CTF Challenges

PowerGrid: 1.0.1 Vulnhub Walkthrough

Today we are going to solve another boot2root challenge called “PowerGrid: 1.0.1“.  It’s available at VulnHub for penetration testing and you can download it from here.

The merit of making this lab is due to Thomas Williams. Let’s start and learn how to break it down successfully.

Level: Hard

Penetration Testing Methodology


  • Netdiscover
  • Nmap


  • Dirsearch


  • HTTP Basic Authentication Brute Force
  • Execute remote code (RCE) Roundcube exploit
  • Decrypt key PGP and abuse for SSH

Privilege Escalation

  • Abuse of sudo Rsync
  • Abuse of pivoting SSH
  • Capture the flag



We are looking for the machine with netdiscover

netdiscover -i ethX

So, we put the IP address in our “/etc/hosts” file and start by running the map of all the ports with operating system detection, software versions, scripts and traceroute.

nmap -A –p- powergrid.vh


The game begins and the burden since we will only have 3 hours to solve the challenge and thus save the critical infrastructure.

We access the web service, we see the time, but we also list three users: deez1, p48 and all2.

We use dirsearch and list a directory protected with HTTP Authentication Basic.

With what we found and knowing 3 users, we will make a brute force attack with the Hydra tool and the rockyou dictionary.

We managed to access with the credentials obtained and listed webmail with Roundcube.

We use the same credentials and can read a single email, in it we have an encrypted message in PGP, but to be able to read its content in plain, we need the private key and the password. It is very likely that it is the same password since this user has reused the same password for several services.


We listed the version of Roundcube and looked for exploits, we found that it has a version vulnerable to RCE (Remote Code Execution)

Exploit: https://www.exploit-db.com/exploits/40892

As always, we will review what the exploitation consists of and make a proof of concept, this proof will create an info.php file.

Legitimate request:

Malicious request:

We run the file and see that the site is indeed vulnerable.

Now we will create a php file that allows us to execute arbitrary commands.

Payload URL-encode: <?php passthru($_GET[‘cmd’]); ?>

We check that our file works:

Perfect! Now we’ll put a netcat on the wire and run a reverse shell. (remember to encode it in URL-encode all characters)

Great! Now we will use our two favourite commands to get an interactive shell.

We will go through files and directories recursively, we will stumble upon the first flag and the first hint.

So let’s start, we identify ourselves with the user “p48” reusing the same credentials and we find in his folder “/home/” the gpg private key (remember that it was the only one we were missing to be able to decipher the text).

For a strange reason, the native “gpg” tool didn’t work for me, so I had to use this online tool and we get a SSH private key.

The machine we have committed to had no SSH service open, we remembered the “pivot” track, checked the connections and found a service that works by “docker“.

We give 600 permissions to the private key and use it to connect via SSH to the docker and read the 2nd flag and the next hint.

The next hint leads me to run “sudo -l” and check that you can run the rsync binary as root.  We execute the following command to escalate privileges as root abusing this advantage.

And once being root, we access its folder and read the 3rd flag and the next hint.

Privilege Escalation (root)

“backwards? pivoting?” Let’s repeat the SSH move, but this time we will do it from the compromised docker-machine.

Great! We have permissions as root and we can read the last flag.

Author: David Utón is Penetration Tester and security auditor for Web applications, perimeter networks, internal and industrial corporate infrastructures, and wireless networks. Contacted on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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