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The 2016 SANS Holiday Hack Challenge

Santa's Business Card Logo

Santa's Business Card

By Counter Hack & Friends

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for...

Josh Dosis.

Although quite snuggled in his bed, the precocious 7-year old couldn't sleep a wink, what with Christmas Morning just a few hours away. Josh climbed out of his bed and scurried down the hallway to his sister Jessica's room.

"Wake up, Sis! I can't sleep!"

With her visions of dancing sugar plums rudely interrupted, Jess slowly stirred, yawned, and rubbed her eyes. "What do you want, Josh?"

"Jess! Christmas is almost here. I can't wait!" Josh exploded.

Jess lectured her over-eager brother, "I'm excited too, but it's time to sleep. I'm looking forward to a restful holiday tomorrow, one where no one tries to destroy Christmas."

Josh recognized his sister's reference to last year's trouble with ATNAS Corporation and their quest to foil its criminal plot. "Awww.... That was actually great fun! We always have such wonderful holiday adventures together. I almost wish we had a Twime Machine to relive all those great Christmases of the past," Josh responded as his loose tooth wriggled in his mouth.

"We have had some wonderful fun, my dear brother, but it's time to go back to bed," Jessica responded as she rolled over, hoping her brother would get the message.

And then quite suddenly, the kids were startled by a most unusual sound emanating above their heads: a soft thump followed by a subtle scraping sound, as though something was sliding across their rooftop. "What was that?" Jessica jumped up in surprise.

Immediately afterwards, they heard a muffled jingling of bells.

Josh blurted out, "Oh my gosh, Jess, Santa must have just landed on our house!"

The kids then heard the sound of boots walking across the roof, followed by yet more sliding sounds.

"He must be coming down the chimney. I can't believe it!" Josh squealed.

The sounds continued without pause as they listened to a master of efficiency get to his work downstairs in their living room. They heard the rumpling of wrapped presents being stacked around the tree, the munching of the cookies they had left for Santa's refreshment, and even a slight gulping sound as their visitor polished off a glass of eggnog by the cookies. Why they even heard a quiet but deeply jolly, "Ho Ho Ho."

"Let's sneak a peak at him!" Josh said.

Jess shook her head and responded, "Oh, we can't do that... it might interfere with his operation. Plus, it's highly unorthodox for kids to see Santa himself."

As the children debated whether to go downstairs to see Santa, their discussion was interrupted as the sounds coming from their living room took a rather startling turn. A loud "Oooomph!" was followed by what sounded like a scuffle of sorts.

"What's happening, Sis?" Josh asked.

"I don't know," came the response from his quite frightened sister.

Just then, they heard crashing sounds and the tearing of paper, as if their presents were being smashed by a wild brawl. It all culminated with a sharp snapping sound, as though their Christmas tree itself had been split in half in the melee.

And then....


Utter silence came from their living room.

Part 1: A Most Curious Business Card

Despite their palpable fear, the Dosis children knew that they had to investigate what had happened. They left Jessica's room and tiptoed down the stairs warily, making sure to remain hidden in the shadows. As they peered around the corner at the bottom of the steps, what they saw astonished them.

Ruined presents. A shattered Christmas tree. Needles strewn all about. Obvious signs of a fight. And there, beside it all, was Santa's big blue sack. But Santa himself was nowhere to be found.

In shock, Jessica uttered, "Someone has abducted Santa Claus!"

Josh was horrified. "Who would do such a thing? And on Christmas Eve, no less. They'll destroy Christmas! But why?"

The kids scanned for clues, and there on the floor, they found a most unexpected item: a small, rectangular piece of cardstock. Picking it up, Joshua announced, "Hey! This looks like Santa's business card. It must have fallen out of his pocket while someone was kidnapping him."

Jess took the card from Joshua's hands and read it. "It is his business card. And we're the only ones who know that Santa has disappeared. We've got to do something. If we don't find and rescue Santa, Christmas will be destroyed! Let's look closer at this card to see if it can be any help in finding out what happened."

And that, Dear Reader, is where you get involved. Take a close look at Santa's Business card. You can also inspect the crime scene by entering the Dosis home here. Based on your analysis, please answer the following questions:

1) What is the secret message in Santa's tweets?

2) What is inside the ZIP file distributed by Santa's team?

Part 2: Awesome Package Konveyance

The two siblings were dazed as they materialized in a snow-covered glade. "W-w-where are we?" Josh shivered.

"Given all the snow and the elves roaming about, I'd say there's a good chance we're at the North Pole itself," Jessica replied.

Thinking through what had just happened, Josh had a realization. "So that's how Santa transports all those holiday packages on Christmas! He carries that bag around the world and then reaches inside to pull presents directly from the North Pole. Ingenious!"

Jessica added, "And, that's not all... it looks like Santa is really big into social networking! Not only does he use Twitter and Instagram, it seems that he and the elves use their own homegrown social networking platform called SantaGram. They seem to share information about vulnerabilities they find in software as part of bug bounty programs. Why, they've even set up their own bug-finding program."

