16 Oct 2018

About FLARE 2018

For last few years I'm taking part in the FLARE-ON competition. This year I finished 4th - which is not bad at all. smile

Mandatory bragging screen:

Now that the challenge is over, it's fun to read all the solutions. Of course, there are official solutions - they explain what the challenge does and one way how to solve it. Nice but I want more. smile

Then there are "writeups" which basically say "this is my code that gets the answer". Dude, if that makes your e-penis seem bigger, feel free to twit about it. But I don't care about your code. Really.

What I do care about, is how the challenge can be solved. So, here are few selected challenges and related writeups that actually make sense.

Challenge #2 - minesweeper

I wasted too much time on it, relatively speaking. Whopping 37 minutes, on a challenge #2!

I will blame the fact that I was barely awake at the time. In the end I resorted to editing variables in dnSpy, just like @bruce30262 does in his solution.

Other solutions:
* By @mathmare_ - remove IL that triggers failure.
* By @jared703 - find the correct spots.
* By @Eleemosynator - another "find the correct spots".
* By @bruce30262 - edit variables in dnSpy.

Challenge #5 - webassembly

It was my first real encounter with Webassembly, so I just used Chrome to debug it. Plus wabt just to get a better look at the disassembly. It wasn't that bad in this particular case.

Since I don't really do Linux and gcc, I wasn't able and willing to try WASM-to-C conversion and compilation to x86 code. bigsmile

Other solutions:
* By @ctfhacker #1 - uses Chrome, shows the recompilation as well.
* By @ctfhacker #2 - uses wasabi.

Challenge #6 - solving 666 tasks on Linux

My Linux skills suck and I wasn't able to find a reliable way to pipe output from my solver into the challenge.

So I solved the task like a trained monkey.

This bash crap uses gdb to get current challenge from process memory and feeds it to my C# solver running under Mono. Output from solver gets fed to xclip which puts solution into the clipboard. Then I right-click mouse and paste solution into the challenge window. Repeat 666 times. The entire process takes around 20-30 minutes. Click-click-click-click..

Yes, it's extremely inefficient and braindead stupid - but the result is guaranteed and faster than spending hours trying to learn how to automate Linux tools.

Other solutions:
* By @MrAdz350 - uses Unicorn, pexpect.
* By @crudd40233929 - patches original binary to generate keys, uses pexpect.
* By @0xabc0 - uses Frida.
* By @bruce30262 - uses pwntools to send answers to challenge.
* By @ctfhacker - shows how to use angr. Solver needed 28 hours to finish! bigsmile

Challenge #12 - VM inside the VM

This challenge actually consisted of 2 separate parts - 16-bit bootkit and a nasty VM in the VM. Since it was the final challenge, everyone just focused on breaking the VMs. It's a shame because the bootkit part was extremely nice and deserved much more attention than it actually received.

Until the official solutions came out, I didn't know that Subleq code actually ran another VM! Why? Because my solution was data-flow analysis done with pen and paper. When I finished, it looked like this:

Yes, all 10 pages are from this challenge.

Close-up of one of the pages:

Each row contains a flag that I traced, columns are the "cell indexes" of Subleq VM and values are the values I observed during the run. Plus notes, plus attempts to recover the formula..

Kids, don't try this at home! smile

Other solutions:
* By @bruce30262 - writing 2 disassemblers.
* By @SalimSolid - tracing instruction pointer.
* By @invano #1 - cat'n'grep
* By @invano #2 - disasm + recognize high-level macros.
* By @Dark_Puzzle - snapshotting VMs and bruteforcing chars.

6 thoughts on “About FLARE 2018

  1. Hi Kao,

    Thanks for providing other solutions as well.
    Method for solving level#6, lol.
    For me. I solved level#2 by changing single piece of code in onpaint method of GUI. :-)
    Still wait to see your solver for last year VM challenge #11.


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