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The art of understanding the problem

Hey there,

These days I’m concentrating myself on improving my hacking skills, because I can’t afford this dream of mine to stay on my journals, some dreams have to come true. I read, I try to hack some servers (there is nothing illegal, mum), I blog about my solutions, I blog about the way I search the solutions, because I’m only a beginner in the field, not an expert – beginner.

I was too suspicious about my abilities. I always am. Sometimes I challenge myself in order to show the girl in the mirror that she can, sometimes I ask for an opinion from someone who knows me better than I know myself. I will never take up a task or a job out my ability scope. So, in order to avoid a situation like that I always update my knowledge about my skills.

The 5th of November should be marked on my calendar. Today I found out that I’ve finally learnt to understand the problem. As a beginner hacker I would always worry about the solution not even understanding the core problem or the task itself. Today, as I was doing one of the levels of OverTheWire-Bandit, I had no idea which command should be used, the only thing I knew was that the file contains a human-readable string.

What would a beginner do in this case? Of course, I googled how to find a human readable string in a file. And there was the solution:

strings somebinaryfile | grep textuwanttofind

Maybe you’ll think: “WTF, nothing serious, you haven’t discovered anything girl, you’ve just googled about it and copy-pasted the solution”. For me this is a relevant point on my learning path, because I finally googled the problem not the solution.

Before finding that link I read so many man pages of strings or grep and learnt some things I had no idea about. Anyway, I learnt the art of reading and understanding the problem. And didn’t worry about the solution.

So, if you are beginner, this can be a good tip for you: never worry about finding the password of this or that level. Maybe you will never be able to find the password, but the reading, the research that you do, the knowledge you gain, will help you to become the specialist you want to be. Try to understand the main problem of the task and don’t give up until you solve it.

 thought it’s supposed to be easier…

Today I solved Bandit 6 → 10 levels

Hey there,

I had so much fun solving bandit levels and blogging about it, so I decided to make it a habit and see if I can solve all the levels till the end of the year. Now, without further ado, we pick up from where we stopped last time.

Bandit Level 5 → 6

Our task is to find the file which is human-readable, 1033 bytes in size and is not executable. I assume, that the command, that will help us today is the find. So, I’m gonna see what is find for and what other options it has. I found -executable, which is probably one of the commands I need right now, but I’m still looking for the way to filter by its size and see if it’s human readable. Awesome, there is -size command and we should pay attention that for bytes we should use c. I found the directory named “inhere” which contains too many directories. In order to save time and not to check every directory I just stay in “inhere” and do:

find -size 1033c

It shows me the only file that is 1033 bytes: /maybehere07/.file2, so I cat the file. There is the password!

Bandit Level 6 → 7

This level seems to be harder at the first sight, because it’s the first time I should find a file owned by another user. It’s hard but not possible. Let’s dig in. In order to find a file owned by a user or a group I just type:

find -user bandit7 -group bandit6

and for the size, as we learnt from the previous level, we need -size 33c. No result. Let’s read the task again. The password is stored somewhere on the server. So we should look for it everywhere.

find / -user bandit7 -group bandit6 -size 33c.

Oh no, it shows all the errors as well. We don’t need them at all, so let’s redirect all of them in /dev/null.

ind / -user bandit7 -group bandit6 -size 33c 2>/dev/null

Success!! There is the file we were looking for. And it contains the password for the next level.

Bandit Level 7 → 8

The password is in the file named data.txt next to the word millionth. I guess I should find out how to find a word in a file. Here is the solution. So I just type:

grep millionth data.txt

This was such a child’s play.

Bandit Level 8 → 9

The password for the next level is stored in the file data.txt and is the only line of text that occurs only once. The key word is “occurs only once”, it seems kind of unique, right? What a pleasant coincidence, we have a command called uniq. On the man page of uniq I found this awesome option:

-u, --unique
     only print unique lines

I see that sort command that can be used for the level. What does it stand for? The man page says:

sort - sort lines of text files

Also, the helpful reading material suggests that we should read about piping and redirection. After looking through the material I try this:

cat data.txt | sort | uniq -u

And there is our password. Another, more sufficient way would have been:

sort data.txt | uniq -u

Bandit Level 9 → 10

The password for the next level is stored in the file data.txt in one of the few human-readable strings, preceded by several = characters. I understand that my task is to find the human-readable string in a file. Here I found the most efficient and maybe the only way:

strings data.txt | grep "= "

Success! The password is on my screen already!

