PHP Code Review 2


Triggering error to reach catch block

Source Code


This is only a part of the source code


// php 8.2.12
// if ?debug, highlight __FILE__ to view source code

$username = $_GET['username'];
$passwd = $_GET['password'];
$alg = $_GET['alg'];

$pwlist = array('admin' => "REMOVED", "editor" => "REMOVED" );

function hashing($passwd, $alg) {
    try {
        if (!isset($alg)) {
            $alg = "md5";
        $alg = strval(trim($alg));
        $passwd = strval($passwd);
        if ($alg != "md5" && $alg != "sha256") {
            die("invalid algorithm");
        return hash($alg, $passwd);
    } catch (Throwable) {

if (isempty($username) || isempty($passwd)) {
    die("empty username or password");

if (!strcmp(hashing($passwd, $alg), $pwlist[$username])) {
    // set cookie with value of xor($username, $flag)


Initial Analysis

From the source code above, it is apparent that we need to pass the strcmp checks, such that we could retrieve the flag from the cookie. The first argument is the hash digest of our provided password (MD5 or SHA256) and the second argument comes from the initialized array. Since the value of the array is not fully known, it is almost impossible for us to guess the username's hashed password.

However, notice that if we provide a username that does not exist in the array, $pwlist[$username] would just return NULL. Looking at the hashing() function, we could see that there are two code paths, one that returns hash($alg, $passwd), and another path that returns NULL. Since we could make the second argument to be NULL, it would be great if we could get the hashing() function to return NULL as well.

Analysis of hashing()

The code path which returns NULL, require us to trigger an error somewhere inside the try block. There are three function candidates, i.e., isset, strval, and trim. After trial-and-error, the trim() function would raise an error when an array is passed as the argument.

output of trim()

We could re-confirm this behaviour by passing an array to hashing() and observe that it indeed returns nothing as opposed to normal argument like md5 and sha256.

output of hashing()


Here is the summary of our findings:

  • Our goal is to pass the strcmp checks
  • We could make the second argument to return NULL using non-existing username
  • We could make the first argument to return NULL by triggering an error via the trim() function by passing it an array such that the catch block is reached

To pass an array via HTTP query string, we just need to append the parameter name with [], e.g., ?alg[]=abcd. Since the cookie value is our supplied username XOR with the flag and base64 encoded, and we do not know the length of the flag beforehand, we could just supply a really long username

The final payload to get the server to set the cookie is: