Blazin’ Etudes – Hack A Sat 3 Quals (2022) – Writeup

(If you just want the solution, and not the story, skip down to “Emulating MLIL on z3”)


This year was Samurai’s third time playing Hack A Sat’s (HAS) quals round. The first time we played, we qualified for finals. Year 2, we didn’t qualify. So this year we were hoping to qualify again. I personally wasn’t super involved in the first year, and only a bit involved last year (I don’t think the weekends lined up super great for me), but I was interested to take a shot at it this year and hopefully qualify!

Blazin’ Etudes was the third of a series of microblaze reversing challenges, released on the last day of the competition (Sunday). In order to properly appreciate it, we should briefly look at the preceding challenges.

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Reversing and exploiting a program running in an undocumented VM

DEF CON CTF 2021 Quals baby-a-fallen-lap-ray writeup

disassembled shellcode



This weekend, Samurai played the DEF CON CTF Qualifier event. We had a great time playing; much thanks to the organizers for putting on a great event! Many thanks to my teammates, it was awesome playing with you all!

One of the challenges this weekend was called baby-a-fallen-lap-ray. It was categorized as a pwn challenge, and it made a comment about being ‘the return of the parallel machine (or is it?)’.

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CSAW CTF Finals 2018 – Wic Wac Woe 1 writeup


I had the opportunity to compete in the CSAW CTF Finals 2018 for a second year in a row, with the UMBC Cyber Dawgs. It was a lot of fun, despite our somewhat lackluster finish in 10th place. I learned a lot. For instance, in this challenge, I learned how to exploit a Use-After-Free vulnerability (in WebAssembly no doubt!).


WASM is the future of the web! JS devs will be writting c++, what could go wrong?.

This debugger might help kinda shrug emoji

Written by itszn, Ret2 Systems

HINT: You can get source via / and /test.cpp

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CSAW CTF Finals 2017 – KWS 1 Writeup


I recently had the opportunity to compete in the CSAW CTF Finals with the UMBC Cyber Dawgs. It was an amazing competition; the organizers were awesome and did a great job. We placed 7th in North America, by the way :)

If you’ve never heard of CSAW before, it’s a huge student-run security conference/competition. We played in the CTF, or capture-the-flag competition. I would consider one of the best undergraduate-level CTF competitions. CSAW CTF is a jeopardy style competition in which you have a board of challenges, and you get points for solving them. You solve the challenge by hacking at it until it gives you a flag of the form flag{th1s_i5_a_f1@g}, which you enter into the scoreboard to receive points. Team with the most points wins.

I’ll be publishing a couple writeups about how we solved some of the challenges; this is the first one.


We developed a much better alternative to AWS. Our high-performance kernel
driver gives us unparalleled speed of execution. And we're super-secure!

NOTE: Login with your CTFd credentials.

NOTE: This might take a minute to start up the first time you login. Please be

NOTE: There may be ways to poke at other teams' boxes. Don't do that, it is not
part of the challenge.

NOTE: If you have issues with your instance, try logging out of the KWS
interface, and logging back in.

NOTE: Sorry for all of the notes :P

Author: itszn, Ret2 Systems


We begin by visiting the provided URL and we’re greeted with a dashboard. We have 1 KWS "instance" (lol), and we have the ability to store new JSON objects by name. So we have a key-value store of some sort.

We do some inspection of traffic (I use the Firefox DevTools), and we can see some requests to the API, and we see some requests to http://some.ip.ip.ip/action. We notice they are all POST requests, and they have a JSON payload of the form

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Why I generated a GPG Key

So if you’re here, you’re probably one of three types of people. Most likely is that I sent you here because you were wondering why the heck I mentioned this on social media. It’s also possible that you actually care about why I generated a GPG key. I happen to like my explanation, and I hope you do too :) Additionally, in the unlikely case that you just want my key, you can find it at the bottom of the post.

As a result, before I actually answer the question in the title, I should probably answer something else first: What the heck is a GPG key?

What’s a GPG key?

GPG stands for GNU Privacy Guard… and there’s a ton of history that I won’t spend the space to explain. It’s an encryption program. A GPG key has two parts: a public key and a private (or secret) key. You spread the public key as far as you want (I’ve published mine below), and you keep the private key secret.

Then, people can use your key and they can send you messages only you can read. (You also can create a message and prove you wrote it, with a process called signing.)

Why I have one

Ok, that’s great, I guess. Now why do you need one again?

Well, that’s an interesting question. I’ve got a few reasons.

First, by analogy, encryption, for nerds, is a bit like guns for um… people that like guns. You can use it to make your life better (such as allowing you to keep criminals from reading your taxes), just like you can use a gun as a tool (to hunt deer, or some other game). You can also just have it, for the simple reason that you’re a free man and you can. Do I actually think I need to be able to encrypt my emails such that no other soul on the earth can read them? Well, no, but does anyone really need (insert your favorite slightly controversial weapon)? Maybe not (I don’t know what you picked, and that’s not what this article’s about anyway), but people have it/them because they can. Finally, in the unlikely scenario that the world as we know it falls apart, secure communication may come in handy. Well… Personally, I’d take the gun in that situation… but that’s not the point.

Practically speaking, I can now securely store sensitive documents so that only I can read them. Also, if by some freak accident, I end up writing a piece of software that becomes popular, I can sign the source code so people know it’s from me. And also, if I needed to talk to someone about my bank account number or something, and they had a GPG key, we could communicate securely.

About my key

I generated my key on my laptop, and I’ve uploaded it to a few different places. Its “fingerprint”, a short set of numbers that uniquely identifies it, is 8BCF 4423 CBAF 7F6C 60E3 BBA0 3238 40E9 FC31 AFAA. You can use it to verify that the key you have is really mine, and not fake.

I’ve uploaded it to some GPG keyservers, and to Keybase here:


So you might have seen a social media post about “verifying myself” or something like that. That has to do with Keybase (link above ^^^).

Keybase is a company that’s trying to make cryptography possible for less extremely technical people. They’ve done a decent job, and it’s pretty cool. The only negative comment I have at the moment is that you should NEVER under ANY circumstances upload your private key somewhere you don’t control, even in encrypted form. They offer a feature that allows just that, so I’d recommend against using it. Otherwise, it’s cool to see someone trying to make cryptography a bit more friendly. Hopefully they can succeed in a way that doesn’t force them to ruin their serviceĀ (through really ugly ads or something) in the process.

So Keybase’s idea is that you prove that you control various online accounts, and if people know you there, they can personally verify those proofs and have some level of assurance that your keys belong to you. It’s an interesting concept; I’m interested to see how it works out.

More-Technical Details

(Most of the following information will probably only be relevant to people that know what to do with it.)

GPG key fingerprint: 8BCF 4423 CBAF 7F6C 60E3 BBA0 3238 40E9 FC31 AFAA

Download link: (Or get it from your favorite keyserver)

It’s 4096 bit RSA, with two subkeys so the main key can be kept nominally offline, as explained here.