corCTF 2021: Dividing Secrets

Reading time ~4 minutes

Fourth in line in the Crypto challenge for me was this probably math heavy challenge that I found a secondary solution to. At the heart of it was a bespoke encryption algorithm and an oracle who you can leak the secret from. More details below…

Dividing Secrets - Crypto - 450 Points

This challenge reads:

I won't give you the secret. But, I'll let you divide it.

nc 6000

(84 solves)

With the challenge we get this file:


This file is the Python source code the service provided running at

from Crypto.Util.number import bytes_to_long, getStrongPrime
from random import randrange
from secret import flag

LIMIT = 64

def gen():
	p = getStrongPrime(512)
	g = randrange(1, p)
	return g, p

def main():
	g, p = gen()
	print("g:", str(g))
	print("p:", str(p))
	x = bytes_to_long(flag)
	enc = pow(g, x, p)
	print("encrypted flag:", str(enc))
	ctr = 0
	while ctr < LIMIT:
			div = int(input("give me a number> "))
			print(pow(g, x // div, p))
			ctr += 1
	print("no more tries left... bye")


The Oracle

The server itself does the following:

  • Generates a 512 bit prime p and a generator g where g < p
  • Raises g to the power of x (which is the encoded flag) modulo p
  • Tells the user all of g, p and the result of g^x mod p
  • Offers to allow you to re-do the encryption and provide your result at a fraction of the plaintext flag: i.e. g^(x/y) mod p where the user controls y.

We then get 64 tries at this before the server says no more...

Thus the server is somewhat of an oracle for the plaintext. We can say that because of the properties of Python integer division operator (//). When you use integer division and y>x the result is 0 you can not receive some float result < 1

Therefore in the python code pow(g, x // div, p), if we provide some number div > x the result will be 0. Any number raised to the power of 0 is 1. So the result of g^0 mod p == 1. An example:

$ nc 6000
g: 9469478585165202531347531237271222431820177929517646371381768151145816243787211118568001909025475282128378386587829099526813601190954200935233567225449878
p: 9502663596629776115798083086578516088914731652976004052737538621488653404676684814685767013192370554824500062660286960997310405975464753908394465234839031
encrypted flag: 5313743827419293655205241164009328528579040174069769374549906627096587894188726627536656168320152247301473040998176124056308069464086747472994558942083382
give me a number> 53137438274192936552052411640093285285790401740697693745499066270965878941887266275366561683201522473014730409981761240563080694640867474729945589420833829999999

Above I provided a number much larger than x could be and the result was 1.

We can now use this as an oracle to binary search for the flag, to start with we need some good boundary conditions to make the binary search faster.

I chose the start with the known plaintext bytes corctf{} with the flag text bytes set to the space character (ascii 0x20) and wrote the following script to binary search for the right flag:

from pwn import *
from Crypto.Util.number import bytes_to_long, long_to_bytes
from random import choice

host, port = "", 6000
startflag = b"corctf{qu4drat1                                                }"
endflag =   b"corctf{qu4drat1zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz}"
assert len(startflag) == 64 and len(endflag) == 64

conn = remote(host,port)
g = int(conn.recvline().decode('utf-8').split()[1])
p = int(conn.recvline().decode('utf-8').split()[1])
encflag = int(conn.recvline().decode('utf-8').split()[2])
print("pow(%d, flag, %d) = %d" % (g,p,encflag))

ctr = 0
low = bytes_to_long(startflag)
high = bytes_to_long(endflag)

def niceflag(s):
    out = ""
    for x in s:
            if x > 32 and x < 126:
                out += chr(x)
    return out

while True:
    mid = (low + high) // 2
    print("flag so far: %s" % niceflag(long_to_bytes(mid)))
    conn.recvuntil(b"number> ")
    z = int(conn.recvline().decode('utf-8'))

    if z == 1:
        high = mid - 1
    if z > 1:
        low = mid + 1
    ctr += 1

When we run it against the server it leaks only SOME of the bytes of the flag per execution.

$ ./ 
[+] Opening connection to on port 6000: Done
pow(11820498977550734828653912324375560171949411037724471307368839780277434037809071119711398909668217923321263495100359890464224026792025691896215315314793797, flag, 11870657333128346379158109277268936637207808809794872279417396702265791992159688302389548612939812143143929280911989671553629439904520837863827906312317217) = 4499766221063799936326843973676576852439726329420450400618170871734793888455393422976505244926928727862648481368758494715982561691898213740999734160580391
flag so far: corctf{cãããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããý
flag so far: corctf{o///////////////////////////////////////////////////////=

flag so far: corctf{p
flag so far: corctf{q§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§³
flag so far: corctf{qzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
flag so far: corctf{qcããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããããï
flag so far: corctf{qo//////////////////////////////////////////////////////:
flag so far: corctf{qw§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§³
flag so far: corctf{qv>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>I
flag so far: corctf{qu

...64 tries later...

flag so far: corctf{qu4drat1

Modifying the startflagand endflag variables in the script and running again further narrows down the answer:

startflag = b"corctf{qu4drat1                                                }"
endflag =   b"corctf{qu4drat1zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz}"
$ ./ 
[+] Opening connection to on port 6000: Done
pow(10858937186300249722450521912030830897958954663235060357469745152419530147812617947010556514576049382939234102836742154577207976027039220099856848565273761, flag, 11614849301314078887913511348704458004510422071444480074703416239074327769801024404904454687337665352764232814181191152379541050820613883993392348649821581) = 9090683722843891214570138561345563268899824283256785885869169370022974271259039714599152155301195443621906431363414969191604777878961723248653108671207942
flag so far: corctf{qu4drat1c

... cut a few lines...

flag so far: corctf{qu4drat1c_r3s1dv>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>O
flag so far: corctf{qu4drat1c_r3s1du
flag so far: corctf{qu4drat1c_r3s1du////////////////////////////////////////@
flag so far: corctf{qu4drat1c_r3s1du\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\m

And after about 20 attempts of narrowing this down we get the full flag:

# ./ 
[+] Opening connection to on port 6000: Done
pow(3968218152742885444913628459538778664641871974276756121970175688279800451598790347675168544482545894620120356496526510968117694834393499242820278427870969, flag, 9631873719848231410020436752479012121871910466468713187192100618223604159449540203739224453842098920155126012364992181221725854103746656216239456795706257) = 3864110445840553493265040447270655296274517667095157776589032251491893722850997939751499236027899518934165973198964376248674960228555295455058851857034378
flag so far: b'corctf{qu4drat1c_r3s1due_0r_n0t_1s_7h3_qu3st1on8852042051e57492}'
flag so far: b'corctf{qu4drat1c_r3s1due_0r_n0t_1s_7h3_qu3st1on8852042051e57492}'
flag so far: b'corctf{qu4drat1c_r3s1due_0r_n0t_1s_7h3_qu3st1on8852042051e57492}'
flag so far: b'corctf{qu4drat1c_r3s1due_0r_n0t_1s_7h3_qu3st1on8852042051e57492}'

Certainly NOT the right way to solve it but got there nonetheless!

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