Honeynet Project Workshop CrackMe Solution

Date of publication: 07/04/2014, CERT Polska

hnp-crackme-crackedWe have announced a CrackMe challenge, which allowed you to win a free pass for the Honeynet Workshop 2014 in Warsaw. Today, we closed the challenge, because the winners have already submitted 10 flags. The winners are Dariusz Tytko (from Poland) and @_zairon_, who also posted his solution to our CrackMe on his blog. We also include our solution below. Of course, if you still are solving it, the solution below contains spoilers.

Let’s start with some stats:

    • File has been downloaded 236 times.
    • 114 flags have been submitted and 92 of them were correct.
    • 23 people participated, including 13 Polish.
    • Almost all users have found 3 or more flags.

    The task was to find 10 flags in a specially crafted file. Below are all of the flags described, starting with the ones that were easiest to find for our participants.


    <span class="text">ThisWasEasyToFind!</span>

    (20 submissions)


    A couple of minutes after we announced our challenge the file has already been uploaded to VirusTotal. Two of the tested antivirus solutions reported a false positive. The “File details” tab contains one of the flags. This was hidden in the “Comments” string of the file metadata. This data is displayed (at least in Windows XP) upon right clicking on the file and choosing “Properties”, as the screenshot on left shows. Alternatively, one could run the

    <span class="text">strings</span>

    tool with

    <span class="text">-e l</span>

    . This option resulted in showing the strings which where encoded in 16-bit Unicode in the Little Endian convention. The command is presented below, flag is in the 9th line.

    $ strings -e l ./CrackMe.exe
    CERT Polska
    CERT Polska


    <span class="text">HowToFindStringsInPEYouKnow</span>

    (15 submissions)

    This flag could also be found by using the

    <span class="text">strings</span>

    tool. However, this time the binary file had to be unpacked. This file was packed with UPX, however one of the section names was changed. This resulted in a failure when one tried to use the standard tool:

    $ upx -d ../CrackMe.exe
    Ultimate Packer for eXecutables
    Copyright (C) 1996 - 2013
    UPX 3.09 Markus Oberhumer, Laszlo Molnar &amp; John Reiser Feb 18th 2013

    File size Ratio Format Name
    -------------------- ------ ----------- -----------
    upx: ../CrackMe.exe: CantUnpackException: file is modified/hacked/protected; take care!!!

    Unpacked 0 files.

    Offsets 179-17C contained a

    <span class="text">XXX0</span>

    string, while normally it should be

    <span class="text">UPX0</span>

    . This name change could be reversed using a standard text editor. After this change file should unpack normally and after running the

    <span class="text">strings</span>

    tool we find a string:

    <span class="text">ZmxhZ3tIb3dUb0ZpbmRTdHJpbmdzSW5QRVlvdUtub3d9Cg==</span>

    which is just a base64 encoded flag.


    <span class="text">HaveNoFear,ConsoleFlagIsHere!</span>

    (13 submissions)

    This flag was also easy to find. All you have to have is

    <span class="text">windows\system32\cmd.exe</span>

    running in the background, while starting our CrackMe. Flag was then written in the console, as is pictured below.




    <span class="text">VeryGoodHardDriveName</span>

    (10 submissions)


    Second dialog box that was showed when you simply run

    <span class="text">CrackMe.exe</span>

    is the one pictured on the left. It contained a clue that pointed to the Andromeda malware. This malware had a VM check implemented, and if it succeeded in detecting the VM than it executed a decoy code. However, malware authors also have tested Andromeda in a virtual environment, so they implemented a check that allowed users to bypass the VM detection. If the

    <span class="text">C:</span>

    had a label with CRC32 equal to

    <span class="text">0x20C7DD84</span>

    (most notably

    <span class="text">CKF81X</span>

    ) our CrackMe displayed a new flag (pictured below).



    <span class="text">YouKnowHowToDebugCode!</span>

    (9 submissions)

    In order to find this flag CrackMe had to be debugged using e.g. OllyDbg or IDA Pro. The code check the debugger presence using the

    <span class="text">IsDebuggerPresent</span>

    function. If it detected the debugger a

    <span class="text">You shall not pass!</span>

    dialog box appeared. However, code continued to the function which used

    <span class="text">OutputDebugString</span>

    to display a string. This string was obtained by xoring

    <span class="text">changeme</span>

    with the previously “encrypted” byte array:


    Of course

    <span class="text">changeme</span>

    had to be change to the correct password. Assuming that we know that the first 5 characters of the string are

    <span class="text">flag{</span>

    , and only first 5 bytes from

    <span class="text">changeme</span>

    were used as a key, we could easily calculate correct password:

    0x39 xor 0x66 (‘f’) = 0x5f (‘_’)
    0x47 xor 0x6c (‘l’) = 0x2b (‘+’)
    0x47 xor 0x61 (‘a’) = 0x26 (‘&’)
    0x46 xor 0x67 (‘g’) = 0x21 (‘!’)
    0x0a xor 0x7b (‘{‘) = 0x71 (‘q’)

    So the password is

    <span class="text">_+&amp;!q</span>

    and it can be used to decode byte array and obtain a flag. This can be achieved manually or by simply substituting

    <span class="text">changeme</span>


    <span class="text">_+&amp;!q</span>

    in the debugger.


