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picoMini by redpwn 2021 - advanced-potion-making (forensics)

by Anna Hsu on 5/11/2021


Ron just found his own copy of advanced potion making, but its been corrupted by some kind of spell. Help him recover it!


Ah, forensics. The challenge-provided advanced-potion-making has no file extension, but it’s probably a good bet to say it’s a corrupted PNG file. file advanced-potion-making returned advanced-potion-making: data (unlikely to work, but it’s worth a shot and certainly “obligatory” for forensics challenges).

If a file is corrupted, it can be fixed with a hex editor such as For a PNG file to be valid, it requires a PNG file signature and critical chunks of data. In the hex editor, we can change the incorrect parts of the chunks.

a glimpse of the contents of the corrupted file

After address 0x0000009E, most of the content is repeated and not going to be critical (save the IEND), so the bulk of our work is going to be higher up.

The PNG file header is supposed to be the first part of every PNG file and it indicates that it is a PNG file, and not anything else. It consumes the first 8 addresses with 89 50 4E 47 0D 0A 1A 0A. The corrupted file looks somewhat similar, but not quite, so I manually fix it to agree.

We need to check the four most important chunks to make sure they’re correct: IHDR, PLTE (which ends up being optional), IDAT, and IEND. Since each PNG needs these and I didn’t know their values off the top of my head, I opened a valid PNG side-by-side in the hex editor and compared their hex values. The IDHR, IDAT, and IEND looked correct.

I thought I was done and I saved my image here, but it wouldn’t open. Going back to my comparison between a random valid PNG and my corrupted file, I realized that the hex values of addresses 0x00000009 to 0x0000000B were incorrect. After changing them to 00 00 0D to match my valid PNG, I saved it and opened it to see a red image.

So we’re not done yet. Ugh.

However, when I see red (or really any solid color), I try using stegsolve. I flipped through a bunch of options until Red plane 0, and we have our flag!

The hardest part of CTF really is reading the flag. For some reason, I thought the 1 was an l at first!

why was this so hard to read aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa