I'm trying to find and print out all the files that contain a base64 encoded string, using grep and command substitution.

If I first encode the base64 string, and then grep, I'm able to find the file:

$ echo "FLAG" | base64

$ grep -nr "Rkx"

But when I use command substitution I get no ouput.

$ grep -nr `echo "FLAG" | base64`
  • 3
    Does test.txt actually contain RkxBRwo=? you've only shown that it contains RkxBR3tUaGl6STVUaDNGbDRnfQo= May 5, 2019 at 17:23
  • 1
    You seem to be showing your shell prompt ($ ) at the beginning of your output lines (e.g., $ RkxBRwo=). That doesn’t make sense, and is confusing. May 5, 2019 at 18:17

2 Answers 2


steeldriver posted the answer as a comment, so I’m posting it as an answer.  echo "FLAG" | base64 outputs RkxBRwo=, so your

grep -nr `echo "FLAG" | base64`
command is doing
grep -nr RkxBRwo=
But, based on what you’ve showed, your test.txt file doesn’t contain RkxBRwo=; it contains RkxBR (followed by other characters).

If you want to search your files for the first 5 characters of the base64 encoding of FLAG, do

grep -nr `echo "FLAG" | base64 | cut -c1-5`

  • Thanks. I don't know how I haven't seen the = added as base64 padding at the end of the "FLAG" output. I was basically grepping for something that did not exist in the file.
    – fbid
    May 6, 2019 at 8:07

The command

grep -nr `echo "FLAG" | base64`

says to search recursively in all files in the current directory for pattern returned by the command echo "FLAG" | base64.

Instead, I believe you want

echo "FLAG" | base64 | grep -n 'Rkx'

or, if for whatever reason you need a command substitution:

grep -n 'Rkx' <<< $(echo "FLAG" | base64)

Notice the expression $() is used instead of backticks for command substitution. Here is why.

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