Learning R: Data Wrangling in Password Hacking Game


Data Scientists know that about 80% of a Data Science project consists of preparing the data so that they can be analyzed. Building Machine Learning models is the fun part that only comes afterwards!

This process is called Data Wrangling (or Data Munging). If you want to use some Base R data wrangling techniques in a fun game to hack a password read on!

First install proton (on CRAN), load it and type proton() to start it:

library(proton)
##  _____ _          _____         _              _____
## |_   _| |_ ___   |  _  |___ ___| |_ ___ ___   |   __|___ _____ ___
##   | | |   | -_|  |   __|  _| . |  _| . |   |  |  |  | .'|     | -_|
##   |_| |_|_|___|  |__|  |_| |___|_| |___|_|_|  |_____|__,|_|_|_|___|
## 
## Your goal is to find Slawomir Pietraszko's credentials for the Proton server.
## This is the only way for Bit to find the secret plans of Pietraszko's laboratory. 
## 
## Enter the `proton()` command in order to start the adventure.
## 
## Remember that at any time you may add `hint=TRUE` argument to the executed command in order to get additional suggestions.

proton()
## Pietraszko uses a password which is very difficult to guess.
## At first, try to hack an account of a person which is not as cautious as Pietraszko.
## 
## But who is the weakest point? Initial investigation suggests that John Insecure doesn't care about security and has an account on the Proton server. He may use a password which is easy to crack.
## Let's attack his account first!
## 
## Problem 1: Find the login of John Insecure.
## 
## Bit has scrapped 'employees' data (names and logins) from the www web page of Technical University of Warsaw. The data is in the data.frame `employees`. 
## Now, your task is to find John Insecure's login.
## When you finally find out what John's login is, use `proton(action = "login", login="XYZ")` command, where XYZ is Insecure's login.

Now, try to solve the problem yourself before reading on…

The best way is always to get some overview over the data. That can be achieved by the str() function (for structure):

str(employees)
## 'data.frame':    541 obs. of  3 variables:
##  $ name   : Factor w/ 534 levels "Aaron","Adam",..: 272 198 240 442 34 389 433 460 351 16 ...
##  $ surname: Factor w/ 541 levels "Abbott","Adams",..: 369 274 310 247 251 78 90 462 130 291 ...
##  $ login  : chr  "j.patrick" "gerald.long" "j.mendoza" "rjoh" ...

We know that John’s surname is “Insecure”, so we use that for subsetting the data frame:

employees[employees$surname == "Insecure", ]
##     name  surname   login
## 217 John Insecure johnins

Ok, we can now use this information to get to the next problem:

proton(action = "login", login = "johnins", hint = TRUE)
## Congratulations! You have found out what John Insecure's login is!
## It is highly likely that he uses some typical password.
## Bit downloaded from the Internet a database with 1000 most commonly used passwords.
## You can find this database in the `top1000passwords` vector.
## 
## Problem 2: Find John Insecure's password.
## 
## Use `proton(action = "login", login="XYZ", password="ABC")` command in order to log into the Proton server with the given credentials.
## If the password is correct, you will get the following message:
## `Success! User is logged in!`.
## Otherwise you will get:
## `Password or login is incorrect!`.
## 
## HINT:
## Use the brute force method.
## By using a loop, try to log in with subsequent passwords from `top1000passwords` vector as long as you receive:
## `Success! User is logged in!`.

Now, try to solve the problem yourself before reading on…

Again, let us gain an overview:

str(top1000passwords)
##  chr [1:1000] "123456" "password" "12345678" "qwerty" "123456789" ...

Ok, Brute Force means that we simply try all possibilities to find the right one (a technique that is also used by real hackers… which is the reason why most modern systems only accept a few (e.g. 3) trials before hitting a time limit or deactivating an account altogether). Here, we can use a for loop for that:

for (pw in top1000passwords) {
  proton(action = "login", login = "johnins", password = pw, hint = TRUE)
}
## Well done! This is the right password!
## Bit used John Insecure's account in order to log into the Proton server.
## It turns out that John has access to server logs.
## Now, Bit wants to check from which workstation Pietraszko is frequently logging into the Proton server. Bit hopes that there will be some useful data.  
## 
## Logs are in the `logs` dataset. 
## Consecutive columns contain information such as: who, when and from which computer logged into Proton.
## 
## Problem 3: Check from which server Pietraszko logs into the Proton server most often.
## 
## Use `proton(action = "server", host="XYZ")` command in order to learn more  about what can be found on the XYZ server.
## The biggest chance to find something interesting is to find a server from which Pietraszko logs in the most often.
## 
## 
## HINT:
## In order to get to know from which server Pietraszko is logging the most often one may:
## 1. Use `filter` function to choose only Pietraszko's logs,
## 2. Use `group_by` and `summarise` to count the number of Pietraszko's logs into separate servers,
## 3. Use `arrange` function to sort servers' list by the frequency of logs.
## 
## Use `employees` database in order to check what Pietraszko's login is.

