I'm currently doing some practice about security and facing challenges provided in a website. One of them talks about LFI and I did figure out what to do, but I have no idea how to do this, so let's show you the problem:

Here is the url to hack:


I'm asked to get the password in /etc/passwd, so the first idea that comes is to try some directory transversal:


This throws an exception:

Warning: assert(): Assertion "strpos('includes/..php', '..') === false" failed

What is obvious is that the strpos detects every occurrence of '..' in the path and the assertion checks that this function returns a false value

Then I try it by adding a null byte at the end of the same url


which gives me another hint:

Warning: file_exists() expects parameter 1 to be a valid path

But here I'm blocked, my goal is to inject the path to /etc/passwd like this:


I feel like I can exploit the null byte solution but after trying many different urls either I got the file_exists() warning or the assert() one, I'm running out of ideas now, does somebody have one more hint to give?

  • 1
    I don't see this website (no DNS record), but what does my_practice_website.com/challenge27/?page=/etc/passwd show?
    – George Y.
    Dec 30, 2016 at 0:18
  • @GeorgeY. You can't register a .com domain with underscores. OP uses it as a placeholder. That said it would be easier if we'd get the original site.
    – Arminius
    Dec 30, 2016 at 0:34
  • Yes this url is fake, just for the example, if you want the real challenge website I can give it by PM.
    – onizukaek
    Dec 30, 2016 at 0:40
  • @onizukaek Please include it in your question if possible.
    – Arminius
    Dec 30, 2016 at 0:42
  • @Arminius sorry not possible, if I provide it here and you answer directly it would be against the website rules who intend to not give nor broadcast the solution until you solved it by yourself, therefore I cannot quote the right domain here
    – onizukaek
    Dec 30, 2016 at 1:00

2 Answers 2


Usually it will be the path, followed by null byte in order to terminate the string when the C code runs that actually retrieves the file:


Note that null byte characters don't work in up-to-date versions of PHP.

The other challenge is to get .. past the filter.

Try these to see if they can bypass this checking:

  • Try using 16-bit Unicode encoding (. = %u002e).
  • Try double URL encoding (. = %252e).
  • Try overlong UTF-8 Unicode encoding (. can be %c0%2e, %e0%40%ae, %c0ae)
  • Thank you for this information SilverlightFox, that's exactly what I wanted, I tried it, unfortunately the exploit was not what I thought, I get "Warning: file_exists() expects parameter 1 to be a valid path," I think I was completely wrong
    – onizukaek
    Dec 30, 2016 at 12:56
  • I forgot to tell you the url I tried: /?page=%u002e%u002e/%u002e%u002e/%u002e%u002e/%u002e%u002e/etc/passwd%00
    – onizukaek
    Dec 30, 2016 at 13:20

Try passing a ' as input. If it throws an exception like Parse error: syntax error, unexpected ’’, ’’ (T_CONSTANT_ENCAPSED_STRING) in ... then it is vulnerable to code injection.

In that case you can open any file like:

' and die(show_source('/etc/passwd')) or '

more info at this write-up.

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