noobs guide noob guide

Whilst I’m a “blue teamer” (I specialise in the defensive side of InfoSec), I do enjoy doing Pentesting challenges both for fun and because “know your enemy” & “always think like an attacker” are invaluable bits of advice for any defender.

One of my favourites is Labs which closely mimic real environments you may come across in actual pentests and are designed in such as way that whilst they have a gentle learning curve, they normally require you to have decent IT and security fundamentals, rather than being aimed at people who have installed Kali and are watching “How to be a hacker” YouTube videos.

However, for the last year or so I’ve been sat in the Telegram channel and whilst there are and awful lot of very knowledgeable people in the channel (far more knowledgeable than me, many are professional pentesters or prepping for things like OSCP exams) there are also a lot of people who join the channel that are really struggling with the basics. So I thought I’d put together a quick FAQ for those guys.

Do I need to use Kali Linux?

No. In fact, I intend to do the next lab entirely from a Windows Box to prove it’s possible (and because I love Powershell). However, if you’re asking that question, I strongly recommend you do as it’s probably the easiest starting platform to attack from.

Do I need to use’s downloadable Kali VM?

Again, no.  I’d wager almost everyone completing the labs is doing so using a vanilla Kali build. The only difference with the one on the website is it come pre-configured with everything you need to connect to their vpn.

If you’re going to struggle connect to a vpn from Kali when then instructions are on their website, you’d probably be better spending your time reading some linux vpn guides first.

The vpn is connected and I can ping their gateway machine(s). Now what?

Start your pentest! Normally these labs only start with one (or possibly two) gateways machines exposed, so don’t expect to be able to access the servers behind the gateway directly. However, usually these labs do have port forwarding set up for some services, so for example hitting port 25 on the gateway machine is likely to be forwarded to port 25 on the “email host” on the internal network.

You’re normally looking for some way to compromise the gateway machine (or some machine port forwarded to from it) and then pivot to the internal hosts.

I’m on the vpn, but I get disconnected constantly. Why?

Check you don’t have more than one vpn connection active to their labs as this will normally cause them to disconnect. Failing that, check out the Service channel for service outage notifications.

I’m on the vpn, but I get disconnected hourly. Why?

Many of the hosts reset on the hour. so may disconnect you and remove any changes you have made. This in intentional. If you have something running on a host that takes over an hour (i.e. some kind of brute force attack) you are probably approaching the problem in the wrong way.

I used “<insert tool name>”  and it found nothing. Why?

One of the great things about these labs is that they are often engineered to make life harder for people using automated tools (especially with the default options) and easier on those actually doing the attacks manually. So, just because sqlmap fails to find an sql injection point, a given password isn’t in the default john the ripper list, nmap doesn’t find an open port on a default scan or a folder isn’t found by dirb doesn’t mean that that approach isn’t going to work. The lab designers know these tools well too and want to give you more of a challenge than “can you run the right tool with the default options”.

How do I get admin/root?

I’m sure they’ll prove me wrong at some point, but it’s not likely you ever need admin or root on a host to get the token. This actually makes sense, as with root access you could easily screw over the challenge for other people. However traversing between users with different privs is quite common, often using techniques more commonly associated with escalating to root.

I’m stuck, now what?

Try Harder!

Seriously, that’s probably the first response you’re likely to get in the Telegram channel. Possibly with a link to this

It’s good advice. Go away, make a coffee, have a smoke, play Hello Kitty Island Adventure … whatever works for you. We’ve all got stuck on a challenge, then come back later with a fresh bunch of ideas.

But keep trying. These challenges are usually pretty logical and based on real world exploits, so take what you know about the situation and go hit the books (or google) and see if there is something more to learn.

Seriously, I’ve been trying for days, now what?

Well, the telegram channel is always there, but most of the people in it try to keep it spoiler free, so the usual etiquette is to ask for somebody to DM you about whatever you are struggling with.

Also, once the winners of a challenge are announced, people start publishing their solutions, these are great for getting you past you’re current hurdle, however, be very cautious as once you’ve cheated and taken a peek that first time, it becomes much easier to cheat every other time.

I’ve finished this lab, now what?

Try this list, or come hang out in the telegram channel and see what others are currently working on.

Obviously Disclaimer: I’m not part of the team, just a fan of their work and this does not constitute official documentation or is in anyway endorsed by them

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.