shift or die

security. photography. foobar.

Geohashing with GPX files and QLandkarte GT

Because of some scientists near the south pole, I recently re-discovered geohashing. As I wanted an easy way to see the most recent hash points (and the upcoming one(s), since I live east of W30), I did some automation.

The different online services are pretty nice but they did not have all the features I wanted to have. Also, I have grown quite fond of the ability to have an OpenStreetMap available offline (not necessarily because I am offline that much, but because it makes looking at the map so much faster). I use QLandkarte GT and the map, as it shows cycling routes quite nicely.

QLandkarte GT supports loading GPX files, so the first thing I needed was something to produce GPX files for a given graticule (and date, or if no date is specified, for all upcoming ones). I wanted something similar to the Small Hash Inquiry Tool, as it shows you the hash points of the surrounding graticules as well. I took an evening to hack something together using Ruby, Sinatra and relet’s JSON web service. I decided to host it on Heroku, as it was easy and free. You can find out how to use it at It should also work quite nicely with GPS devices with GPX support (or with gpsbabel, for that matter). The source is available at git://, if you are curious.

But back from devices to the desktop, I wanted an easy way to view this in QLandkarte GT and keep it updated. Luckily, QLandkarte GT offers a sort of reload feature with the “-m” command line option. I’ve written a small wrapper which makes this available using a signal handler:

$ cat bin/qlandkartegt_reloadable.rb 
#!/usr/bin/env ruby

f = IO.popen("qlandkartegt -m0 #{ARGV.join(' ')}", 'w')

trap('USR1') do
	f.write 'A'
So now I can do something along the lines of:
qlandkartegt_reloadable.rb ~/gps/geohash.gpx
wget -O ~/gps/geohash.gpx && pkill -USR1 -f qlandkartegt_reloadable.rb
to keep the data shown in my (always open) QLandkarte GT up to date.

The only things on my TODO list for this are timezones (it works using UTC at the moment, which is fine for me since I am pretty close to UTC, but may be annoying if you are not that close) and the possible addition of business holidays to figure out if tomorrow will have new DJIA opening value or not (if anyone has a good, free source, please let me know). I might work on this or I might not, chances are higher if someone bothers me to do so.

Shell injection without whitespace

Recently, I was in the situation where I could inject code into a Perl system call, but whitespace (\s+) was filtered beforehand (probably not for security but rather for functionality reasons).

In looking for a way to still execute more than a parameterless binary (which of course would be a possible solution if I had had a way to put a custom binary on the system), I stumbled over the $IFS variable, which is the “Internal Field Seperator” with default value “<space><tab><newline>”. It also works fine as a separator for parameters, so you can inject something like:

without using a single whitespace character. May it come in handy for you one day.

Moving to Octopress

My blog has been running on Angerwhale, a Catalyst-based Perl blog framework. Although it worked fine for me from a usability point of view (plain text files plus some meta-data), it was way to slow to deal with a few concurrent hits. I never noticed until @chaosupdates linked to my blog post about @cryptofax2tweet and the server more or less exploded in (virtual) flames.

I made an attempt to change from the standalone server (well, no surprise that it did not deal well with load there but that was fine for a long time for my little blog here) to a real modperl-based installation, but that did not help much.

As I am more confident with Ruby then Perl nowadays I started looking for something to change to. A static solution would of course be nice to have because of the speed factor, so after some searching and #followerpower, I stumbled over Octopress, which uses the Jekyll framework.

I converted all my Angerwhale posts to Octopress using a small Ruby script (ping me if you are interested). The comments from the old site are still missing, but I am considering converting them with Jekyll::StaticComments plugin.

The plan for now is to try to blog a bit more than before, maybe it should be on my list of new year’s resolutions (or maybe not as not to jinx it ;-).

Introducing CryptoFax2Tweet

Meet @cryptofax2tweet, a new Twitter account I run. So, what is so special about this account? As the name suggests, it can be used to tweet by sending an encrypted QR code using a fax, for example when your government decides to turn off the internet. In case you are not interested in the technical details on how it works and just want to use it, you can download the cryptofax.pdf file and open it in Adobe Reader. A one page user’s guide is also available.

