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widthless writeup -CSAW CTF Quals 2020

·3 mins

Diving right into the first web category challenge — widthless.


The initial instructions didn’t seem to give us much of a hint :

Welcome to web! Let’s start off with something kinda funky :)

I interacted with the website for a few minutes by trying to figure out what the challenge could be about.


Tried inputting into the form and it says it couldn’t add me to the newsletter…

After viewing the source, we get the first clue of the challenge


ZWSP is fun

Step 1: Some Reconnaisance #

I wanted to gather enough data to figure out what zwsp was all about since I had no clue at first. Googling zwsp, I found out that zwsp (zero width spacing) is a character used in unicode for invisible word separation. More googling reveals that zwsp can be used to hide pieces of information in plain-sight!.

Step 2: Detecting ZWSP #

Stumbled upon a tool called diffchecker that could highlight all the characters that are hidden in a piece of text.


Pasting the entire html source code, you can see presence of hidden text inside the document. So how do I uncover it??

Step 3: Decoding ZWSP #

Since I know the characters do exist, I tried finding scripts that could help in revealing the hidden characters and voila, I came across a steganography library written in javascript from github


Include the script using the require function and proceed to decode the section containing the zwsp hidden string. It yields a base64 encoded string YWxtMHN0XzJfM3o=

Decoding this gives alm0st_2_3z as the output. Flag maybe?? No, challenge still goes on !


Pasting in the decoded string gives this long string.


I spent quite some time trying to figure out what it meant, at first, I thought it was the password to a hidden input field, and tried posting the data to the website but it failed.

Finally, I figured that the string enclosed in backslashes is actually a directory and the pwd is where the decoded string goes.


Putting that info in the URL takes us to another page. More ZWSP maybe?

Step 4: Solving the challenge :D #

Viewing the source and repeating the process, but this time actually decoding the whole html source since the zwsp characters were hidden everywhere


The following string is yielded from decoding the zwsp — 755f756e6831645f6d33

Decoding from hex to ascii gives —



This time we get another directory with a similar pattern to the last but appending the first and second decoded strings


We get the flag :) !!!


Happy hacking :D