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CTF Writeup: Blocky on HackTheBox

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CTF Writeup: Blocky on HackTheBox

9 December 2017



Blocky is a fun beginner's box that was probably the second or third CTF I ever attempted. When I tried it, I had booted up Kali and knew that a couple tools existed, but did not have any strategies, context or experience. All the boxes I had solved so far had used default passwords or simply were CVE-2017-0144 insta-rooted in Metasploit.

This box will begin to give you a good understanding of the power of the tools at your disposal. By stumbling around trying out tools that I saw were part of the Kali suite, I began to figure the important concepts and found myself learning very quickly.

If you have never tried a CTF before, this box would be a nice place to start - assuming you can get past the HackTheBox Invite process.

This write up assumes that the reader is using Kali, but any pentesting distro such as BlackArch will work. The tools come with a stock Kali installation, unless otherwise mentioned.

1. Initial Scanning

All HackTheBox CTFs are black-box. All we have is an IP. IPs should be scanned with nmap.

Nowadays, I run a custom nmap based script to do my recon. However, I did this box way back in the prehistoric ages (earlier this year) and didn't have the skill yet to do something like that. We can also find everything we need using this simple command.

nmap -sV -T4

  • The -sV flag attempts to tell us the software used on each port found
  • The -T4 flag tells nmap to use more CPU threads, and thus run faster


nmap finds 21, 22, and 80. These are the default ports for FTP, SSH and HTTP. It also finds 8192, but we can come back to that later if we stall. I like to start with HTTP.

Kali categorizes most of the HTTP tools under "Web Application Analysis," so I took a peek and tried to get most of them working. Since starting out, I found that my most useful starting commands for a website CTF are nikto and dirsearch

nikto -h -output nikto_blocky.txt

Our -h flag tells nikto the location of our target, and the -output flag creates an easily revisited log of our results.


My nikto scan didn't actually finish until after my dirsearch, and ended up not telling me anything dirsearch didn't tell me already. This will not always be the case, I always run both.

dirsearch is a web directory bruteforcer implemented in python3. If you don't want to use it, you can use dirb or dirbuster, which come with Kali, or another program such as gobuster.

I cloned it using

git clone /opt/dirsearch

and ran it with

python3 /opt/dirsearch/dirsearch -u "" -e sh,txt,php,html,htm,zip,tar.gz,tar --plain-text-report=dirsearch_europa_http_quick -t 25

  • -u points to our URL starting point
  • -e lists some common file extensions to look for
  • --plain-text-report= specifies that I want a log file generated
  • -t 25 uses more CPU threads


We find a whole bunch of paths that look interesting. The fact that we have directories that begin with wp-... is a good place to start. This means our site runs Wordpress, which can have a whole host of vulnerabilities. Let's use the WPScan tool.

wpscan -u -e uvp


(Today, I would append | tee wpscan_blocky.txt to save the output.)

WPScan finds many, many vulnerabilities we can dive into, but lets keep enumerating to make sure we get the full lay of the land.

2. Using our Reconnoitered Information to Dig Deeper

Let's review what we have so far. We find the username notch, and 2 places to log in, phpmyadmin and wp-login. Well, 3 places if we count SSH. The strategy here is to try to use this username to log in somewhere for further access

If we get phpmyadmin database access, we might be able to find some credentials to login somewhere else, or drop in some kind of reverse shell. If we get Wordpress admin access, we can also spawn a reverse shell pretty easily.

Maybe the site has some more useful information. It looks like a simple Wordpress blog with only one post. Let's read it.


"...developing a wiki system... and a core plugin..." Maybe some of that is already available. Let's revisit our dirsearch results.

We have both the /wp-content/plugins folder (where wpscan found the akismet plugin) and a separate /plugins directory. This is atypical for a Wordpress site - why does it have both?


Two .jars for us to download. The Core plugin was mentioned in the blog post, so let's start there - download it after copying the link location.

  • wget

  • unzip BlockyCore.jar -d blockycore


  • cd blockycore

  • ls -laR *


Now I don't know too much about Java, but Blockycore.class seems appealing to me. Can we just read it and find something interesting?

cat com/myfirstplugin/BlockyCore.class

A9 - cat

This file appears to have been compiled and has some lines we can't read. We can isolate the human-readable parts with the strings command.

strings com/myfirstplugin/BlockyCore.class


There are some strings that begin to look useful, but maybe we can find even more context. I did some online searching and come across the javap command, which can be use to disassemble Java classes. I may have had to install it using apt-get

javap -c com/myfirstplugin/BlockyCore.class | tee ~/CTF/blocky/blockycore_disassembled.txt

The | tee ... command copies the output to a a file we can easily read later.


That's the kind of detail I like to see! sqluser and sqlpass are VERY promising. These credentials are likely to logged us in to the phpmyadmin database, and might even be re-used elsewhere.

3. Gaining Webserver Access

When I first attempted this box, I got stuck here for a few hours. I knew I was missing something very simple, but couldn't find my way through all the information I had at my disposal. What I should have done was get organized and take another inventory of all that had been found. So far we have:


  • notch - from the WP site
  • root - exists by default for SSH and phpmyadmin, seen in plugin code
  • admin - exists by default on WP


  • 8YsqfCTnvxAUeduzjNSXe22 - from the plugin code


Login Areas:

  • Wordpress
  • phpmyadmin
  • ssh

Let's try root:8YsqfCTnvxAUeduzjNSXe22 as phpmyadmin credentials.

A12- phpmyadmin log in

Great, we're in the database. Odds are we are going to find hashes here that will lead to the Wordpress password. Before we go trying to finding and cracking them, however, let's keep it simple. We should first try logging in with our credentials somewhere else.

I'm feeling optimistic; I say we go right for the big fish. Root access via SSH.

  • ssh root@

and give the password when asked.


Didn't hurt to try, as unlikely as it was. Since we only have a few usernames, and only one password candidate, it is feasible to simply try them all. Since SSH access is easier to work with than a webshell, let's try to get in here before trying wp-admin access.

  • ssh notch@


And we're in!

4. Capturing the User Flag

Let's grab user

  • ls /home
  • ls -la /home/notch
  • cat /home/notch/user.txt

A little prior knowledge tells me that Notch is the inventor and boss of the Minecraft universe - Could this mean he is the admin of this system? Let's find out what we can run as superuser.


Yup, he's an admin. This could be all we need to know to gain root access.

  • sudo su

A16 - rootshell

We have a root shell, and it feels good

5. Call Me Markus, Superuser.

From here, it is as trying to read the root flag.

ls /root cat /root/root.txt

Success! Grab the root flag and let's clean up.

NOTE: These are some pretty simple cleanup commands meant to cover our tracks a little bit, but only a little bit. A trained admin would notice that these files have been altered, so look at these commands as the beginning of your tracks-covering career and not as a MIB-Style mind wipe.

  • echo '' > /home/notch/.bash_history
  • echo '' > /var/log/auth.log
  • echo '' > /var/www/admin/logs/access.log
  • echo '' > /root/.bash_history

Exit the root shell with

history -c && kill -9 $$

then repeat this command as notch, and you're all done.

Thanks to HackTheBox and Arrexel!

Thanks for reading!

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