It was the last week of April: our entire NVISO team had packed their bags and was ready to board a plane. Where to? A secret location, to celebrate the achievements of our fantastic team !
From the very beginning, it became clear that the discovery of our destination was a fun team-building event by itself: to find out, we’d have to solve a series of technical challenges eventually lifting the veil on that well-kept secret… right before getting our boarding passes !
In the morning, we were all supposed to meet up at our office. At exactly 9AM, we received a mail from HR containing a URL. The website was created using Drupal and contained a bit of teaser information concerning the offsite. It also had a login form, but we were lacking valid credentials. After some fiddling around and some scanning, we found it was vulnerable to Drupageddon. This allowed us to create a user account using SQL injection. Once logged into the website, we could create posts ourselves. This vulnerability also allowed us to run commands through PHP, but we weren’t able to simply launch a reverse shell. Using a Netcat pipe, we did succeed in getting shell access to the server. The next step was to look for some kind of flag. Some grepping and finding showed us the location of the flag, in a file containing instructions for the next piece of the puzzle.
From there on, we were split up in two teams. Team A would remain in Brussels and team B was set off to a gas station near the highway in Breda, in The Netherlands. There, Team B was to find “Lou”. Upon arrival at the gas station, team B inquired for Lou: the lady behind the counter looked at them as if they were about to pull a gun. Looking all over the gas station, Team B eventually identified Lou: the challenge could continue. But what should Team B tell Lou ?
Team A had to assist them: very soon, they found a USB key taped to one of the GoPro action cameras left behind by the organizers to record our endeavors. Forensic analysis was on! After booting kali, performing some volatility magic, deciding it took too long and running strings on the dump file, Team A discovered the passphrase that should be given to Lou at the gas station.
Once Team B provided the correct passphrase to Lou, he gave the next set of instructions for both Team A and Team B. Through an image puzzle, Team B found out they had to carry on towards Schiphol, the Amsterdam Airport. Lou would be there, somewhere, ready to hand out the next hint. Meanwhile, Team A were told they should find an envelope at the office. After flipping over all the tables, the envelope was found : it contained yet another USB key. This time, the USB key contained an encrypted zip file with a PCAP file inside. After putting its youngest new recruit in front of the computer in true Swordfish-first-scene style, Team A cracked the password and started analysis of the PCAP file. Captured traffic in the PCAP consisted of web browsing traffic towards the website of Brussels International Airport: the hint was clear, Team A rushed to the airport !
The destination? Dubai!
Our time in the City of Endless Possibilities
Taking some time to reflect is important. Taking some space (literally) helps to step back and look at the bigger picture. While we did reflect on where we had come from, our eyes were decidedly focused on the future. We spent quite some time discussing what we stand for as individuals and as a team: we discussed which values we want to share and live by, and how these values can make NVISO better, both for us and for our clients. The conversation resulted in valuable insights. Putting words on what we believe in, together, made everyone feel committed to upholding them, because they are what we believe in, and represent us best.
To then put our money where our mouth was, the rest of our time was invested in taking concrete actions: we set off to select one initiative that would help NVISO improve in practice. Four teams together proposed 8 ideas, which were challenged and judged by a ‘shark tank’, our very own jury.
The proposal attracting the most support was an initiative on internal sharing of knowledge between colleagues. So in the coming months, we will be working to build a framework that supports and promotes informal sharing of experiences and skills within NVISO. Because sharing is caring!
But let’s not fool ourselves: the trip was not all hard work. We also found time to enjoy the local attractions of Dubai and have lots of team fun. Loyal to the good old “work hard, play hard” motto, and believing in laughter as a great way to bond with colleagues, we rushed down crazy water slides in Aquaventure, chilled at the local beach and were inspired to aim higher at Burj Khalifa. In short, we made the most of our time there, enjoying some well-deserved rest, having fun and getting to know each other better as a great team. After all, we don’t travel to the City of Endless Possibilities every week!