"Wow!" Josh responded, "That's really cool. Let's take a close look at that SantaGram mobile application. It might help us find out who kidnapped Santa."

Again, Dear Reader, you are called upon to help the children in their analysis as you answer the following questions. If you get stuck, feel free to explore the North Pole and interact with Santa's friendly and helpful elves, who are available to give you hints.

3) What username and password are embedded in the APK file?

4) What is the name of the audible component (audio file) in the SantaGram APK file?

Part 3: A Fresh-Baked Holiday Pi

Jessica was perplexed. "That audio inside of the SantaGram application sounds really strange. I wonder what it means."

The children quickly realized that they could only get so far in their analysis of SantaGram using the phones they had brought with them to the North Pole. Jessica summarized their situation, "Gosh, I wish I had brought my laptop with me. Without it, we're not going to be able to dissect that application. And, time is of the essence. We need to find and rescue Santa so he can continue to deliver presents, or else Christmas is sunk this year."

Josh replied, "And, making matters worse, I've noticed that some of the doors here at the North Pole have little computer terminals next to them. If we want to open those doors, we're going to need a machine to interface with those terminals."

Just then, Jessica noticed something curious and positively useful. "Heeeey! It looks like someone has left piece parts of a computer system called a 'Cranberry Pi' strewn all about the North Pole. Perhaps we can fetch all of those pieces and put together a computer we can then use to open those terminals and work on the SantaGram application!"

Josh was excited again. "I'll bet that with a fully operational Cranberry Pi, we'll be able to find Santa Claus and save Christmas!"

Now, Dear Reader, scurry around the North Pole and retrieve all of the computer parts to build yourself a Cranberry Pi. Once your Pi is fully operational, please help the Dosis children find and rescue Santa, answering the following questions:

5) What is the password for the "cranpi" account on the Cranberry Pi system?

6) How did you open each terminal door and where had the villain imprisoned Santa?

Part 4: My Gosh... It's Full of Holes

Jessica proclaimed, "We found Santa Claus! We've saved Christmas." The children were exuberant!

Josh added, "And what a wonderful and diligent man Santa is, Jess. He thanked us so very kindly and then immediately returned to his holiday duties delivering presents."

But, the children's happiness was soon muted as they realized that Santa's kidnapper was still on the loose. Jessica pointed out, "Too bad Santa was suffering short-term memory loss from getting hit over the head with our Christmas tree. Sadly, even he doesn't know who his assailant was."

Joshua came to the obvious conclusion, "You know, Jess, we should probably find the villain who tried to kidnap Santa and bring him to justice. If we don't, Santa's kidnapper could strike again! Neither Santa nor Christmas are really safe with this nefarious villain on the loose. How are we ever going to find this bad guy?"

Jessica responded, "I've noticed some really interesting issues in that SantaGram application that might help us get to the bottom of this whole caper. But, I'd need to exploit SantaGram and its associated servers to do so. Do you think we're allowed to attack these systems?"

Josh, always impulsive, replied, "Well, Santa is running a bug bounty program, so he wants us to find these flaws. I think it's ok to attack those targets!"

"Yeah, Josh, but how do we know for sure a given machine is included in the scope of the bug bounty program? We don't want to hit something that is outside of Santa's enterprise and cause yet another big Christmas disaster. It's almost like we need an oracle to vet our target IP addresses, like we had last year when Mr. Tom Hessman confirmed which machines were in scope for our work."

Josh lit up. "Hey, sis, in wandering around the North Pole, you'll never believe who I ran into. Mr. Tom Hessman himself! As it turns out, he is up here, and is happy to confirm which IP addresses we are allowed to attack."

"Well, let's get to it then. Let's participate in Santa's bug bounty program!" Jessica announced.

And yet again, Dear Reader, you are called upon to help the Dosis children, this time by exploiting various servers associated with the SantaGram application. Analyze the clues you've been provided on Santa's business card and the SantaGram APK file to identify target systems. Then, check with Tom Hessman at the North Pole to confirm that each IP address you find is included in the scope of your work. Each server has at least one flaw you can exploit to retrieve a small audio file on the system. If you get stuck, feel free to visit the elves of the North Pole for hints about various kinds of vulnerabilities and attacks you might find useful.


  • The Mobile Analytics Server (via credentialed login access)
  • The Dungeon Game
  • The Debug Server
  • The Banner Ad Server
  • The Uncaught Exception Handler Server
  • The Mobile Analytics Server (post authentication)

For each of those six items, which vulnerabilities did you discover and exploit?


8) What are the names of the audio files you discovered from each system above? There are a total of SEVEN audio files (one from the original APK in Question 4, plus one for each of the six items in the bullet list above.)

Please note: Although each system is remotely exploitable, we DO NOT expect every participant to compromise every element of the SantaGram infrastructure. Gain access to the ones you can. Although we will give special consideration to entries that successfully compromise all six vulnerabilities and retrieve their audio files, we happily accept partial answers and point out that they too are eligible for any of the prizes.