For me these levels were easier than the previous ones. Maybe because I’ve already learnt the art of understanding the problem and reading every possible man or –help page.

I thought it’s supposed to be easier…

Happy International Vegan day!

hey there,

It’s been almost three years I’m following vegan lifestyle and today I would like to talk about my experience, pros and cons of being a vegan in Armenia, a country where mostly all national dishes are, to put it mildly, non vegan-friendly.

Before saying bye-bye to meat and dairy products, I read hundreds of articles and watched thousands of videos. Most of them would say “it’s not a one day plan, no one can become vegan in a day, you should start with baby steps, become a vegetarian first, and then see the reaction of your body…”. For me it took like a second, there was kind of a click in my head. I was watching a ted talk about food marketing and meat production and I just said “I’m becoming a vegan”. I’ve not eaten meat or drunk non-plant-based milk from that moment.

I was living in Germany at that time and it didn’t feel like a huge step, it was normal there, I wasn’t seen like an alien. I could go to a supermarket and find the vegan section, buy soy milk produced a day before. A week after becoming a vegan I traveled to Amsterdam and I found a vegan-friendly store at every corner of the city: vegan cookies, vegan chocolate, vegan sausage? OMG, people!!! I was happy.

Vegan breakfast in Amsterdam

Then I moved back to Armenia. And here all the colors seemed gray and green was not even mentioned. Eat some dolma (meat wrapped in cabbage), here is some barbeque, enjoy the meat, your body needs protein… And I kind of was seen as someone following to fashion, someone who says she is vegan, because that’s a way to show off or pretend she is unique. Frankly, that hurt.

One day Antranig found a store, where I could buy soy milk, and that was one of the happiest days of my life. Of course, I’m not the only vegan here in Armenia, but there was not much of demand for vegan products, and the milk we bought was produced like three-four months ago.

Found my first plant based milk in Yerevan

These days it has become much better. I can buy plant based milk in every store, we’ve even found vegan cookies, which I love, most cafes and restaurants have updated their menus, and you can see that little “leaf” sign, which means the dish is vegan friendly. And there are already three vegan cafes (don’t dare to laugh), where you can find every kind of delicious food: pizza, salads, soup and even famous Armenian traditional dishes, like the above mentioned dolma (of course, made with a vegan recipe).

I’ve started to cook more and explored new vegan recipes, found amazing food bloggers. Marianna is from Armenia. She and her husband Garik Papoyan, who is a famous musician here have been vegans for like five years already which made them one of the first vegans in the country. I’ve tried Marianna’s recipe of vegan omelet and loved it. Another famous vegan food blogger is pick up limes . Saying I love their work and passion will be saying nothing. I’ve tried most of their recipes while living in Germany (sadly, it’s not easy to find all the products here, and it costs a fortune to buy 100 grams of tofu for example).

Vegan homemade cookies

My struggle is not done, unfortunately. People look, they stare, they ask, I explain, they laugh, I smile, they talk, I don’t care. As every change and every new thing, this also needs time for people to adjust. I’ll live and I’ll see the day, when you don’t have to ask, if they have plant based milk for the coffee, you are sure they do. Who knows, maybe they will even ask: “what kind of milk do you prefer”? John Lennon would say: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one….”

I thought it’s supposed to be easier…

How I tried to solve OverTheWire – Bandit 0 → 5

hey there,

I had some energy for doing some bandit levels today and I thought it would be nice to share all bandit levels with you. As always, I’m not gonna spoil it for you with passwords, this is just a walkthrough. My coffee is ready, so let’s dig in.
Bandit Level 0 
The sole goal of this level is to learn how to connect to another server using ssh. There are four relevant points here. We need the Host name / Site’s IP Address / Domain Name / Server Address, Username, Password and Port Number.
For this level our Host name is: bandit.labs.overthewire.org
Username: bandit0
Password: bandit0
Port Number: 2220
Let’s connect to the server and log into the game. The syntax we need is the following: ssh username@hostname -p Port Number
If you’ve done it right, you’ll be asked a password and you just have to  type bandit0.
Enjoy your stay!
Bandit Level 0 → 1
For this level you should learn some unix commands, especially the ls and cat commands. For me, as a beginner, the most important command in Unix is –help. So as always, I just type ls –help and it tells me the usage and that ls shows the list information about the files. There is only a file named “readme”. For reading a file we need the “cat” command, which is for ….. cat –help concatenating the files. I love it how every command is kind of an abbreviation. Now you just need to type cat and the name of the file you want to read. Wow! Here is our password. OK, that was easy, let’s jump on the next level. 
A quick tip, before passing to level 2: always save the passwords on a sticky note.
Bandit Level 1 → 2
After connecting to this server the same way as we’ve done on bandit 0, we list the files (ls) and see there is a file named “-“. Let’s try to cat the file the way we already know. Nothing happens, it requires an input. So there is probably another way to concatenate a file named “-“. First of all do ctrl + C to get out of that madness. cat –help gives us nothing, sad… OK, let’s google it, because… another wise thought alert, if you have a problem, it means somewhere in the world someone should have had that problem as well and most probably there is a solution for that.  I found this.
Problem is solved. We have the password for the next level. Saaaaaavviiiing it and going to the next level.
Bandit Level 2 → 3
Hah! This is fun. We have a file that is literally named “spaces in this filename”. There should be way to help the system to understand that “spaces in this filename” is just a file, not four files.

-Hello Google, how to cat a file that has spaces in the name

-Hello coffee, here are about 20,100,000 results (0.57 seconds)
-You are such a show off, but thanks
So it turned out you need quoting AKA ‘ ‘.
Level 3 was not hard at all either.
Bandit Level 3 → 4
Yey! This one is kind of tricky. After listing the files we find a directory. Here we need a new command named cd (Change the shell working Directory). Awesome, right? We try to list the files and this directory and there is nothing but emptiness. C’mmon you promised, even the name of the directory says “Inhere”. What if the file is hidden? How to list the hidden files? We need a help, no, actually we need THE help. ls -a will list all the files, even the ones, that start with a . AKA the hidden files. .hidden file is found, what are you waiting for?
Bandit Level 4 → 5
What do I see? Again an “Inhere” directory, which has not one, not two but ten files. Sure, I can read all of them and find that desired password, but something inside me tells me: “There should be a way to cat all the files, go and find that way”. Here I found a part of our problem, i.e. how to cat all the files: we need to use “*”. But let’s pay attention that all the files start with a “-“. Bringing all our knowledge together and typing  cat ./* we decide that it would have been easier to cat all the files. How do I find the password in this symbol-mixture? I just tried to brute force. No way, there are more letters than I needed. Keeping up with the Kardashians Google. What if we find out which file contains text and then just read it? That is possible with the file command: file ./* This will tell us that only the file named -file07 contains ASCII text. Let’s just read that one.
Aaaand done!
I thought it’s supposed to be easier…

OverTheWire – Natas 14

OverTheWire – Natas 14OverTheWire – Natas 14

OverTheWire – Natas 14

OverTheWire – Natas 14

go hack yourself

 hey there, 

so I got this pin (btw sent from Defcon) and I loved it. 

 for me hacking is not only about looking for a vulnerability and cracking the system. mostly I see it as the most creative way you can approach to the problem, think differently, finding the point that is not wanted to be found, acting unexpectedly. and what’s the point of these actions? at least for me the only goal is the improvement of the safety of the system you are about to hack. 

I caught myself on the thought that all my life I’ve brought myself to the level of being cracked to find the vulnerable side of mine in order to be able to improve it, to make it and myself more secure, I’ve put myself in a situation I’m not ready at all to see how I react. for me that’s the only way of self-consciousness, of course along with meditation and yoga. 

so, maybe you’ll see a pun here and a swearing word, meanwhile this is not offensive at all (pun intended). this can be understood as a motto about knowing yourself and hacking your mind. 

go hack yourself

intro(2) why

hey there, 

I had been thinking about having an English blog for like a year (or more…whatever). the gods of Olympia had foreseen that it should be opened on a cold spring day somewhere in 2022. who am I not to follow their predictions?

So it’s already 5 am, but we are still sitting at Antranig‘s office working and listening to some good music which makes us alive awake. 

meanwhile, I’m trying to solve some levels from Natas, and (what a surprise!) it doesn’t seem to be a child’s play. being a complete beginner in the field, I needed some hints, at least. Hackmethod has already posted a few blogs with hints and everything but unfortunatelly  they have given up after level 10 so right after that you choose: either look for other blogs and find too many spoilers, or DIY. spoilers and already written passwords are not acceptable for me, I’m doing this for learning and I require explanations for the steps. there is nothing left than doing it myself (this means I’m just gonna ask some help from the Discord community) and blog about every level (of course without spoilers, just brief tips). 

so, my word for the coming generations: “follow my future blogs, because I’m going to post some hints for each level in case you have difficulties… and before I forget, stay hydrated”.

I thought it’s supposed to be easier…