Oct 23, 2014 • Joe Gardiner

Killy the Bit


This challenge came with the following description:

“Killy the Bit is one of the dangerous kittens of the wild west. He already flipped bits in most of the states and recently hacked the Royal Bank of Fluxembourg. All customer of the bank are now advised to change their password for the next release of the bank’s website which will be launched on the 23.10.2014 10:01 CEST.

Killy the Bit stands in your debt and sent the following link. Can you break the password generation process in order to get access to the admin account?” Following the provided link leads to a single page (https://wildwildweb.fluxfingers.net:1424/)


The user is then presented with a web page. The page consists of some simple text, and then a basic form consisting of a single text box and submit button.

The user is asked to submit their username, and their new password will then be sent to them. If a correct username is enetered, a page with a confirmation message is displayed, stating that the new password has been sent by email. If the user enters an incorrect username, the page returns a list of username that are similar to the provided name.

This page is serviced by a php script, which is provided with the code that generated the password redacted. The index.phps file can be found here (right click -> save as)

SQL Injection

It was clear after looking at the php file that SQL injection is the key here. There are two different queries that are used.

Query 1

The first query is a simple SELECT query, in which a straightforwad lookup for the username returns the name and email.

$res = mysql_query("SELECT name,email FROM user where

The script then checks to see if ANY result is returned, and if so the confirmationmessage is displayed.

Query 2

If no result is returned, as second query is performed. This makes use of the “sound like” operator to find similar usernames

$res = mysql_query("SELECT name,email FROM user where name sounds like '".$_GET['name']."'");

If any exist, they are printed to the screen, else an error message is displayed:

while($row = mysql_fetch_object($res)) {
	echo $row->name;
	echo "<\br>"; ("\" added by me)


At first glance, the second query seems to be the one to attack, by somehow getting the code to print out the passwd column as well(the column name was revealed in a hint).

One limitation is a line near the top of the file:

if(isset($_GET['name']) && $_GET['name']!='' &&
!preg_match('/sleep|benchmark|and|or|\||&/i',$_GET['name'])) {

This line prevents certain strings being passed as parameters. Most annoyingly, this include and and or, which would be useful here.

A join seems like one solution, but we cannot use this as we can only append to the current query after the WHERE clause. Therfore, a UNION seems like a better option.

The first attck string that we tried was as follows:

' UNION SELECT email, passwd AS name FROM user WHERE#

In theory, this should work, but we kept finding that this attack string results in Query 1 passing, and Query 2 not being run so there is no scope to print the passwords. We discovered that we would then need to form some form of attack string that would cause the first query to fail, but the second to pass.

This proved difficult. Instead, Chris realised that we could use their pass/fail nature of the first query to our advantage to brute force guess the password.

We made use of the SUBSTR function in SQL to achieve this. If we can match a substring of a password to a string provided by us, we could confirm if it wss correct.

We tested this with the following attack string:

' UNION SELECT email, passwd FROM user WHERE SUBSTR(passwd,1,5)='flag{'#

We used this as an initial guess as in all of the challenges we had completed, the flag beings with “flag{“. Inputting this into the username box resulted in the confirmation screen! We then manually tried to guess the next letter by brute force, and it revealed the next letter was k.

Obviously the flag could contain any character, so me and Chris simultaneously worked on our own scripts to do this manually. My script was written in Java, Chris’ in Perl. The Java script made a request to the challenge domain, with a constructed GET request. The key line was:

url = new URL("https://wildwildweb.fluxfingers.net:1424/?name=%27+UNION+SELECT+email%2C+passwd+FROM+user+WHERE+SUBSTR%28passwd%2C" + pos + "%2C1%29%%27" + look + "%27%23&submit;=Generate#");

(This is now slightly incorrect but you get the idea:))

The response was then parsed to look for the key string “A new password was generated”, if this was found the current letter was added to the flag. The request included the previosuly found letters at each step.

This worked fine, and we found the partial flag flag{killy_the_bit_is_wanted_fo. The script then stopped working at this step, and we were confused as to why. EWe guessed the next letter was R, but manually trying this resulted in the php code not even being run. We soon realised the issue. When the “r” is tried, the regular expression matcher the “or” of the “for”, and rejects the request! So we then had to guess the rest of the password ignoring the first half. This resulted in the full flag:


Chris was the first to get the full flag by seconds. But this was not accepted by the form. We suspected that it was an issue with capitalisation. The problem is that in SQL, the = operator is case-insensitive, meaning that we cannot match the exact capitalisation using this. We then remembered the ImageUpload challenge, where we used thr ASCII operator to fetch the password. We then modified out attack string to resemble:

' UNION SELECT email, passwd FROM user WHERE ASCII(SUBSTR(passwd,32,1))=ASCII('r')#1

This checks that the 32nd character is a lower case r, and only returns a result if so. We modified the script to check individual characters, and soon found the capitalisation for the 15th character onwards. For the first 15 characters, the request matched a different password in the table, so we had to manually guess the capitalisation for these (which I got first time). The final flag was:


In this step, the Java script won the race. The Java script can be found here.

A later hint by the admins stated that a single query can return the password and brute forcing is not necessary, but we were still pleased to solve this challenge. Overall it was a nice challenge to complete even though at first it seemed a lot easier than it actually was.

This challenge was largely completed as a joint effort by myself and Chris Novakovic (csn), who was working remotely. Also involved on site were Tom Chothia and Jiangshan Yu who were valuable in solving this challenge, which earned us 200 points plus 70 bonus points.