So, how does this work? Recent PDF versions support the XML Forms Architecture (XFA), which I’ve been playing with lately. It includes all kind of funny things, such as its own language (because having both Javascript and Flash in Reader is not enough, apparently), FormCalc. It is apparently not more useful than Javascript except if you want to generate arbitrary HTTP requests.

But I am digressing. One of the more interesting features of XFA is the possibility to create all kinds of barcodes, both one- and two-dimensional. The list of different types you can create in the specification is about five pages long(!). Also, the specification claims that the content of the barcode can be encrypted before creating it using an RC4/RSA hybrid encryption.

I had recently read about Google’s @speak2tweet account and liked the idea but not the Medienbruch — the change from one medium (voice) to another (text). So I thought about implementing something using XFA which would allow people to send tweets via fax.

One obstacle on the way was finding out that Adobe does not want you to create dynamic 2D barcodes if you do not have the license for it. Unluckily, if you do not know this and modify the rawValue attribute of the barcode field after the form has rendered, you just get to see a grey block instead of the barcode and keep wondering whether Adobe just broke the functionality. Also, debugging Javascript code if you only have Adobe Reader is less funny than you think. Once I figured that out, I realised that you can ask for the dynamic information in the initialize event handler using app.response() and create the barcode at that point (not sure whether Adobe would consider this a bug or a feature).

After that was solved, I looked into encrypting the content of the tweet. Note that the encryption just helps against an attacker who only monitors the phone lines and not the @cryptofax2tweet account. Still, it might help people who have printed out the fax and it gets intercepted before it has been faxed. Unluckily, it looks like this particular functionality from the specification has not been implemented in Reader (the fact that the LiveCycle® Designer ES Scripting Reference does not talk about it at all points in this direction, too).

Luckily, there was no need to implement the cryptography myself, as there is already a pretty nice BSD-licensed RSA implementation for Javascript. A few patches later to fix some Reader-specific oddities, I was able to RSA-encrypt a tweet. As a tweet can only be 140 characters (thus at most 560 bytes in UTF-8), I just used a 4096 bit RSA key (not for security, just for convenience reasons :-). This would enable us to encode only at most 128 characters of four-byte UTF-8 characters (e.g. Klingon in the private use area). I accepted this trade-off and in the end it turned out that inputting four-byte UTF-8 characters using app.response() was impossible anyways.

The other end of the service needs to decode the QR code, decrypt the content and tweet it. This part was a lot easier than the PDF part, as it could be implemented in less than 50 lines using Ruby and the ZBar barcode library. A fax number was thankfully provided by so that I only needed to deal with emails from the fax2mail gateway.

If you managed to read this far, you might be interested in the code, which is available in a Git repository (or see the Gitweb interface).

Evading AVs using the XML Data Package (XDP) format

At work, I recently obtained a copy of iText in Action, 2nd Edition because I have been playing with PDF a bit lately and the book not only offers advice on how to use the Java PDF library iText but also some background on PDF internals and the new features in PDF 1.7.

One thing I stumbled about in the book was that there is a format called XML Data Package (XDP) which can be used to represent a PDF as XML. So of course I downloaded the specification and went to play with it a bit.

Acrobat Reader opens XDP files just fine if they have an .xdp file extension or if they are sent by a webserver with the application/vnd.adobe.xdp+xml MIME type. It was an easy exercise to write a small script to convert a given PDF to an XDP file (basically it’s just an XML header, the Base64-encoded PDF and an XML footer).

I was wondering how Antivirus products would react to a malware PDF file in disguise as a XDP. Thus, I generated a PDF containing an exploit using Metasploit and uploaded it to VirusTotal. 13 out of 43 products classified the PDF as malware. Interestingly enough, 0/43 recognized the equivalent XDP file as malware (and neither did a few mail gateways I tested).

I’ve just submitted a feature request for Metasploit to add XDP support and added my pdf2xdp.rb script as a starting point. Let’s see where this is heading.