Our favorite grocery store allegedly has a vulnerability, can you replicate it?


This challenge requires you to identify a vulnerability in the web application that leaks (pun intended) some sensitive information from the server.

To start, let’s inspect the web server for any interesting files or behavior. Generally, we recommend trying to access /robots.txt to see if there are any files that the web developer does not want search engines to index, which is usually a good sign of something interesting to probe. However, /robots.txt returns a 404 on this web server so there is nothing for us to look at there.

Now let’s try to probe the server’s normal functionality to see how it’s communicating information between the browser and the remote web server. To do this, open the browser developer tools, usually the F12 key, or right click and choose Inspect Element, and switch to the network tab to monitor the network connections. We can try to add an item to the grocery list, let’s say we add an item called “Banana” and observe the HTTP request that’s made to the server. Once you’ve made the request, it’ll show up in the developer tools “Network” tab, click on the “add” request to view details and switch to the “Payload” tab to view the request body.

/add endpoint request body
/add endpoint request body

So here we see that our request to add a “Banana” to the grocery list was encoded using JSON as { content: "Banana" }. Now let’s also inspect the response body by switching to the “Preview” tab.

/add endpoint response body
/add endpoint response body

Now this response is peculiar. The initial request was sent out a String type, but the response type is a Buffer which we can potentially assume is a node.js Buffer type (this can be validated by inspecting the “Headers” tab to identify that the remote server is using a node.js runtime as it is powered by Express.js which is a node.js library).

On the documentation page for Buffer, we find that there are a lot of deprecated methods which could be potential attack vectors for us.

Deprecated constructors for Buffer in the node.js documentations
Deprecated constructors for Buffer in the node.js documentations

We can try to send some data to the server to see if we can generate some unexpected behavior. From the documentation here, we know that Buffers accept at least 5 different kinds of types:

  • Array - standard JavaScript array object
  • ArrayBuffer - more modern array object used to store a “byte array”
  • Buffer - same type as itself
  • Number - as indicated by the size constructor
  • String - which is what we see with the request we just made above

The intuition here would be to try to craft requests using these different types to see how the server responds and if it responds with unexpected data. You can craft the request using your favorite HTTP request tool like BurpSuite, ZAP, or curl. We’ll use curl as the example as we can actually have the browser developer tools duplicate the request and construct the curl command for us by using the “Copy as cURL” menu option.

Chrome developer tools “Copy as cURL” option
Chrome developer tools “Copy as cURL” option

Once copied, you can paste it into a bash/zsh terminal and tweak the JSON payload, you may eventually try a numeric payload like the following:

curl 'https://[hostname]/add' \
  -H 'Accept: */*' \
  -H 'Content-Type: application/json' \
  -H 'sec-ch-ua: "Not_A Brand";v="8", "Chromium";v="120", "Google Chrome";v="120"' \
  -H 'sec-ch-ua-platform: "macOS"' \
  --data-raw '{"content":10}' \
Some headers were removed to maintain simplicity for the example

Once you make this request and refresh the page, you’ll see a partial flag which indicates that you’re somehow leaking sensitive server-side information with the numeric request.

Partial flag being leaked
Partial flag being leaked

This is because the numeric request instantiates a new Buffer and the web developer in this case may be using an unsafe constructor to instantiate the Buffer which leads to discarded server-side memory being unintentionally incorporated into the new Buffer. As we only got a partial flag, we can increase the Buffer size to perhaps 100 to see if we can leak a full flag out.

Pro-tip for software developers: always sanitize/zero out any buffers you send to the client-side as will contain uninitialized/discarded memory which may contain secret keys or other sensitive data!


What is the flag?

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