HackTheBox: Spectra - Writeup

Published: 2021-05-28

After quite a few Reversing challenges, it was time to get back to actual machines. This one was marked as Easy, and as we’ll see, that is mostly true. Note that you’ll need to configure an /etc/hosts entry to point the machine IP to spectra.htb for most of this to work.

Initial overview

Joining the machine and heading to the webpage reveals two links: One to an “Issue Tracker” and another to a Testing page. The Issue Tracker is revealed to be a standard Wordpress installation, while navigating to the Testing page gives us a Database Connection Error. It’s apparent that we’re still on a Wordpress page, but it can’t access the underlying database. At this point, it’s a good idea to run a basic wpscan:


The only interesting thing revealed here is that XML RPC is enabled. We can abuse certain endpoints with the help of Metasploits auxilliary/scanner/http/wordpress_xmlrpc_login, which allows bruteforcing Wordpress logins using the XML RPC API. On the off chance that the Wordpress installation uses default or easy credentials, I let this run in the background with rockyou.txt.

Moving back to the Testing page, we can actually move back one step into the directory and see that directory listings are enabled:

Open Directory

First win

The directory listing is actually a big deal, because the Wordpress configuration file is sitting right there. Unfortunately, accessing the actual wp-config.php simply returns a blank page (even on page source). Lucky for us, though, a backup exists right below it: wp-config.php.save

Looking at the page source of the backup, we can see the credentials for a database test user. We don’t have any way of accessing the underlying MySQL database at this stage, but I did attempt to log in as Wordpress administrator with the newly found password. It worked!

We now have access to the administration area of the Wordpress installation.

Getting our first shell

Moving from administration area to a reverse shell is very easy, thanks to (again) Metasploit and the exploit/unix/webapp/wp_admin_shell_upload exploit. Just drop in the username and password of the Wordpress Admin and out comes a Meterpreter shell! Very easy. This drops us in as the nginx user and we’ll quickly notice that we don’t actually have the flag. Instead, the user katie has it.

Enumeration from our shell

At this point, I decided to drop my public SSH key into the available .ssh folder, creating authorized_keys inthe process and giving “proper” access to the nginx user. This was just for convenience, since all of this could be done from inside Meterpreter as well.

Enumeration is, as always, very important. My first choice for this is linPEAS. It immediately flagged the passwd files:


What sticks out here is the /etc/autologin/passwd file; this is not part of a standard Linux distribution. Reading it with cat reveals a password, but no username. It turned out to be katie’s SSH password, which gives us access to our first flag!

Moving on from Katie

Now that we have access to Katie and scored our first flag, we should do two things:

  1. Run sudo -l to see if we can execute any commands without a password.
  2. Run linPEAS again to find any interesting files/directories.

Executable programs

Running sudo -l shows us that we can execute /sbin/initctl without a password. initctl is used to initialize a range of scripts residing in /etc/init; those are normally reserved for root/root. Moving into /etc/init, however, we can see a lot of test*.conf files that are part of the developers group (which we are also a part of). Running sudo /sbin/initctl list | grep test shows us which of these scripts is running, while start / stop allows us to start or stop any execution of the config files.

Getting a shell is as simple as setting our Group ID on /bin/bash:

description "Test node.js server"
author      "katie"

start on filesystem or runlevel [2345]
stop on shutdown

    chmod +s /bin/bash
end script

After running whichever test configuration we chose to sacrifice, we should be able to execute /bin/bash in privileged (-p) mode:

katie@spectra /etc/init $ /bin/bash -p
bash-4.3# whoami

Note: The /etc/init configuration file should automatically be reset after it’s been executed. If not, please remove it. I picked up the flag in tmp/root.txt first time around becauses someone left a dirty configuration file laying about.


True to its name, this machine was very easy. Using LinPEAS on these machines does feel like cheating sometimes, but I guess it’s time to try some Medium/Hard machines at some point.

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