: Mr-Robot: 1 Walkthrough

This is my write-up for Mr-Robot: 1 at


Vulnhub is a community driven website which provides access to sparring environments for aspiring or seasoned security professionals. They have a huge collection of virtual machines and networks which can be downloaded to work on your offensive or defensive CyberSec skills.

About Mr-Robot: 1 (Description from the site)

Link to Mr-Robot:1

Based on the show, Mr. Robot.
This VM has three keys hidden in different locations. Your goal is to find all three. Each key is progressively difficult to find.
The VM isn’t too difficult. There isn’t any advanced exploitation or reverse engineering. The level is considered beginner-intermediate.

Leon Johnson is the author of this VM. He can be followed on twitter here.

About: This Write-up

This walk-through provides only the success path that I had taken to complete this VM. It does not include the many, many failure paths which lead me to frustrating dead-ends. It also does not include alternate ways to complete, which I am sure there are many.


If you are starting out on your path to CyberSec learning, do not use this write-up to cheat yourself off the invaluable exercise and skills of trying to find the solution on your own. Attempt the box on your on, to start with. If you get stuck at any stage for more than a couple of days, do refer this guide just enough to get you through the section you are stuck at.


All information, techniques and tools described in this write-up are for educational purposes only. Use anything in this write-up at your own discretion, I cannot be held responsible for any damages caused to any systems or yourselves legally. Usage of all tools and techniques described in this write-up for attacking individuals or organizations without their prior consent is highly illegal. It is your responsibility to obey all applicable local, state and federal laws. I assume and accept no liability and will not be responsible for any misuse or damage caused by using information herein.

My Lab Setup

I am running a Windows OS with Oracle Virtualbox installed. For this specific exercise, I have 2 virtual machines. The first is a Kali linux VM allocated with 4gb of RAM, 3vcpu and a 25gb hdd. The second is the virtual machine for Mr-Robot: 1. I am using the default resource allocation defined in the ova (which is 1vcpu and 512MB of RAM. I have created a host-only network with DHCP enabled attached to these VMs. I have further configured a firewall rule on my host machine’s to disallow any inbound or outbound traffic from this network. This is done to eliminate any noise from my host, and also to protect my host machine from the activities on these VMs. Begin by booting up both VMs.

For the sake of simplicity, from now on, I will be addressing the Mr-Robot:1 VM as the ‘target’

Ground Rules

For the purposes of simulating a real-world scenario, the Mr-Robot: 1 VM will not be accessed directly via it’s VM console, nor would it’s operation be interrupted using virtualbox VM controls. The only way to access it, will be from the attack platform, which in my case is the Kali Linux VM.


Network & Host
To begin with, I need to find the target’s ip address. The kali VM’s ip address is Running an nmap scan on the local subnet shows 4 devices on the network including the kali VM. is the host machine & is the virtualbox dhcp server. The final ip address, belongs to our target. The nmap scan also shows 2 open ports, 80 for http & 443 for https. A 3rd port, 22 for ssh is shown closed. That eliminates any easy way into ssh-ing into the target. The open ports could mean that the target is hosting a website.

To check the website hosted on the target, I fire up a browser and enter http:// followed by the ip address of the target and hit go. Sure enough, a website opens up with an animation displayed in reference to the tv series Mr Robot. The animation ends at a screen which resembles a linux terminal with a blinking cursor. A list of commands that could be entered is provided. The animation screen is interactive. Entering any of the commands initiates a new animation or a gallery of image , at the end of which I am brought back to the animated-interactive-terminal-looking screen. I try out all the commands with the same result. Trying the url with https:// also yields the same result.

Checking the source provides no additional clues. The js scripts are a dead-end too.

Web Directory Enumeration

The Process
I begin web directory enumeration using nmap with -script switch and the script as http-enum. This took a couple of minutes to complete. Once complete, the result was a list of working sub-directories associated with the website hosted on the target.

The Result


Right off the bat, the result shows that the website runs on wordpress. It also shows the version of wordpress. On trying some of the obviously interesting urls, I find the wordpress login page …

Wordpress Login Page

a hint/taunt from the creator of the target VM ….

and a file which clued to the 1st key.

Trying out key-1-of-3.txt revealed the 1st key:

Trying out the 2nd file initiates a download of the file fsocity.dic. The file on inspection, is a wordlist with 858160 lines of words. I save the file in my home directory for later use.

