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Physics quizz speedrun

Root-Me CTF Prog
Table of Contents

Context #

This is a write up for a challenge I created for the Root-Me CTF we organized to celebrate the 10k members on the Discord server.
Please keep in mind I wasn’t a participant but the creator of the challenge, hence the level of details and explainations I am able to provide.
That was an amazing experience to help organizing this CTF, and I hope people learned a few things and enjoyed my challenges!

Description #

You found a super cool ranked quizz online about physics. It rewards anybody that can complete it faster than all of the predecessors.

Note : the atomic weight must be rounded to one decimal number.

Resolution #

We start with the link ws:// This is a websocket! We can use Insomnia to connect to this websocket to see what’s going on. This is an amazing tool to play with a REST API, a GraphQL API, gRPC calls or websocket connections.

The websocket returned a binary string. Let’s decode it.

It’s asking about the CAS number of Bromine. Let’s answer something random to see what happens.

The websocket answered with a binary string once more.

The websocket says it doesn’t speak our language. It means we have to speak in its language: binary.
If we retry once more, we can see that the websocket has 3 types of questions:

  • the CAS number of an atom
  • the number of electrons of an atom
  • the atomic weight of the atom

In addition to that, the websocket has 2 different ways of asking us:

  • Can you tell me what is the <question> of <element> please?`
  • Yo, please tell me what is the value of the <question> for the <element>

Okay, we know what we have to do now: let’s write a program to answer these questions automatically!
For that, I’m going to use a Python script with the help of the libraries websockets for the websockets part and mendeleev for the physics part.
We’ll also need to convert from and to binary the communication, so let’s add functions for that.

And here is my script:

import asyncio
import websockets
from mendeleev import element

uri = "ws://"

def from_bin(string):
    return "".join([chr(int(string[i:i+8], 2)) for i in range(0, len(string), 8)])

def to_bin(string):
    return "".join(["0" * (8 - len(format(ord(x), "b")) % 8) + format(ord(x), "b") for x in string])

async def main():
    async with websockets.connect(uri) as ws:
        for _ in range(50):
            message = from_bin(await ws.recv())

            if message.endswith("please?"):
                elem_name = message.split(" ")[-2]
                elem_name = message.split(" ")[-1]

            if message.startswith("Yo"):
                question = message[44:].split("for")[0].strip()
                question = " ".join(message[28:].split(" ")[:-3])
            elem = element(elem_name)

            if question == "number of electrons":
                answer = elem.electrons
            elif question == "cas number":
                answer = elem.cas
            elif question == "atomic weight":
                answer = round(elem.atomic_weight, 1)

            await ws.send(to_bin(str(answer)))
            resp = from_bin(await ws.recv())
            if not resp.startswith("Thank you so much!"):
                # for debug purpose in case of a crash
                print("I made an error")
                print("Response is:", resp)
                print("Question was:", question)
                print("Answer tried was:", answer)

        print(from_bin(await ws.recv()))

if __name__ == "__main__":

Flag: RM{4t0ms_sp33drunn3r_sp3c14l1st}