There are always different possibilities to achieve a goal and you can, of course, use any of the functions given under “HINT”… yet one of my favorite functions is the table() function and I encourage you to try it out here…

Ok, the following first steps shouldn’t come as a surprise by now:

str(logs)
## 'data.frame':    59366 obs. of  3 variables:
##  $ login: Factor w/ 541 levels "j.patrick","gerald.long",..: 172 45 42 196 254 390 169 397 469 361 ...
##  $ host : Factor w/ 312 levels "193.0.96.13.0",..: 35 124 250 146 157 227 230 69 239 134 ...
##  $ data : POSIXct, format: "2014-09-01 03:01:12" "2014-09-01 03:01:51" ...

employees[employees$surname == "Pietraszko", ]
##         name    surname login
## 477 Slawomir Pietraszko  slap

As said above we will use the table() function to get the frequencies of server logins:

log <- logs[logs$login == "slap", ]
table(as.character(log$host))
## 
## 193.0.96.13.20 193.0.96.13.38 194.29.178.108 194.29.178.155  194.29.178.16 
##             33              1             74              6            112

We now use the most often used to get to the next and last problem:

proton(action = "server", host = "194.29.178.16", hint = TRUE)
## It turns out that Pietraszko often uses the public workstation 194.29.178.16.
## What a carelessness.
## 
## Bit infiltrated this workstation easily. He downloaded `bash_history` file which contains a list of all commands that were entered into the server's console.
## The chances are that some time ago Pietraszko typed a password into the console by mistake thinking that he was logging into the Proton server.
## 
## Problem 4: Find the Pietraszko's password.
## 
## In the `bash_history` dataset you will find all commands and parameters which have ever been entered.
## Try to extract from this dataset only commands (only strings before space) and check whether one of them looks like a password.
## 
## 
## HINT:
## Commands and parameters are separated by a space. In order to extract only names of commands from each line, you can use `gsub` or `strsplit` function.
## After having all commands extracted you should check how often each command is used.
## Perhaps it will turn out that one of typed in commands look like a password?
## 
## If you see something which looks like a password, you shall use `proton(action = "login", login="XYZ", password="ABC")` command to log into the Proton server with Pietraszko credentials.

After checking the structure again we could use strsplit() (for stringsplit) in the following way

str(bash_history)
##  chr [1:19913] "mcedit /var/log/lighttpd/*" "pwd" ...

