Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sites That Teach You How to Hack Legally

I'm sure there are more than this, but the two sites I recently discovered are Hack This Site! and Hellbound Hackers. Both are lots are lots of fun and very educational, though I prefer more. Lately I've been working on the Programming Missions, which on both sites are timed missions. For example, on the first programming challenge is something like:

Find the original (unscrambled) words, which were randomly taken from a wordlist [linked].
Send a comma separated list of the original words, in the same order as in the list below.

You have 30 seconds time to send the solution.

List of scrambled words:
  • 1bbabu
  • wtenrae
  • heysehr
  • oeibod
  • siektnr
  • padssw
  • urpeoe
  • lechmil
  • hpiillp
  • oe1ums
You then have an input box and a button to click to send in the answer. The actual programming part of this mission is fairly straitforward (though I'm sure there are a number of different approaches), but what I had difficulty figuring out is how to access the site directly though my script. I initially passed this challenge by quickly copying and pasting the list in a file, running my script on my file, and then copying and pasting my answer back into the input field.

Not only was this approach uneligent, but I also failed to get the data transfered back and forth fast enough the first couple of times (on like the 5th try I was able to move fast enough). I knew I needed to figure out how to get the script to do all this mechanical work for me. My first thought was to use Greasemonkey, but Javascript seems unable to do things I need to do, like read from files on my local machine (i.e., the wordlist). Now maybe there is a way to do it, but I'm pretty new to Javascript so I couldn't figure it out. More importantly, Javascript seem even more limited when it comes to some of later missions (consider, for example, mission two).

My preferred language of choice is Perl and the big breakthrough I needed was discovering the WWW::Mechanize module (which has been ported to other languages, in case you don't use Perl). You can use this module to simulate a browser in your code. For example, you can sign into with the following (appropriately modified) code:

my $url1 = "";
my $mech = WWW::Mechanize->new;

my $res = $mech->get($url1);
die "can't get" unless $res->is_success;
$mech->submit_form(with_fields => {
txt_username => $username,
txt_password => $password

From there you can access the parts of the site you need. Once you get a hang of many of the features of this module, it will radically simply your progress in fulfilling the missions!


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