ISITDTU CTF 2022 Finals - Slow

Image credit: ISITDTU

Table of Contents


Given binary: Get it here!

Description: If you can make the program runs faster, you’ll get the flag!

Category: Reverse Engineering

Static Analysis

The challenge provides us with a single binary, named slow.exe. By using IDA Pro or Ghidra or any other kinds of decompiler, we will get the decompiled code.

Analyze the main function, we claim that the program initiates an array whose size is 45, then modifies it through some more functions, as shown below.

int __cdecl main(int argc, const char **argv, const char **envp)
  void *Block; // [esp+4h] [ebp-BCh]
  int v5[45]; // [esp+8h] [ebp-B8h] BYREF

  v5[0] = 10;
  v5[1] = -3;
  ... snip
  v5[43] = 14;
  v5[44] = 16;
  Block = (void *)sub_401AC0(v5, 38, 0);
  return 0;

The function sub_401AC0(v5, 38, 0) allocates dynamic memory using malloc based on v5 then assigns it into variable Block. That variable is then being passed into function sub_4013B0(Block), which will produce our flag once we have fixed it.

int __cdecl sub_4013B0(_DWORD *a1)
  int result; // eax
  int v2; // eax
  int v3; // [esp+4h] [ebp-64h]
  ... snip
  int v37; // [esp+64h] [ebp-4h]
  int v38; // [esp+64h] [ebp-4h]

  while ( 1 )
    v6 = *(_DWORD *)(a1[1] + 4 * a1[3]++);
    result = v6 - 1;
    switch ( v6 )
      case 1:
        v22 = *(_DWORD *)(a1[2] + 4 * a1[4]--);
        v26 = *(_DWORD *)(a1[2] + 4 * a1[4]--);
        v2 = sub_401110(v26, v22);
        v16 = a1[4] + 1;
        a1[4] = v16;
        *(_DWORD *)(a1[2] + 4 * v16) = v2;
      case 2:
        ... snip
      case 4:
        ... snip
      case 5:
        ... snip
      case 6:
        ... snip
      case 7:
        ... snip
      case 8:
        ... snip
      case 9:
        ... snip
      case 10:
        ... snip
      case 11:
        ... snip
      case 12:
        ... snip
      case 13:
        ... snip
      case 14:
        v38 = *(_DWORD *)(a1[2] + 4 * a1[4]--);
        sub_401040("RESULT: %d\n", v38);
      case 15:
        ... snip
      case 16:
        ... snip
      case 17:
        ... snip
      case 18:
        ... snip

It is easy to observe that only case 1 and case 14 involve calling other functions.

To be more precise, if the program reaches case 1, the function sub_401110(v26, v22) will be called, and on the other hand, if the program reaches case 14, the function sub_401260(v38) will be called. We will talk more about these two functions in the next parts of this blog.

Reaching case 14

As stated earlier, the function sub_401260(v38) will be called if the program reaches case 14, which will be the last part of our code flow.

int __cdecl sub_401260(char a1)
  char v2[256]; // [esp+10h] [ebp-224h] BYREF
  char Buffer; // [esp+110h] [ebp-124h] BYREF
  _BYTE v4[3]; // [esp+111h] [ebp-123h] BYREF
  char v5[32]; // [esp+210h] [ebp-24h] BYREF

  qmemcpy(v5, "Áõ", 2);
  v5[2] = -77;
  v5[3] = 26;
  ... snip
  v5[28] = -66;
  v5[29] = 63;
  memset(v2, 0, sizeof(v2));
  sub_401D50(&Buffer, "%d", 55 * a1);
  sub_401160(v5, v2, 30, &Buffer, &v4[strlen(&Buffer)] - v4);
  return sub_401040("flag is: %s", (char)v2);

The function receives our modified variable Block, then uses it to produce our flag.

Reaching case 1

Here is where things get interesting. Take a look at the function sub_401110(v26, v22), we can conclude that this is why our program runs slowly. The fact that it makes our program sleeps plus it is possibly called many times throughout the process makes our executable runs without any output for a very long time.

int __cdecl sub_401110(int a1, int a2)
  int v3; // [esp+0h] [ebp-4h]

  v3 = sub_4010F0(0);
  Sleep(1000 * a1);
  Sleep(1000 * a2);
  return sub_4010F0(0) - v3;

The algorithm here is very simple, however this is author’s idea to let the program sleeps for a total of (a1 + a2) seconds each time this function is called. The intended result of this function is to return a1 + a2. We will have to patch the binary to get our flag.

Patch the binary

So we know what makes our program runs slowly, it is time to fix that. Below is the decompiled assembly code of that part.

mov     ecx, [ebp+arg_0]
mov     edx, [ecx+10h]
sub     edx, 1
mov     eax, [ebp+arg_0]
mov     [eax+10h], edx
mov     ecx, [ebp+var_10]
push    ecx
mov     edx, [ebp+var_C]
push    edx
call    sub_401110
add     esp, 8
mov     [ebp+var_58], eax
mov     eax, [ebp+arg_0]

Instead of calling sub_401110, we should patch the program to directly calculates ecx + edx then assigns it into eax. We find out that the opcode of call sub_401110 is E8 77 FC FF FF.

Using IDA Pro integrated settings, which can be found at Options > Generals > Number of Opcode bytes (non-graph) set to a large enough number, we can view each instruction’s opcode.

With pwntools library, we also find out the opcode for add ecx, edx and move eax, ecx is 01 D1 and 89 C8 using this script written in Python below.

from pwn import *
context.arch = 'amd64'
print(asm('add ecx, edx'))
print(asm('mov eax, ecx'))

It is now time to patch the binary. Use any hex editor of your choice to patch the binary, here I use IDA Pro’s integrated hex view to patch the binary.

Change E8 77 FC FF FF to 01 D1 89 C8 90 using any hex editor of your choice (here 90 corresponds to the NOP instruction).


After patching the binary, run it again to get our flag.

fazect@LAPTOP-CQA118DI:/mnt/d/Downloads$ ./slow.exe
RESULT: 75025
flag is: Pr4ct1c3_VMc0d3_w1th_F1b0n4cc1

Wrap the flag with ISITDTU{}, we have our flag for the challenge: ISITDTU{Pr4ct1c3_VMc0d3_w1th_F1b0n4cc1}.


Skill issue is one of my inner traits.