Ghost in the Shellcode Teaser – Poetry Writeup

Our team was presented with the following text for the Poetry challenge:


The answer is the
md5 of a famous
cryptographic key

In case you wondered,
it’s not DECSS.
Please, continue on.

We had a bunch of first impressions after reading this.  Obviously we wanted to think it was related to poems, or haiku’s in general, but due to the decss reference, we also thought it was technical in nature.  We initially did a lot of research into the ps3 metldr key that geohot released, the bluray decryption key, and the hdcp key that was leaked.  However, md5ing the keys did not provide the answer.

A hint was later released that they key should include both a mixture of lower and uppercase characters.  When this was released, this immediately told us our approach was incorrect because the keys we previously attempted were either binary or hexadecimal in nature, and therefore the character “state” of the key meant that these were incorrect.

We also researched poem ciphers since the question was given to us in the form of a haiku.  We found that there was a famous individual who helped write poems for their use in cryptology in WW2.  We thought we were on the right track, but nothing returned us any results based on the poems written, or finding any sort of a key used within the poems.

It was discovered when performing a google search for decrypt key haiku -decss that Apple had multiple articles written about it.  When viewing the second result (the pdf of a US court case) Apple wanted to prevent a haiku they wrote from becoming public because it was their decryption key.  Their decryption key was:

Our hard work by these

words guarded please don’t steal

(c)Apple Computer Inc

When we take the key and change it to:


and then md5 that phrase [ md5(ourhardworkbythesewordsguardedpleasedontsteal(c)AppleComputerInc), we receive the following hash 74b8fa920f8c4eaacf65e46afbe840de which was the key.

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