Brute-force Attack

To gain access to the wordpress admin panel, I need both the username and password. Since I have neither, I attempted to brute-force my way in. I used the word-list fsocity.dic I receive previously. There are a total of 858,160 words within this list. If I were to try to use the list for both the username and password on a single go, that would be a total of 736,438,585,600 attempts, which would take a long, long time to complete. Fortunately, wordpress login page responds differently when an incorrect username is entered vs a correct username, regardless of correctness of the combination of the username and password.

Page response with incorrect username and incorrect password

I used hydra to brute-force the username using the file fsocity.dic and and a single word password. The parameter used can be derived from the source of the wp-login page. The username field is ‘log’ and password field is ‘pwd’. The response I tested against is “Invalid”.

I have also allowed for 64 threads to run simultaneously. Based on these, the process would have taken ~ 5 hours to complete. Fortunately, the correct username happened to be in the first couple hundred words in the word-list. Since the username is not case-sensitive, I should get at least 3 correct responses if hydra is allowed to run through the complete word-list.

Output of hydra

On trying the username received, with an incorrect password on the wp-login page, I see that the page response is now different.

Page response with correct username and incorrect password

To brute-force the password, I could continue to use hydra. But for the sake of demonstration, I will describe how it could be done using a different tool named wpscan. Do note that the username too could have been brute-forced with wpscan.

The command displayed above uses the username received previously, along with the wordlist fsocity.dic for the password. I have chosen 10,000 threads to run this brute-force. On running this, the application lists out more details on the wordpress instance running in the remote server, along with a list of vulnerabilities that can be used to exploit it. Depending on your system resource allocated to your attack platform, the process can take a couple of hours. Fortunately for me, wpscan was able to find a valid combination in 34 minutes.

Output of wpscan

Using the username and password received from the brute-force exercise, I was able to login to the wp-admin page.

On inspection of the Users page, I find that the credential obtained is indeed the credential of the administrator for this wordpress instance. I checked every section for any additional clues, but couldn’t find anything of relevance. To proceed further, I will exploit the wordpress administrator access I have received and it’s ability to modify the page code.

Reverse Shell

Reverse shell is form of attack where the target system is induced to connect to our attack system, and forwards it’s shell to us to access. To execute this for wordpress, I searched and found an article which demonstrates this with few line of code which would work perfectly. The code executes bash and have it directed to the attacker ip address on port 443. The modified code looks like this:

The article describes a way to create a plug-in with the code mentioned and have it uploaded into the wpadmin plug-in page and have it executed. This really isn’t necessary in this case. A simpler way to execute this is to paste and save the code into the header code within the appearance section of the wpadmin console.

Once this is done and saved, I open up a terminal and type in nc -lvp 443 to listen for connection attempt from the target machine.

I open up a browser and simply attempt to open a non-existent url folder on the target ip.

non-existent url

This initiates the session and give limited shell access on the target with user ‘daemon’.

limited shell access

Within this shell I am unable to access much or switch to another user, but I can navigate some of the file system. I navigate to /home directory and found a directory for the user robot. Within this directory, there are 2 files. One is the 2nd key to this box. The second file is a md5 password hash for the user robot. The file permission for the file key-2-of-3.txt does not allow read access except by the user robot. The password.raw-md5 file on the other hand can be read. I cat out the file, copied the hash string and had it reversed from here. The result obtained is the password for the user robot.

Spawn a TTY Shell

In order to switch to user robot, I need to escape the limited shell and spawn a tty session. In order to do this, I referred this page which lists a number of methods to spawn a tty shell. I used the first method listed and switch to the user robot using the password received earlier. I navigated to the robot home folder as before and was able to cat out the second key for the box.

Spawn a tty shell

Privileged Escalation

I now have a basic user access on the box, but that isn’t gonna be enough since the 3rd key isn’t available with the current access level as robot. I need to gain root privilege. There are many way to go about this. For this box, the strategy that worked was to locate an executable with suid bit enabled and use it run root-level commands. To locate files with suid bit set, I used the ‘find’ command with query parameters for file permission set as 4000. This generated a list of possible files. One of them is the executable nmap.

Earlier versions of nmap had an interactive mode, which allowed execution of shell command within the interactive mode. Fortunately, the version on this box allowed it. I entered the interactive mode, and open a new shell. On checking the user identity, I find that I am now functioning as root.

To retrieve the 3rd key, I searched for a file which has name beginning with ‘key-3-’. The 3rd key file is located in the root directory. Cating out the file provides the 3rd and final key to the box.

This ends the challenge. Thank you for reading this write-up. Stay tuned and follow me on twitter to receive updates on more write-ups such as this.

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