Hugo Peixoto

Status update, April 2021

Published on May 05, 2021

Table of contents

Most of my month was spent packing things and moving them to the new place. Unfortunately, this was also the month where two websites that I help maintain were hacked, so I had to deal with that.

ink! upgradeability gig

During the review process, it came up that the testing process should be automated. I spent a couple of days working on this ( and afterwards the project was accepted.

AlumniEI Mentorados

We had a pending PR to deal with dark/light/system theme toggling. The user preferences were being persisted, but there was no effect on the CSS, so I finished implementing it. I also implemented language detection based on Accept-Language (


On April 24th, a group of people joined our discord and started bragging that the website was now theirs. They had found a way to login as any user. Since no one from the staff team was online at the time, they got no attention so they started escalating the damage and eventually found a way to our builtin SQL editor and dropped every database table.

When I found this, the website was non-functional, so I shut down apache and started looking for the vulnerability. Our logging capabilities are non-existent, so I had to rely mostly on the discord chat and apache logs to find what had happened. The attackers had used the live search to find a user that they wanted to harass, so I was able to track their IP addresses and grab their history of HTTP requests.

From their request history, I was able to find a pattern in which the attackers accessed the forgot password pages, went through all the steps, and ended up in the /user/:id page, with a different id every time. This pointed to the vulnerability being in the “forgot password” functionality. Running the site locally, I tried to recover the password of a random user, and one of the steps is to either answer a secret question or enter a code that was sent to the user’s email. I tried leaving that field blank, and the website let me proceed to change the user’s password.

Going through the code to find the problem, I found this (reformatted for clarity):

if ($p_verification != "") {
  if ($vanswer != $p_verification) {
    $_SESSION['authed'] = "n";
    header("Location: resetpass_2.php?err=wrong");

// proceed to the next step

The surrounding if statement is the cause of the vulnerability. Removing it fixes the immediate problem. It had been there for years, it’s kind of surprising that it had only been found now.

I ended up rewriting the whole thing, only allowing recovery via email code (and not via secret question), and fixed a few other vulnerabilities in the process.

Unfortunately, we don’t have automated backups, and the last backup I had made was from the beginning of March, so we lost practically two months of data (around 11k submissions).

This was a very low effort exploit, dropping tables wasn’t that damaging. They could’ve compromised the server, or deleted the image proofs, which were not backed up at the time.

My next step is to automate the backup process and probably remove the builtin SQL editor. It’s handy for folks who are not used to dealing with SSH, but it creates a huge hole in the website.

F-Zero Central

F-Zero Central is a community with leaderboards, world record tracking and forums around the F-Zero games. I don’t maintain the website, but I did help them migrate servers in the past with some ansible automation. It’s a PHPBB installation with some extra pages and other tweaks.

On April 18th, the website’s front page was replaced with one of those generic “HaCkEd By <xxx>” messages. The PHPBB installation is super old (it’s still running 2.x), so there are probably a lot of known exploits.

I’m working on upgrading it to PHPBB 3.3. Not sure if we’ll restore the website before the upgrade is complete, but this will probably take a while.