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Tinypad - Pwn 300 Problem (SECCON QUALS 2016)


Difficulty: medium medium to medium hard
Host :
Port : 57463

Heap Fun as a Service!


Tinypad is an x86-64 ELF (NX, FULL RELRO, no PIE) implementing you guessed it a note taking service. The service supports storing up to four notes of max length 256 chars.

The user can add, modify, and free notes after adding them.


The tinypad global array of size 320 has 256 bytes allocated for swap space which is used when editing notes. The last 64 bytes are used to store the size of the note and pointer into the heap of the note. I will refer to these as the size and addr indexes of tinypad and I will refer to the first 256 bytes as the temp space of tinypad.

When a note is printed, the addr index of tinypad is checked. If it is set then the value in the pointer is printed.

//print notes
notes = &tinypad[256];
for (i = 0; i < 4; ++i) {
    addr = notes[(i * 16) + 8]; //addr
    if (addr) {

When a note is to be added, the size index of the tinypad array is checked. If it is set the next index is used, if not move on to the next.

//add note
notes = &tinypad[256];
for (i = 0; i < 4; ++i) {
    size = notes[i * 16]; //size
    if (!size) {
        new_size = read_int(); //Just reads an integer from stdin
        char *note = malloc(new_size);

        notes[i * 16] = new_size;
        notes[(i * 16) + 8] = note;

        read_until(note, new_size, '\n');

When a note is to be edited, the size index is checked to make sure a note exists. If the size is full, strcpy what is already in the note into the temp space of tinypad, takes the string length of that and uses read_until to read in input over the temp_space then copies the temp space back into the note. So you can't edit more characters in the note than it already has, this is important for later.

//edit note
temp  = tinypad;
notes = &tinypad[256];
size  = notes[i * 16]; //size
note  = notes[(i * 16) + 8];
if (size) {
    strcpy(temp, note);
    size_t len = strlen(temp);
    read_until(temp, len, '\n');
    strcpy(note, temp);

When a note is deleted, the size index is check to make sure a note exists, the note is freed and the size is zeroed out, but the addr is not zeroed out.

//delete note
notes = &tinypad[256];
size  = notes[i * 16];
note  = notes[(i * 16) + 8];
if (size) {
    note[i * 16] = 0;
//never nulls out the addr of the note

The read_until function reads in data from the user until a character is met.

int readuntil(char *a, size_t length, char delim) {
    for (i = 0; i < length; ++i) {
        int r = read(0, &a[i], 1);
        if (!r || a[i] == delim)
    // i can now equal 256
    a[i] = 0;
    return i;

//Example call
read_until(buf, 256, '\n');


Use After Free: Note pointers are not removed from the global array after being freed.
Null byte off by one in read_until function. Allowing off by one when adding and editing notes.


  • [Fail] Edit using 256 bytes and zero out the size field of the first note in the tinypad array.
  • [Fail] unsafe unlink


Setup (to be used later)

Create a free chunk in the temp space of the tinypad array above our pointers.

Easy Memory Leaks

Triggering a use after free is trivial. Just create a note and delete it. This use after free can only be used for printing notes so it just gets us a few useful leaks.

To get a libc leak we can take advantage of the fact that freed chunks in smallbins can point to the head or tail of that freelist which exists in libc.

To take advantage of this we

  1. Create 4 notes, all in smallbin size range
  2. Delete the third note
  3. Delete the first note
  4. Read the output from the main screen

Now the fd pointer of the third note points to the freelist, and the fd pointer of the first note points to the third note. Luckily the fd pointer is in the same space data would be for a malloc chunk, so this part is printed out.

The next print will print these out and we have the address of our heap and libc, which we can use to caluclate libc's base.

Now I just deleted every not to start with a fresh heap.

Playing with the heap

Next we take advantage of our one byte null overwrite.
The idea is explained there, but to summarize the technique

  1. A = malloc(0x88) - Allocate chunk of size smallbin
  2. B = malloc(0x100) - Allocate chunk double the size of A
  3. C = malloc(0x80) - Allocate chunk of any size
  4. free(B)
  5. chunk(B).size & ~0x11 - overflow A into B, clearing prev_inuse and making the size smaller (I'm just clearing the bottom two bites of chunk size here for representation)
  6. b1 = malloc(0x80) - This will be allocated where B was allocated
  7. b2 = malloc(0x40) - This will be allocated at the address of C subtracted with the size(b1)
  8. free(b1)
  9. free(C) - This will consolidate to addr(B) giving B a new size of 0x1a0
  10. D = malloc(0x190) - Allocate chunk that fits into the consolidated
  11. At this point we can fill up D which overlaps with b2, giving a normal heap overflow.

We used this technique with those sizes, but before allocating room for D we freed b2. b2 is in the fastbin range so it was placed in the fastbins. (add note was used to malloc, delete note was used to free, add note of length 256 for the null overwrite)
9a. free(b2)

In this picture b2 is is the value in the fastbin, and C is the value in the unsorted bin.

Now we allocated D, overflowing the freed chunk b2 with arbitrary values.

Overflow this with the address of our fake free chunk we created in the Setup part of this document, just above the pointers in the tinypad array. A few things to note here, to pass the integrity checks in libc the fake fastbin needs to have the same size as the fastbin it is in.

Now we allocate two more notes that will have the size 0x50, causing malloc to return the address in tinypad.

The second note we add will overwrite the pointer section of the tinypad array holding the sizes and addresses of notes.

What should we write over the note pointers with?


  • Note full relro, we can't just overwrite the .got
  • We can get more leaks by writing more pointers over the note pointers.
  • We can overwrite the note pointers with the addresses of other note pointers, so we can edit them later.

So with this we decided to overwrite the first note with the address of environ in libc. The environ pointer holds a pointer to the stack of the current elf. The second index with the address of the third index, and the third index with non null value so it can bet edited using the edit_note function.

Now we use the value leaked from environ pointer to calculate the address of a return address, we chose the address main returns to when it is finished. Then we could edit the second note and overwrite the third note with the address pointing to the return address after main. Next we edit the third note whcih points to the stack (the return address after main). When main finishes it will return to the value we just wrote onto the stack.

Before stack overwrite:

After stack overwrite:


Luckily for us one of libc's magic return addresses worked and we returned to that. Now after pressing q to quit the menu and program we get a shell.

The Flag