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Teddy Heinen

Pneumatic Validator

In some alternate reality, computers are not electronics-based but instead use air pressure. No electrons are zipping by and instead, a large pneumatic circuit takes care of all the math. In that world, we reverse engineers are not staring countless hours into debuggers and disassemblers but are inspecting the circuits on a valve level, trying to figure out how the particles will behave in weird components and how they are connected. Thinking about it, that doesn't sound too different, does it? 



undefined8 main(int argc,char **argv)
  undefined8 uVar1;
  size_t sVar2;
  float fVar3;
  int local_10;
  puts("Starting the Pneumatic Flag Validation Machine...");
  if (argc == 2) {
    sVar2 = strlen(argv[1]);
    if (sVar2 == 0x14) {
      puts("Initializing Simulation...");
      for (local_10 = 0; local_10 < 0x400; local_10 = local_10 + 1) {
      fVar3 = find_max();
      if (15.0 <= fVar3) {
        puts("Wrong \\o\\");
      else {
        puts("Correct /o/");
      uVar1 = 0;
    else {
      puts("Wrong length");
      uVar1 = 1;
  else {
    puts("Please provide the flag to verify");
    uVar1 = 1;
  return uVar1;

It takes a flag provided in argv[1] and asserts the length is 20. It'll run a few setup functions to populate global variables and then run a simulator function 0x400 times. This is honestly pretty big and gross and I didn't want to reverse it so I decided to poke around with GDB.


Ah, yes, I can actually just do that lmao. ✨ dynamic analysis ✨.


from subprocess import run, PIPE
from string import ascii_letters, digits, punctuation
from pwn import *
def check_pw(pw):
    proc = run(f'gdb ./pneumaticvalidator --nx --ex "b *0x0000555555554000+0x5640" --ex "r {pw}" --ex \'x/f $rbp-4\' --batch', stdout=PIPE,shell=True)
    lines = proc.stdout.decode().split("\n")
    return float(lines[-2].split(":\t")[1])
# known = ""
known = "HTB{PN7Um4t1C_l0g1C}"
# initial pass; not fully accurate but it's enough to get the gist and we can try individual characters again later
while len(known) < 20:"trying with known \"{known}\"")
    pressures = {}
    for i in ascii_letters + digits + "_{}":
        pw = (known + i).ljust(20,"A")
        pressures[i] = check_pw(pw)
    next = min(pressures.items(), key=lambda x: x[1])"guessing next letter to be \"{next[0]}\" with pressure of {next[1]}")
    known += next[0]
def vary_index(idx, pw):
    pressures = {}"varying idx = {idx}, char = {known[idx]}")
    for i in ascii_letters + digits:
        pw[idx] = i
        pressure = check_pw("".join(pw))
        pressures[i] = pressure
    print(sorted(pressures.items(), key=lambda x: x[1]))
    return min(pressures.items(), key=lambda x: x[1])
pw = list(known)
for i in range(4,20): # we know HTB{ is correct
    old_pw = [x for x in pw]
    pw[i] = vary_index(i, pw)[0]
    if pw != old_pw:"found better flag \"{''.join(pw)}\" -> \"{''.join(old_pw)}\"")

lmao i don't deserve this HTB{pN3Um4t1C_l0g1C}