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Solving Simple Crypto Challenges with CyberChef
Posted: 4 Mar 2019 at 00:00 by Codehead

I’ve been out of the CTF circuit for a while as I’ve been busy with work and life in general. However, I decided to get back into playing and TAMUCTF just happened to be running when I found some spare time.

I wanted to to do a quick write up to draw people’s attention to CyberChef. This is a tool developed by the folks at GCHQ, the UK’s communication intelligence and security agency.

CyberChef is incredibly useful for messing around with data in a visual manner. Sometimes you don’t have a Linux box or Python handy when you’re trying to solve a problem. However, if you have a browser, you can use CyberChef from just about anywhere.

Here’s a couple of solves from TAMUCTF’s easier crypto challenges as a demo:

Problem 1


To 1337-H4X0R:

Our coworker Bob loves a good classical cipher. Unfortunately, he also loves to send everything encrypted with these ciphers. Can you go ahead and decrypt this for me?

Difficulty: easy

The attached file clearly contains a bunch of Morse code:

dah-dah-dah-dah-dah dah-di-di-dah di-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-dah-dah-dah di-dah dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-dah-dit di-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-di-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit di-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-dah-dah dah-dah-dah-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-dah-dah dah-dah-dah-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit di-dah-dah-dah-dah dah-di-di-di-dit dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah dah-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-dah-dit di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit di-di-dah-dah-dah di-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-dah-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah dah-dah-dah-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit di-dah di-di-di-di-dah dah-dah-dah-dah-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah di-di-dah-dah-dah di-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-di-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-dah-dah-dah dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah di-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit di-dah dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-dit di-di-dah-dah-dah di-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-di-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-di-dah dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit dit di-di-di-di-dah dit di-di-di-dah-dah dah-dah-dah-dah-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-dah-dit di-di-di-di-dah di-di-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-dah-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-dah-dit di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-dah-dah dah-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-dah-dah-dah-dah dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-dah-dit di-di-di-di-dah di-di-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-dah di-di-di-di-dah dah-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-dah-dah-dah di-dah di-di-dah-dah-dah di-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-dah-dah dah-dah-dah-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-dah-dit di-di-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-dah-dah-dah dah-di-di-di-dit di-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit di-dah-dah-dah-dah dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-dah-dit di-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah dah-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah dah-dah-dah-dah-dit di-di-di-di-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit di-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-di-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah dah-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit di-dah di-di-di-di-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-dah-dah-dah dah-dah-dah-dah-dah dah-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-dah-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-dah-dah di-dah-dah-dah-dah dah-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-dah-dit dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit di-di-dah-dit dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-dah-dah dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-dah-dit di-di-di-dah-dah di-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah dah-di-di-dit di-di-dah-dah-dah dah-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-dah-dit di-di-di-dah-dah dah-dah-dah-dah-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit di-di-dah-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-di-dit di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-di-dah-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-dit di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-di-dah dah-dah-dah-dah-dit di-di-di-dah-dah di-dah-dah-dah-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-di-dit di-di-dah-dah-dah dah-dah-dah-dah-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit di-dah di-di-di-di-dah dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit di-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-dah-dit dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-dah-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-dah-dit di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-dah-dah dah-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah dah-di-dah-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-dit di-di-di-dah-dah dah-dah-dah-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit di-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dit di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah di-dah di-di-di-di-dah dah-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah dit dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah di-di-dah-dit di-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-dah-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-di-dit di-di-dah-dah-dah dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-dah-dah dah-dah-dah-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah dah-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dit di-di-dah-dah-dah di-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-dah-dah di-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit di-dah-dah-dah-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-dah-dah dah-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-di-dah-dah-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit di-dah di-di-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-dah-dah-dah di-dah-dah-dah-dah dah-di-di-di-dit di-dah di-di-dah-dah-dah di-dah-dah-dah-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-dah-dah dah-dah-dah-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah di-di-dah-dah-dah dah-di-di-di-dit di-dah dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-di-dah dit di-di-di-di-dah dah-dah-dah-dah-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit di-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah di-di-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit dah-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit di-dah di-di-di-di-dah di-di-dah-dit di-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-dah-dit di-di-di-di-dit di-dah di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-dah-dah-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit di-dah di-di-di-dah-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-dah-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-dah-dah-dah dah-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah dah-di-dah-dit di-di-di-di-dah dah-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-di-dah di-di-dah-dit di-di-di-dah-dah dah-dah-di-di-dit di-di-di-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah di-di-di-dah-dah di-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-dah-dah dah-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dit di-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-di-dah dah-dah-dah-dah-dit

Morse is easy to translate, but we don’t want to do it by hand. There are online tools, but they don’t accept Morse in this format.

