CTF Team at the University of British Columbia

[UTCTF 2022] Bloat

14 Mar 2022 by - Angus


web person killsteals a pwn chall


This is the problem entitled “Bloat” from UTCTF 2022.

The problem description is as follows:

I've created a new binary format. Unlike ELF, it has no bloat. It just consists
of a virtual address to store the data at, then 248 bytes of data. However, when
I tried to contribute it back to the mainline kernel they all called my
submission "idiotic", and "wildly unsafe". They just cant recognize the next
generation of Linux binaries.

Login with username bloat and no password

By Tristan (@trab on discord)

nc pwn.utctf.live 5003

Provided are a Linux kernel and initrd, and a script that uses both to run a qemu instance.

First steps

The script looks like this (where bzImage and rootfs.cpio.gz are the aforementioned files, and flag.txt is manually provided):

qemu-system-x86_64 \
    -m 128M \
    -cpu kvm64 \
    -kernel bzImage \
    -initrd rootfs.cpio.gz \
    -hdb flag.txt \
    -snapshot \
    -nographic \
    -monitor /dev/null \
    -no-reboot \
    -append "rootwait root=/dev/vda console=ttyS0 kpti=1 quiet panic=1 nokaslr"

Of note here is -hdb flag.txt, which puts the flag in /dev/sda on the image, and nokaslr, which means that KASLR isn’t in use and the kernel is guaranteed to be loaded into the same place in memory every time.

We can either take the problem description at face value, or we (read as: someone more knowledgeable about these matters in our Discord) can poke around the image, find a custom bloat.ko module, extract it, and examine its contents. In any case, we’ll find that executing anything with a suffix of .bloat will run the module, which writes 248 bytes to any place in memory. Since the kernel’s location in memory is static, we can probably find something interesting to overwrite and allow us to do something as root.

[insert search engine here] to the rescue

Someone else has already done a nicely detailed writeup on how to overwrite modprobe_path here, so I won’t bother with repeating what the attack vector is.

In fact, it’s even easier than what the article describes: there’s no KASLR so we don’t need to figure out how to make a ROP chain, and we can just write the new modprobe_path directly to memory at the appropriate address.

The plan

  1. Figure out the address for modprobe_path.
    1. Unarchive the initrd, find /etc/shadow, and copy the hash of the bloat user over to root.
    2. Re-archive the initrd, start the container, and log in as root with a blank password.
    3. Run grep modprobe_path /proc/kallsyms.
    4. Or, use this to get an ELF file out of the kernel, and read the address from there.
  2. Construct the payload of the address (0xffffffff82038180), in little endian, followed by /tmp/x, followed by zero-byte padding so the entire thing comes out to 248 + 8 = 256 bytes.
  3. Construct the script that will be magically run as root as /tmp/x.
  4. Encode the payload in base64, copy it over to the container, and decode and run it.
  5. Construct and run a dummy file to trigger the modprobe_path call.
  6. Get the flag.

The execution

An important note here is that running the .bloat file results in a segfault, which might give the impression that it didn’t work. But you just have to have faith that it did.

Re: killstealing

Basically I didn’t really do anything other than get the actual flag text - Robert figured out most of the problem’s theory, and Kevin demonstrated the exploit almost working to me. We were all submitting under one account anyway, so really this just meant I had to do this writeup.