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Objective 11b: Naughty/Nice List with Blockchain Investigation Part 2#

The SHA256 of Jack's altered block is: 58a3b9335a6ceb0234c12d35a0564c4e f0e90152d0eb2ce2082383b38028a90f. If you're clever, you can recreate the original version of that block by changing the values of only 4 bytes. Once you've recreated the original block, what is the SHA256 of that block?

Difficulty: 5/5


But we in it shall be remembered-we few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he today that finishes 11b with me shall be my brother, be he ne'er so vile...


The premise was simple: find the block that contains the data on Jack, change 4 bytes in it to display the original data, all while the MD5 hash of the block remained unchanged. We're given some hints: Jack used a type of hash collision called UNICOLL. Jack's score was originally overwhelmingly negative and is now overwhelmingly positive. And, Shinny Upatree swears he didn't write the PDF document attached to Jack's block.

Finding the block isn't difficult: creating a list of scores of the blocks in the chain shows one block with a score of ffffffff (4294967295), which matches what we learned from Tinsel Upatree about Jack's score. The block in question also has two documents, one of which is a very large PDF attachment. Dumping the block and the individual attachments shows that the block matches the SHA256 hash in the objective, so we know we've identified the block with Jack's data.

Block data

Now that we've identified the block, let's take a look at the data in the block. We can understand the data format of the block from the Python code:

def load_a_block(self, fh):
    self.index = int(, 16)
    self.nonce = int(, 16) = int(, 16)
    self.rid = int(, 16)
    self.doc_count = int(, 10)
    self.score = int(, 16)
    self.sign = int(, 10)
    count = self.doc_count
    while(count > 0):
        l_data = {}
        l_data['type'] = int(,16)
        l_data['length'] = int(, 16)
        l_data['data'] =['length'])
        count -= 1

We can take a look at the block with xxd:

Dump of Jack's block

Starting at byte 0x40 (64), we can decode the block this way:

  • doc_count = 2
  • score = ffffffff
  • sign = 1

The next set of bytes are the attached documents. The first is of type 0xff (255), which is defined as 255:'Binary blob' in Examining the attachment shows that it appears to be completely random data.

From the CollTris presentation, we know that in a UNICOLL collision, the 10th character in the prefix block is incremented by 1, while the 10th character in the next block is decremented by 1. In the Naughty/Nice blockchain, the 10th character in the second block of 64 bytes is the sign, which determines whether the score is naughty (0) or nice (1). Jack was able to change the sign from 0 -> 1, also changing the 10th byte in the next 64-byte segment, in the binary blob of 'random' data. Reversing those changes with a hex editor allows us to fix Jack's score, while the MD5 hash of the block remains unchanged.

The second set of changed bytes is in the attached PDF. Viewing the PDF shows almost identical statements from various people, all attesting that Jack Frost is the most wonderful person on the planet. Shinny Upatree, however, swears that this isn't what he wrote for the event. We can use a tool like pdf2txt to extract all of the text from the PDF and see what is hidden:

Actual report from Shinny Upatree

Hidden in the PDF is the actual text Shinny wrote, where we see that Jack had access to the report and blockchain submission system. Using a tool that creates collisions in PDF files, Jack was able to hide his fake report inside the one submitted1. We can reverse this by reversing the results of the tool with a hex editor on the block: by incrementing Pages 2 and decrementing the corresponding byte in the next block. diff shows the changes between the original and 'good' block, while the MD5 remains the same. The SHA256 hashes, however, are different:

Corrected block, with hashes

The SHA256 hash of the 'good' block is fff054f33c2134e0230efb29dad515064ac97aa8c68d33c58c01213a0d408afb.



  1. I may have used this technique on this PDF as well...