We could easily do a bunch of transforms on the Linux CLI to reformat the text, but let’s see what CyberChef can do.


CyberChef uses simple, configurable operation blocks which can be chained together to form complex recipes. Double clicking or dragging a block moves it in or out of the recipe. You can also turn blocks on and off in place to experiment with your data. locate the Find/Replace action. Drag it to recipe and set it to replace ‘-’ with nothing.

CyberChef has a handy URL scheme that preserves data and operations, so I can link directly to the stages.

Here’s Stage 1

Next, we need to replace all the ‘di’ and ‘dit’ words with a period. We can use Find/Replace again, but this time we’ll use a regular expression to catch both words in one operation:

The Regex to match ‘di’ and ‘dit’ is (dit?) and here’s a link to it working in CyberChef:

Stage 2

You can see that the output is starting to look better already.

One last Find/Replace for ‘dah’ and we’re good to go.

Stage 3

Now we have more traditional Morse code, we just need to translate it. GCHQ has been involved in communications for a long time, so it’s not surprising that CyberChef has a Morse decoder operation:

Stage 4

The output is surprising, but looks like a string of hex values.


Two CyberChef operations later (‘Drop Bytes’ with a length of 2 and ‘From Hex’) and we have our flag:

Wp*lXtGQ8e8qnmMYU*svFHkjIt*RQ&JpZvjm!%%KDkfp#^N9fk4dU4lB3rToT0PZQmCQEKYB4ZMv*!Fk8l%bjqlPMfIGma%%FzG gigem{C1icK_cl1CK-y0u_h4v3_m4I1} uv4vzKZt4yomiDShLm8QEFnUtwJ@NuOYfX&8u@Gn!1%Tqv0VcRzV!j!vuup8BjdNIqE5w#$%V4UZOYZ2z7T25t7&xL@WO7410QI

Here’s the complete recipe: Final Stage

Pretty cool huh? Lets do another.

Problem 2


Look at what I found!


Difficulty: easy


One of the cool features of CyberChef is the ‘Magic’ operation. If you have no idea what the data is, this special mode tries a bunch of operations and shows you any results that might be useful. Initially this didn’t find anything with the challenge string, but turning on ‘Intensive Mode’ did yield some results:


gzgvmhI4m3n|t3sfpvr`tztzofs? qug Z rm3a3lztglv `tztzofs=} 

Valid UTF8
Entropy: 4.39

Magic Results

That almost looks like a flag.

Each result has a handy link which loads the operations into the recipe. Lets tweak that result a bit and see if we can get the rest of the data.

Loaded Recipe

If we drop out the ‘XOR’ operation block and replace it with the ‘XOR Brute Force’ block, we can provide some known plaintext, mess with the key length and let CyberChef do the rest.

Fortunately we don’t have to wait long. A crib of ‘gigem’ and a key length of two give us four hits straight away.

Key = 1a29: GiGeM{i'M NoT SuPeRsTiTiOuS,.bUt.I.aM A LiTtLe.sTiTiOuS.]
Key = 3a09: gIgEm[I.m.nOt.sUpErStItIoUs. BuT i Am.a.lItTlE StItIoUs.}
Key = 3a29: gigem{I'm not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.}

The last one seems to follow the correct flag format, so we’re done.

Complete Recipe

Wrap Up

I hope this gives you an idea of how useful CyberChef can be. Have a play, it’s a really handy addition to your toolbox and I’d like to thank the folks at GCHQ for providing it. (I know you guys are reading this. * tips tinfoil hat * )


Categories: Hacking CTF

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