a popular file that can be found in source-control repositories. This hint, along with the previous one, can tell us about the possible existent of a Source Control on this server. The most popular of them is Git. First thing I tried is to change “” to “”, “flag.txt” et cetera,  but all I got was 404 messages. Next thing I wanted to try is if indeed the server contains a Git repository. So I tried to access .git and got a 302 error code.

Seems like I am on the right direction. Let’s see if we can access the HEAD file.

What is a HEAD file?
The HEAD file is a symbolic reference to the branch you’re currently on. By symbolic reference, we mean that unlike a normal reference, it doesn’t generally contain a SHA-1 value but rather a pointer to another reference.

We successfully accessed HEAD and that means that the repository is downloadable. We can manually clone the repository file by file using wget but there’s better approach ― using GitDumper by internetwache. This is my favorite tool to dump Git repositories.

It should take a few minutes and at the end we’ll have a folder with the repository contained. Let’s cd to it and execute git status:

git status
Displays paths that have differences between the index file and the current HEAD commit, paths that have differences between the working tree and the index file, and paths in the working tree that are not tracked by Git.

It shows us that there are two files that were deleted from the repository. “interesting.txt” will probably contains the answer. Let’s find which commits changed the file:

git log
Shows the commit logs.

We received a huge output, the file must have been changed in each of these commits to confuse us. We can write a quick bash one-liner to reveal all the versions of this file:

Et voilà! We got a link to the registration form and successfully finished the prequels 🙂



The prequels to the PwCTF wasn’t highly technical, it didn’t involve hardcore reverse engineering, exploitation and similar, but there’s no doubt that it was challenging. Netanel which is responsible of creating this event and Tomer who helped writing the CTF’s challenges, are both invested time end efforts to make it as great as it was. Thank you guys, I really enjoyed solving it.


Reverse engineering a Gameboy ROM with radare2



A month ago in Barcelona I was attending to r2con for the first time. This is the official congress of the radare2 community where everyone can learn more about radare2 framework and dive deep into different aspects of reverse engineering, malware analysis, fuzzing, exploiting and more. It also the place where all of us, the contributors and developers of radare2, can meet, discuss and argue about every other line of code in the framework.

This was the second congress of radare2, after the success of the first congress in last year which was also a celebration for radare’s 10 years old birthday. This year the conference was bigger, fancier and probably organized much better. r2con was four days long, starting at September 6 and lasted until September 9. The first two days were dedicated to training and took place at Universitat de Barcelona. The other two days were talks days and took place at the MediaPro.

Crackmes Competition

During r2con this year there was a Crackmes competition where all the attendees were given with the same 5 challenges and had to publish a writeups to all the challenges they had solved. The scoring was based on the quality of the writeups along with the quantity of solved challenges.

I won the competition and got myself some cool swag!

  • Flag of radare2
  • POC | GTFO book
  • Orange PI with 3D printed case of r2con logo
  • Radare2 stickers
  • A beer 🍺


I thought of sharing some of my writeups with you, so you can taste a bit from what we had in the competition and so that others, coming from google, twitter and such, could learn how to use radare2 for solving different challenges. This article is aimed to those of you who are familiar with radare2. If you are not, I suggest you to start from part 1 of my series “A Journy Into Radare2”.

Getting radare2


Radare2’s development is pretty quick – the project evolves every day, therefore it’s recommended to use the current git version over the stable one. Sometimes the stable version is less stable than the current git version!

If you don’t want to install the git version or you want the binaries for another machine (Windows, OS X, iOS, etc) check out the download page at the radare2 website.


As I said before, it is highly recommended to always use the newest version of r2 from the git repository. All you need to do to update your r2 version from the git is to execute:

And you’ll have the latest version from git. I usually update my version of radare2 in the morning, while watching cat videos.


Playing with Gameboy ROM

This post will describe how I solved, a Gameboy ROM challenge written by @condret. It was actually my first time reversing a Gameboy ROM — and it was awesome!

First thing I did was to open the binary in radare2 and check for its architecture and format:

$ r2
— For a full list of commands see strings /dev/urandom
[0x00000100]> i~format
format   ningb
[0x00000100]> i~machine
machine  Gameboy

The i command gives us information about the binary. Check i? for more commands.

Tilde (~) is r2’s internal grep.

Surprise, surprise, it is a Gameboy ROM — dah. After reading a bit about its instruction set we should go to the mission. 