table(unlist(strsplit(bash_history, " ")))
## 
##                      /bin                     /boot 
##                       338                       338 
##                    /cdrom                      /dev 
##                       338                       338 
##                      /etc                     /home 
##                       338                       338 
##                      /lib               /lost+found 
##                       338                       338 
##                    /media                      /mnt 
##                       338                       338 
##                      /opt                     /proc 
##                       338                       338 
##                     /root                      /run 
##                       338                       338 
##                     /sbin                  /selinux 
##                       338                       338 
##                      /srv                      /sys 
##                       338                       338 
##                      /tmp                      /usr 
##                       338                       338 
##                      /var        /var/log/apache2/* 
##                       338                       219 
##       /var/log/apport.log         /var/log/auth.log 
##                       219                       219 
##             /var/log/boot       /var/log/daemon.log 
##                       219                       219 
##            /var/log/debug            /var/log/dmesg 
##                       219                       219 
##         /var/log/dpkg.log          /var/log/faillog 
##                       219                       219 
##           /var/log/fsck/*         /var/log/kern.log 
##                       219                       219 
##       /var/log/lighttpd/*          /var/log/lpr.log 
##                       219                       219 
##           /var/log/mail.*         /var/log/messages 
##                       219                       219 
##          /var/log/mysql.*         /var/log/user.log 
##                       219                       219 
##       /var/log/xorg.0.log           ~/.bash_history 
##                       219                       133 
##             ~/.bash_login            ~/.bash_logout 
##                       133                       133 
##           ~/.bash_profile                 ~/.bashrc 
##                       133                       133 
##                  ~/.emacs                   ~/.exrc 
##                       133                       133 
##                ~/.forward                ~/.fvwm2rc 
##                       133                       133 
##                 ~/.fvwmrc                  ~/.gtkrc 
##                       133                       133 
##              ~/.hushlogin                  ~/.kderc 
##                       133                       133 
##                ~/.mail.rc                 ~/.muttrc 
##                       133                       133 
##                 ~/.ncftp/                  ~/.netrc 
##                       133                       133 
##                 ~/.pinerc                ~/.profile 
##                       133                       133 
##                 ~/.rhosts                  ~/.rpmrc 
##                       133                       133 
##              ~/.signature                  ~/.twmrc 
##                       133                       133 
##                  ~/.vimrc             ~/.Xauthority 
##                       133                       133 
##     ~/.Xdefaults-hostname             ~/.Xdefaults, 
##                       133                       133 
##                ~/.xinitrc                ~/.Xmodmap 
##                       133                       133 
##              ~/.xmodmaprc             ~/.Xresources 
##                       133                       133 
##              ~/.xserverrc                    ~/mbox 
##                       133                       133 
##   ~/News/Sent-Message-IDs        alert_actions.conf 
##                       133                        74 
##                  app.conf                audit.conf 
##                        74                        74 
##       authentication.conf            authorize.conf 
##                        74                        74 
##                       aux                        ax 
##                       100                       100 
##                       cat                        cd 
##                      4341                      2520 
##          collections.conf             commands.conf 
##                        74                        74 
##                        cp                crawl.conf 
##                      1176                        74 
##           datamodels.conf         default.meta.conf 
##                        74                        74 
##     deploymentclient.conf          DHbb7QXppuHnaXGN 
##                        74                         1 
##           distsearch.conf      event_renderers.conf 
##                        74                        74 
##      eventdiscoverer.conf           eventtypes.conf 
##                        74                        74 
##               fields.conf                     httpd 
##                        74                        20 
##              indexes.conf               inputs.conf 
##                        74                        74 
##         instance.cfg.conf               limits.conf 
##                        74                        74 
##             literals.conf                        ls 
##                        74                      1806 
##               macros.conf                        mc 
##                        74                       112 
##                    mcedit              multikv.conf 
##                      1944                        74 
##              outputs.conf           pdf_server.conf 
##                        74                        74 
##      procmon-filters.conf                props.conf 
##                        74                        74 
##                        ps               pubsub.conf 
##                       420                        74 
##                       pwd              restmap.conf 
##                        80                        74 
##                        rm        savedsearches.conf 
##                      1596                        74 
##            searchbnf.conf           segmenters.conf 
##                        74                        74 
##               server.conf          serverclass.conf 
##                        74                        74 
## serverclass.seed.xml.conf                   service 
##                        74                        20 
##    source-classifier.conf          sourcetypes.conf 
##                        74                        74 
##                     start                 tags.conf 
##                        20                        74 
##              tenants.conf                times.conf 
##                        74                        74 
##                       top     transactiontypes.conf 
##                       150                        74 
##           transforms.conf            user-seed.conf 
##                        74                        74 
##                        vi           viewstates.conf 
##                      2666                        74 
##                       vim                  web.conf 
##                      2991                        74 
##                    whoiam                  wmi.conf 
##                        90                        74 
##     workflow_actions.conf 
##                        74

When you look through this list you will find something that looks suspiciously like a password: “DHbb7QXppuHnaXGN”. Let’s try this to finally hack into the system:

proton(action = "login", login = "slap", password = "DHbb7QXppuHnaXGN")
## Congratulations!
## 
## You have cracked Pietraszko's password!
## Secret plans of his lab are now in your hands.
## What is in this mysterious lab?
## You may read about it in the `Pietraszko's cave` story which is available at http://biecek.pl/BetaBit/Warsaw
## 
## Next adventure of Beta and Bit will be available soon.
##             proton.login.pass 
## "Success! User is logged in!"

This was fun, wasn’t it! And hopefully, you learned some helpful data wrangling techniques along the way…

2 thoughts on “Learning R: Data Wrangling in Password Hacking Game”

  1. Hi,

    Thanks for creating this worked example.
    I started off learning R using Base R before the slow transition towards dplyr.
    You’ve got some good hints on dplyr functions that can be used, however, to aid others in a similar position to myself, here are a few key code translations from Base R to dplyr:

    # log %
      filter(login == "slap") # dplyr filter
    
    # table(as.character(log$host)) # Base R table
    log %>%
      group_by(host) %>%
      count(login)  # dplyr count
    
    # table(unlist(strsplit(bash_history, " "))) # Base R table
    
    bash_history %>%
      stringr::str_split(., " ") %>% 
      unlist() %>% 
      as_tibble() %>% 
      group_by(value) %>% 
      count() # stingr and dplyr
    

    Ben

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