Quaoar Walkthrough

Quaoar is not just an object in the Kuiper belt after the Canadian Hackfest 2016. It is a vulnerable machine on vulnhub.

There are many walkthroughs for this machine published. Still, I have decided to post a new one for two reasons. Many pentesters exploit wordpress in long way, whereas there is a quicker one, which is also more convenient, and, this guide contains also a part discussing securing such machine, which is also missing in many other reports, or is even described wrongly.

Quaoar object

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Taking over Quaoar

At first, we have set the machine up in a good virtual lab.

Network scan follows, I use zenmap for it.

We have detected the target at

Let’s scan the services on it.

We note many, especially interesting are ssh and www.

Let’s do a http-enum scan with nmap.

nmap -vvv --script http-enum.nse --script-args http-enum.basepath='/'

I also use zenmap for it.

We see wordpress and robots.txt among others. The robots.txt also points to the /wordpress.

Let’s give it a wpscan with user enumeration.

wpscan -e u -u

Please, notice that wpscan finds many vulnerabilities there.

We have a wordpress admin user name and password now. Here I describe an elegant way of getting a shell from it: link. We will do it with metasploit now.

# in the console then
use exploit/unix/webapp/wp_admin_shell_upload
set rhost
set targeturi wordpress
set username admin
set password admin

And we get a meterpreter shell.

Note: Using meterpeter or the method to which I give a link before, one gets a reverse shell directly! There is no need to search for file inclusion and upload vulnerabilities. There is also no need to poke around and execute commands one by one through PHP calls, just get a reverse shell in this case.

Now if you cd into the wordpress directory and check its configuration, that is what you would find:

cd /var/www/wordpress
cat wp-config.php
/** MySQL database username */ 
define('DB_USER', 'root');

/** MySQL database password */ 
define('DB_PASSWORD', 'rootpassword!');

Now, notice this pattern on the machine: it is set up in a hurry. Passwords are simple and left to be default. We now have a root password for the MySQL database. Let’s try it in SSH.

And the box is rooted now. Let’s capture the flags.

root@Quaoar:~# cat /home/*/flag.txt 
root@Quaoar:~# cat /root/flag.txt  

There are three flags total. How do we find another one? Let’s use the pattern: flags are 32 character long hex strings. Let’s do a brute search for them.

egrep '[0-9a-z]{32,32}' -R /etc 2>/dev/null

/etc/cron.d/php5:# Its always a good idea to check for crontab to learn more
ing system good job you get 50! - d46795f84148fd338603d0d6a9dbf8de

This is somewhat cheating I think, so you could also do a careful Linux enumeration and find this flag too, I guess.

That’s all folks.

Securing Quaoar

Many guides unfortunately omit this part. Or get it wrong. It is really important to not only hack in, but to know, how to close the gaps found when doing the pentest.

Let me, please, present my version below.

First of all, one shall make passwords more complex. For this one could use apg.

root@kali:~# apg -a 1 -m 60 

I know, passwords are a disaster. You have to store them somewhere securely. And these will be the keys to your kingdom.

A separate secure password has to be set to: root user, all other Linux users on the box.

Next problem is to not to reuse the passwords. As you could see any successful attacker on the wordpress can read its configuration. Make the MySQL password for wordpress different from any other password and complex.

It is a good idea too, to create a user in MySQL for wordpress, grant it the only permissions a wordpress installation will need and revoke all the other. This should be non-root user I suggest.

We are coming closer to the end. Wordpress users have to be named differently than admin, user, wpuser, etc. Better even, give names different from the names of Linux users. Some security by obscurity will not hurt (also will not help in the worst case, but still). Set the secure passwords for the wordpress users too.

Check the wpscan output and fix the vulnerabilities of the wordpress installation and its plug-ins too.

Secure all your other apps on the server, e.g. the Lepton CMS in the upload folder. Fix the rights in the directories with the apps. Maybe, if you do not need wordpress to modify itself anymore, forbid the www-data to write into the /var/www/ folder.

Important is to harden Apache too. It is a difficult topic, you have to google for it yourself, but generally: harden it to use SSL, harden rights, harden logs, etc. etc.

Finally there is another vulnerable service now: SSH. Forbid it to use password authentication and tune authentication with public keys. Forbid root ssh, and create a user instead with sudo rights. Secure it with a good password.

Also check the other services which we did not exploit in this guide. Maybe there are some vulnerabilities too? Do you know? If so, please, write me, I would be glad to include it in this guide thanking you!


My walkthrough comes out somewhat late, 9 months or so after the machine was published. I took time only now to write it all up. Surely, I have used walkthroughs of others to finally present to you the best-I-know version of the walkthrough.

Although I have to tell, my own exploitation was like above. With two differences: I was poking around with Lepton CMS quite a lot. Could not reach a lot of progress. Next, I did not know that there was the third flag and was not searching for it. I have to tell, this third flag is hidden pretty well :)

See my arsenal for more tools and hints on enumerating the machine after the exploitation. And feel free to contact me to suggest improvements!

Thanks for reading my blog!
Created: 02/09/2017
Last edited on: 06/09/2017
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