    <span class="text">RussianFlagItIs</span>

    (8 submissions)


    This flag was relatively easy to find, but people who did find it often did not know what to do with it. This flag was in the caption of the first dialog that was displayed when running CrackMe. It was written in Cyrillic and it needed to be transliterated to latin (or ASCII) alphabet. Few people, who apparently did not read the rules carefully, submitted the flag using original Cyrillic alphabet. Rules clearly stated that the flag had to start with

    <span class="text">flag{</span>

    and that it had to be a string composed of ASCII printable characters excluding whitespaces. This transliteration could be performed using Google Translate or manually. Another problem was the similarity between the letters: ф and Ф (small and big “f” letter). Some even chose to ignore the case all together. However, this problems only concerned two participants.


    <span class="text">RC4EncryptionIsFun!!!1</span>

    (6 submissions)

    CrackMe created a system file

    <span class="text">decode.py</span>

    in the

    <span class="text">%TEMP%</span>

    directory. This file was a Python code snippet:

    from Crypto.Cipher import ARC4
    from base64 import b64decode
    import sys
    obj = ARC4.new(sys.argv[1][:5])
    text = b64decode('LNLyv86npNDGrMxHrbpzHGoueiX3d3SPOmIZAg==')
    text = obj.decrypt(text)
    print text

    This code decoded the base64 encoded string (line 5) and then tried to decrypt it using the command line parameter as a password. Only first 5 characters of the parameter where taken into account. The simpliest solution was to brute force the password. Iteration over all the printable character strings of length 5 took about 10 hours using the Python script provided below. by adding parallelism or rewriting the brute force to C, we could brute force this in 2-3 hours.

    from Crypto.Cipher import ARC4
    from base64 import b64decode
    import sys
    import itertools, string
    org = b64decode('LNLyv86npNDGrMxHrbpzHGoueiX3d3SPOmIZAg==')
    for i in itertools.product(string.printable, repeat=5):
    key = ''.join(i)
    obj = ARC4.new(key)
    text = obj.decrypt(org)
    if text.startswith('flag{'):
    print key, text

    Correct password and the only output of the above script was

    <span class="text">Oi01_</span>



    <span class="text">JPEGalsoHasAFlag</span>

    (5 submissions)


    The UPX-unpacked file contained a

    <span class="text">xz</span>

    archive in one of its resources. This resource could be extracted using e.g. ResEdit tool. This archive contained only one file –

    <span class="text">picture.png</span>

    . This file contained a flag, as presented on the picture on the right.


    <span class="text">PNGdoesNotHaveExif,ButStillIsFun</span>

    (4 submissions)

    The mentioned PNG file also contained a special chunk. Chunk is a part of the PNG format that allows you to store some additional information. Some of them are important, like the ones containing picture width and height, while some of them can contain unimportant metadata. The easiest way to retrieve this flag was to use the

    <span class="text">strings</span>

    tool on the PNG. This resulted in the outcome presented below.

    $ strings -n7 picture.png
    Created with GIMPW


    <span class="text">DOSisPower</span>

    (2 submissions)

    Last of the flags was hidden as a DOS program. PE files, in order to achieve backwards compatibility, can start with a DOS code. Usually it is just a stub that prints

    <span class="text">This program cannot be run in DOS mode.</span>

    However, this time it was used to conceal one of the passwords. The DOS stub from our CrackMe is presented below. It is worth noting that this is a 16-bit code.

    00 0e push cs
    01 1f pop ds
    02 be0000 mov si, 0x0
    05 bb2200 mov bx, 0x22
    08 b86600 mov ax, 0x66
    0b 3200 xor al, [bx+si]
    0d 8800 mov [bx+si], al
    0f 46 inc si
    10 81fe1000 cmp si, 0x10
    14 75f5 jnz 0xb
    16 ba2200 mov dx, 0x22
    19 b409 mov ah, 0x9
    1b cd21 int 0x21
    1d b8004c mov ax, 0x4c00
    20 cd21 int 0x21


    This code processes the byte sequence that was starting at the

    <span class="text">0x22</span>

    (offset 0×05) and then decodes it to a flag. This was performed using a very simple encryption algorithm. First character was xored with

    <span class="text">0x66</span>

    (offset 0×08, 0×0b) and every consecutive byte was xored with the previously decrypted byte. This way we obtained a flag that was 16 bytes long (offset 0×10). Then the flag is displayed (offsety 0×16, 0×19, 0×1b) end the application exits with a return value 0 (offsety 0×1d, 0×20).

    All that have to be done in order to get this flag was to run the CrackMe in e.g. DOSBox. This is presented in the screenshot on the right.


    Challenge was on the intermediate level, and we received many responses. First person (from Poland) submitted last of the 10 flags on Saturday, 5th of April at 18:50:09 CEST. Foreign participant sent last of his 10 flags on 6th April at 18:48:06 CEST. Congratulations to both of them!