Part 5: Discombobulated Audio

Josh sighed as he scratched his head. "Hey, sis. We've managed to own much of the SantaGram infrastructure, but all we've got to show for it is these strangely distorted audio files. They sound weird, as though they've been all discombobulated somehow. We certainly haven't found the criminal who abducted Santa. Also, there's that one door at the North Pole we haven't been able to get open yet. Very curious, I tell you."

Something Joshua just said triggered Jessica's memory. "I recall seeing a weird machine here at the North Pole called 'The Audio Discombobulator.' Remember it? It mentioned how it cuts, mixes, and stirs songs together, and then distributes them throughout the North Pole. I guess that explains the music that saturates everything up here. Perhaps these weird audio files came from that machine... but they don't sound much like music, and certainly not whole songs."

"What if..." Josh contemplated, "...the villain walked by the Audio Discombobulator and uttered something... Not a song, which the machine is used to dealing with, but instead a sentence or a phrase. The machine might have heard that, cut it up, mixed it, and then distributed it throughout the North Pole!"

Jess concluded the thought, "Wow! Let's see if we can put the pieces of this crazy audio puzzle back together. It might help us find the bad guy."

And, finally, Dear Reader, now is your chance to bring the foul villain who nabbed Santa to justice. Analyze the audio files and find the villain in the North Pole to answer these questions:

9) Who is the villain behind the nefarious plot.

10) Why had the villain abducted Santa?

Please note: You can determine the plot and the identity of the villain with access to as few as five of the seven audio files. However, as stated above, participants who gain access to all seven audio files will be given special consideration. Again, you do not need to compromise all the SantaGram servers to answer items 9 and 10. Partial answers are completely welcomed and are certainly eligible to win.

Epilogue: Bringing It All Home

With Santa's rescue and the discovery of his abductor, the Dosis children were finally satisfied that Christmas was now safe. They contacted their father's friends in law enforcement to ensure the villain would pay for his crime.

And that, Dear Reader, is the story of how you helped the Dosis children save Christmas and preserve the whole holiday season yet again.

Please answer each question by January 4, 2017*, sending your description of how you unraveled each one to From all submitted entries, we'll pick ten winners, according to the following plan:

  • Seven random draw answers selected from all entries, regardless of how complete or incomplete they are
  • The best technical answer
  • The most creative answer that is technically correct
  • The best overall answer, our Grand Prize Winner

Remember, even if you can't answer one or more of the questions, please do send in an answer of any kind to be entered in that random draw. Seriously, if you get 50%, 80%, or 98% of the answers, you'll still be eligible to win.

The seven random draw answers will receive a much coveted, beautiful, and soft-to-the-touch NetWars T-Shirt.

The best technical answer and most creative answer winners will receive a subscription to NetWars Continuous, with 4 months of access to the exciting SANS cyber range to develop skills, have fun, and earn CPEs!

And, check this out:

The Grand Prize** for the SANS Holiday Hack Challenge is one free SANS Online Training course of your choice! The winner will choose from any of SANS' 30+ Online Courses, and will complete SANS training at their own pace from anywhere on the Internet.

Happy Holidays!

--Counter Hack and Friends

* Any time zone on planet Earth will do.

**SANS will choose only one winner for the Grand Prize. The SANS Online Training seat is not transferable to another person or event and does not include a certification attempt. No substitutions are allowed for the SANS Online Training seat. For any of these prizes, SANS is not responsible for lost, late, or unintelligible entries, lost connections, miscommunications, failed transmissions, other technical difficulties or failures.


Santa's Business Card
SANS Holiday Hack Challenge 2016


Ed Skoudis

Technical Lead

Joshua Wright

Narrative / Story

Ed Skoudis
Joshua Wright

Holiday Hack Quest Lead

Evan Booth

Business Card CtF Concept

Bryce Galbraith


Tad Bennett
Evan Booth
Franck Lecollinet/BrowserQuest
Phillip Smith
Joshua Wright

System Builds & Administration

Tad Bennett
Tom Hessman
Daniel Pendolino


Brittiny Banks
Evan Booth
Mike Cecil
Kimberly Elliott
Jim Halfpenny
Ed Skoudis
Phillip Smith

Challenge Development

Mark Baggett
Tad Bennett
Ron Bowes
Jeff McJunkin
Tim Medin
Lee Neely
Ed Skoudis
Joshua Wright


Swing Republic
8 Bit Universe

Chief of Punditry

Kendra Pendolino

Website Design

Tom Hessman

Testing and Feedback

Tad Bennett
Jason Blanchard
Tom Hessman
Laura Marchington
Jeff McJunkin
Tim Medin
Daniel Pendolino
Kendra Pendolino
Lynn Schifano
Joshua Skoudis
Sabrina Smith
Ethan Wright
Tom VanNorman

Hosting Services


Special Thanks

The SANS Institute

(c) 2016 Counter Hack