HackTheBox – Traverxec

The HackTheBox machine “Traverxec” only had two open ports:

Nmap scan report for
Host is up (0.053s latency).
Not shown: 65533 filtered ports
22/tcp open  ssh
80/tcp open  http

The website presented was a static site at which also dirb didn’t find anything useful. A version scan with nmap did however reveal a interesting fact:

# nmap -sV
Starting Nmap 7.80 ( https://nmap.org ) at 2019-11-29 09:08 CET
Nmap scan report for
Host is up (0.046s latency).
Not shown: 998 filtered ports
22/tcp open ssh OpenSSH 7.9p1 Debian 10+deb10u1 (protocol 2.0)
80/tcp open http nostromo 1.9.6
Service Info: OS: Linux; CPE: cpe:/o:linux:linux_kernel

“Nostromo” is a rather uncommon Webserver. And sure enough there was a vulnerability in it (CVE-2019-16278) which allowed remote code execution. And for that a metasploit module exists. So we simply use this to get our foothold shell as www-data:

Doing enumeration we can see that only one other user exists on the system. We need to escalate to that first. When taking a look at the Nostromo configuration we find an interesting option enabled:

www-data@traverxec:/var/nostromo/conf$ cat nhttpd.conf
cat nhttpd.conf

servername		traverxec.htb
serverlisten		*
serveradmin		david@traverxec.htb
serverroot		/var/nostromo
servermimes		conf/mimes
docroot			/var/nostromo/htdocs
docindex		index.html


logpid			logs/nhttpd.pid


user			www-data


htaccess		.htaccess
htpasswd		/var/nostromo/conf/.htpasswd


/icons			/var/nostromo/icons


homedirs		/home
homedirs_public		public_www

At the very end the homedirs are enabled. That means we can access some files via URLs like http://
However, we are already on the system so we don’t need that. We can simply look which files are stored there with our existing shell:

The file /home/david/public_www/protected-file-area/backup-ssh-identity-files.tgz sounds interesting. We copy it to /tmp, extract it and find the SSH private key for the david in the archive. We copy that locally to our attacking machine. The private key is encrypted, so we brute-force the password. First converting the key into a format that john understands and then brute-force it:

With that key we can now SSH to the system as the user “david”. Next we need to escalate to root.
This was rather easy, in the home directory of david there was a bin/ folder which contained a monitoring script. This script uses sudo to run journalctl. We can simply call that sudo journalctl and break out of the then opened pager:

Running /usr/bin/sudo /usr/bin/journalctl -n5 -unostromo.service will open the configured pager if the output does not fully fit the screen, so make the shell window a little smaller if this doesn’t work. Once the pager is running simply typing !/bin/sh will spawn a root shell.

That escalation was particularly easy for me since I contributed this vector to GTFObins a year ago, awesome to see it being used!

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