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PHP strcmp Bypass (ABCTF2016 – L33t H4xx0r)

Another one of the ABCTF challenges this year involved a login page and bypassing PHP strcmp.

PHP strcmp Bypass – Introduction

This was a unique CTF authentication bypass challenge, and I just had to share it!

I recommend checking out ABCTF if you ever get a chance, as it is my favorite beginner-friendly CTF.

Finally, take a look at the PHP strcmp docs if you want to follow along at home.

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The Challenge

At first glance, the login page seemed fairly simple.

Bypassing PHP strcmp - Login

Not so hidden within the source of the page was where I could find the source for the form.

	<!-- source at source.txt -->

The source.txt file was straightforward, and was doing a simple strcmp between our GET request and the $PASSWORD variable.

	$FLAGWEB6 = (file_get_contents("flag.txt"));
	$PASSWORD =  (file_get_contents("flag.txt")); //haha

	if(strcmp($PASSWORD, $_GET['password']) == 0){
			$success = true;
			$success = false;

	else {
		$success = false;


Authentication Bypass

From here, I actually spent quite awhile trying to pass a reference to $FLAGWEB6 in my get request, since those two variables would be the same. Unfortunately, I was never able to get this to work (contact me if I was just missing something silly here!).

Unable to make any headway on that front, I then took a look back at the hint provided with the challenge.

Some ways of comparing two strings are very insecure.

After a bit more research, it seemed that strcmp had some issues when comparing a string to something else.

If I set $_GET[‘password’] equal to an empty array, then strcmp would return a NULL. Due to some inherent weaknesses in PHP’s comparisons, NULL == 0 will return true (more info).

With this in mind, I sent the following request to the login page.[]=%22%22

Once I sent the request, I received the flag and the subsequent 70 points.

Bypassing PHP strcmp - Flag

PHP strcmp Bypass – Conclusion

While this wasn’t a difficult challenge, I had a lot of fun with this bypass.

This is something that I might put in a future CTF challenge of my own, so be on the lookout for that!


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