The obvious thing to do is open the ROM in an Gameboy emulator. I downloaded the good old emulator I used back in the days when I played Pokemon: VisualBoy Advance.

Let’s open the ROM in our emulator and see what we have:

Woops, wrong file. Bad habits… Let’s try again:

Cool! It’s a simple game where, by using the arrow keys, you increase/decrease 5 digits. We ‘simply’ need to find the correct password.

Continue reading


A journey into Radare 2 – Part 2: Exploitation



Welcome back to the second part of our journey into the guts of radare2! In this part we’ll cover more of the features of radare2, this time with the focus on binary exploitation.

A lot of you waited for the second part, so here it is! Hope to publish the next part faster, much faster. If you didn’t read the first part of the series I highly recommend you to do so. It describes the basics of radare2 and explains many of the commands that I’ll use here.

In this part of the series we’ll focus on exploiting a simple binary. radare2 has many features which will help us in exploitation, such as mitigation detection, ROP gadget searching, random patterns generation, register telescoping and more. You can find a Reference Sheet at the end of this post. Today I’ll show you some of these great features and together we’ll use radare2 to bypass nx protected binary on an ASLR enabled system. I assume that you are already familiar with the following prerequisites:

It’s really important to be familiar with these topics because I won’t get deep into them, or even won’t briefly explain some of them.

Updating radare2

First of all, let’s update radare2 to its newest git version:

We have a long journey ahead so while we’re waiting for the update to finish, let’s get some motivation boost — cute cats video!


Getting familiar with our binary

Our binary this time is quite similar to the one from the previous post with a few slight changes to the main() function:

  • Compiled without -fno-stack-protector and -z execstac to enable NX bit
  • Receives user input with scanf and not from program’s arguments
  • Uses mostly puts to print to screen
  • Little changes to the program’s output

This was the previous main():


And now main looks like this:


You can download the binary from here, and the source from here.
If you want to compile the source by yourself, use the following command:

The functionality of the binary is pretty simple and we went through it in the previous post — It asks for user input, performs rot13 on the input and compares it with the result of rot13 on the string “Megabeets”. Id est, the input should be ‘Zrtnorrgf’.


It’s all well and good but today our post is not about cracking a simple Crackme but about exploiting it. Wooho! Let’s get to the work.

Understanding the vulnerability

As with every exploitation challenge, it is always a good habit to check the binary for implemented security protections. We can do it with rabin2 which I demonstrated in the last post or simply by executing i from inside radare’s shell. Because we haven’t opened the binary with radare yet, we’ll go for the rabin2 method:

As you can see in the marked lines, the binary is NX protected which means that we won’t have an executable stack to rely on. Moreover, the file isn’t protected with canariespic  or relro.

Continue reading


A journey into Radare 2 – Part 1: Simple crackme



I was playing a lot with radare2 in the past year, ever since I began participating in CTFs and got deeper into RE and exploitation challenges. I found radare2 very helpful with many CTFs tasks and my solutions had shortened significantly. It’s sometimes also my go-to tool for malware analysis tasks such as configuration retrievals. Sadly, I believe that only few people are familiar with radare2. It might be because they’re afraid to break out of their comfort zone (IDA Pro, OllyDBG, gdb) or they have simply not heard of it. Either way, I honestly believe that you must include radare2 in your toolbox.

Because I got really enthusiastic about the project and I want more and more researchers to be familiar with it, use it and hopefully contribute to the project, I decided to create a series of articles and use-cases of r2. Since these articles aim to teach you the basics of radare2, its features and capabilities, I’ll explain much more than you actually need to know in order to solve each task.

Welcome to IDA 10.0. (see radare2/doc/ for more fortunes)


radare2 is an open source framework for reverse engineering and binaries analysis which implements a rich command line interface for disassembling, analyzing data, patching binaries, comparing data, searching, replacing, visualizing and more. It has great scripting capabilities, it runs on all major platforms (GNU/Linux, .Windows *BSD, iOS, OSX, Solaris…) and it supports tons of architectures and file formats. But maybe above all of its features stands the ideology – radare2 is absolutely libre.

This framework is composed of a set of utilities that can be used either together from r2 shell or independently – We’ll get familiar with tools such as rahash2, rabin2, ragg2. Together they create one of the most powerful tools in the field of static and dynamic analysis, hex editing and exploitation (I’ll dive deeper in the following articles).

It is important to note that r2’s learning curve is pretty steep – although r2 have a GUI and a WebUI, none of them is quite enough to compete with the GUI or the convenience of IDA, IMHO. The CLI, however, including its Visual Mode, is still the core of radare2 and where its power lays. Because of its complexity I’ll try to make things as clear and simple as I can.

This is more or less how r2 learning curve works.

This is more or less how r2 learning curve works.

Before we begin you can check out the “Unfair comparison between r2, IDA Pro and Hopper” to get an idea of what we’re dealing with.


Getting radare2


Radare2’s development is pretty quick – the project evolves every day, therefore it’s recommended to use the current git version over the stable one. Sometimes the stable version is less stable than the current git version!

If you don’t want to install the git version or you want the binaries for another machine (Windows, OS X, iOS, etc) check out the download page at the radare2 website.


As I said before, it is highly recommended to always use the newest version of r2 from the git repository. All you need to do to update your r2 version from the git is to execute:

And you’ll have the latest version from git. I usually update my version of radare2 in the morning, while watching cat videos.


I Can’t think of a reason for you to uninstall radare2 so early in the article but if you do have you can simply execute:

Getting Started

You can download the first challenge here.

Now that radare2 is installed on your system and you have downloaded the binary, we are ready to start exploring the basic usage of radare2. I’ll work on a Remnux machine but most of the commands and explanations (if not all of them) would be the same for Windows machines and others.

Command Line Arguments

As most command line utilities, the best approach to reveal the list of the possible arguments is to execute the program with the -h flag.

I won’t paste here the full output, Instead I’ll point out those which I usually use in my daily work:

Continue reading

Fantastic Malware and Where to Find Them


We, as malware analysts, are always in need for new samples to analyze in order to learn, train or develop new techniques and defenses. One of the most common question I get is “Where to find malware to analyze?” so I’m sharing here my private collection of repositories, databases and lists which I use on a daily basis. Some of them are updated frequently and some of them are not. The short description under each link wasn’t written by me, it was written by the owners of the repositories.

If you want to add another resource to the list please inform me in the comments.

Please, be careful when using these sites. Almost all of them contain malicious files. Use with caution!

theZoo is a project created to make the possibility of malware analysis open and available to the public.

Open Malware Project by Danny Quis

Contagio is a collection of the latest malware samples, threats, observations, and analyses.

Hybrid Analysis
Free malware analysis service powered by Payload Security. Using this service you can submit files for in-depth static and dynamic analysis. You can also download samples from analysis submitted by others.

AVCaesar is a malware analysis engine and repository, developed by

Das Malwerk
DAS MALWERK collects executable malware from all kinds of shady places on the internet
An active community devoted to malware analysis and kernel development

The MalShare Project is a collaborative effort to create a community driven public malware repository that works to build additional tools to benefit the security community at large.


Repository of Malware URLs and Samples

Malwr is a free malware analysis service and community launched in January 2011. You can submit files to it and receive the results of a complete dynamic analysis back. You can also download samples from analysis submitted by others.

Virusign downloads malware and sort files in order of relevance, for researchers to download samples and analyze them to create new signatures.

A repository of malware samples to provide security researchers, incident responders, forensic analysts, and the morbidly curious access to samples of malicious code.

Malwarebytes Research Center
Forums to post new threats and urls

Mobile Malware (Google Group)
A mailing list for researching mobile malware. This group allows material related to new mobile malware samples, analysis, new techniques, questions pertaining to the field, and other related material.

SecuBox Lab
Repository of french team called MAD (Malware Analysis & Diagnostic)

Malekal’s collection of malware

An updated database of domains hosting malicious executables.

VX Vault
S!Ri.URZ Collection of malware and urls

Providing access to database which contains data such as: URL, MD5, IP, TLD, etc

Sucuri Malware Labs
Latest findings that Sucuri Labs seeing in the “wild”

Zeus Tracker
ZeuS Tracker provides you the possiblity to track ZeuS Command&Control servers (C&C) and malicious hosts which are hosting ZeuS files.

Fedeo Tracker
A list of Feodo botnet C&C servers tracked by Feodo Tracker.

Cybercrime Tracker
Lists the C&C panels of certain in-the-wild botnets.

Again, please be careful when using these sites. Almost all of them contain malicious files. Use with caution!