Breaking ECDSA (Elliptic Curve Cryptography) – rhme2 Secure Filesystem v1.92r1 (crypto 150)

The first challenge I did from this competition
was the secure filesystem, which we exploited
with a hash length extension attack. And then
we also solved this other crypto challenge
“key server”, which was about breaking
RSA signatures. So let’s continue the path
and do the last crypto challenge, I wonder
what we will have to break this time.
Crypto 150 points. Secure Filesystem v1.92r1.
That version number is already suspicious.
But let’s read the description first.
After the horrible debacle of the first file
system, we got together again, invited our
friend Mr. Wodka and waterproofed the secure
file system. You can test it again, but this
time it uses unbreakable encryption.
The filesystem allows you to request the contents
of one or more available files by using the
following format:
Which is basically the same like in the previous
filesystem challenge.
Token, then a hash symbol, followed by one
or multiple filenames.
And we get a list of example tokens and filenames.
Here is how it looks when you run the challenge.
You get the list of files, and if you supply
the correct token and filename, you get the
content back. And somehow we want to read
Before I tell you the solution, let me explain
my thought process here. Because I went into
a completely wrong direction at first and
somebody on IRC had to nudged me into the
correct direction. I completely failed this
So first I had a look at the version number.
That seemed too specific to not be a hint.
And it could have lead me to the correct solution,
but I got distracted by the list of examples.
Because there we can immediately notice, that
the first part of it is always the same, which
I interpreted to be some kind of block cipher.
And I thought the first block always encrypted
the same secret key or something – similarly
how the bad hash implementation prepended
a secret key in the first level.
And the version number for me became the bit
length of the cipher. The text said it’s
strong encryption, so I went to look for ciphers
with 192 bit options. I mostly looked into
But all attempts of manipulating blocks, for
example for padding oracle didn’t work.
Another lead I had was the waterproof filesystem.
I figured maybe it is some kind of whirlpool
hash? But that also didn’t make much sense.
Then maybe it had to do with the vodka? Maybe
there is a russian cryptographer named gorbatschow
with some weird obscure encryption. But everything
I tried just didn’t seem to be the right
path. I kept running in circles and really
wanted to give up.
Then I got a slight hint to focus more on
the version number again.
And while I did find hints to elliptic curve
cryptography when googling for the version
number before, I ignored them. That was a
It turns out, 192r1 is a curve parameter for
ECDSA. Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm.
Ok. So I know this elliptic curve stuff exists,
but I never really looked into it as much
as I should have. While RSA seems pretty straight
forward, this stuff always seemed a lot more
difficult to understand. So I started to read
And there is even a section called “security”,
where they say that Sony did not properly
implement the algorithm on the PlayStation
3, because one of the variables k was static
instead of random. And apparently it means
you can then break the signature.
So let’s have a quick look at the algorithm
and math itself.
So the provate key is an integer randomly
selected and the public key is the result
of some fancy ellyptic curve multiplication.
You hash the message you want to sign, like
with RSA.
And then you have to select a random k. And
it must be securely random.
Then you calculate a point on the curve based
on that number.
Then you do some more calculations, r and
s. And the signature is the pair of r and
So when we look at our example tokens, we
can assume, that those are the two different
values. R and s.
And r is always the same, which is suspicious.
If you look what r is, then r is basically
x. And x is the x-coordinate of the point
on the curve after the ellyptic curve multiplication
with the secure random k. This means for every
signature, the multiplication had the same
result, which means, k was probably always
the same.
That’s it.
As the standard notes, it is crucial to select
different k for different signatures, otherwise
the equation in step 6 can be solved for the
private key d.
Given two signatures rs and rs-prime, employing
the same unknown k, for different known messages,
an attacker can calculate some fancy stuff
and recover k. And then you can solve this
equation for the private key d. Done.
I’m not very good in math, but I knew that
this is such a basic security issue, that
I’m sure this came up in some other CTF
competitions before. And surely somebody implemented
this calculation in python already.
That is generally a good hint for CTFs. So
I googled specifically for CTF challenges
with ECDSA, and sure enough, I find some example
code. I can just copy that code, but I also
wanted to understand what it does. So let’s
do it step by step.
Let’s start by getting the ecdsa python
module, because we might reuse some functions
and in the end use it to create a proper signature
for the filename we want.
Let’s copy two of the example tokens and
messages and extract the values.
So we got r and s from the first message.
And r and s from the second message.
Then I try to follow the wikipedia article.
So first we check the two rs, if those two
signatures are vulnerable.
Then I wanna prepare most of the values as
I need them. First I hash the message we want
to sign and convert it to a number, so we
can do calculations with it. Which is z1 and
Then we need n. N is the order of the curve,
so we can get that value from the module.
To find that I just look around in the source
code of the ecdsa module.
Next we gonna recover k like it says here
on wikipedia.
The first part is simply z1 minus z2, so this
is basically just the hash of message1 minus
message2, divided by the substraction of the
And because you all got some basic math education,
you know that instead of division, you can
also multiply the inverse. Like 6 divided
by 3, is the same as 6 times ⅓.
So we just multiply the inverse of s1 minus
And we can reuse the inverse modulo function
from the ecdsa module.
Everything happens here always modulo the
Ok, now we got the k.
So next we recover the private key dA. Which
is super simple. It’s just a signature times
k minus the hash, divided by r.
And there we have it. K and the private key
recovered. Now we just have to figure out
how to plug this into python ecdsa to sign
a value for us.
Again, I just look at the source code of the
module and find the correct classes.
To test this I’m gonna sign a test message
which we know the signature of.
And print the original and our calculated
This looks perfect!
Now let’s sign passwd, so we can get the
Copy the signature, send it to the board,
and we get the flag.


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