[HackTheBox Write-Up: Hidden Path] - [Easy]

Overall challenge information

Challenge description: Legends speak of the infamous Kamara-Heto, a black-hat hacker of old who rose to fame as they brought entire countries to their knees. Opinions are divided over whether the fabled figure truly existed, but the success of the team surely lies in the hope that they did, for the location of the lost vault is only known to be held on what remains of the NSA's data centres. You have extracted the source code of a system check-up endpoint – can you find a way in? And was Kamara-Heto ever there?

Initial analysis

We have a Docker container running on and a zip file misc_hidden_path.zip containing the source code for that Docker container.

In the source files, we see a Node.js application that seems to be running on port 47045. We can confirm this by using curl on the port:

wkzshi@deadsec:~$ curl
<!DOCTYPE html>

    <title>NSA Server System Checker</title>
    <script src="/js/index.js"></script>
    <link rel="stylesheet" href="/css/cyberpunk.css">

    <div class="center">
        <h1 class="cyber-h oxanium-font ac-purple">Check NSA Server Status</h1>
        <form name="commandForm" onsubmit="return submitCommand()">
            <input type="radio" id="free" class="cyber-radio ac-purple oxanium-font" name="command" value="free -m">
            <label for="free">free -m</label>

<input type="radio" id="uptime" class="cyber-radio ac-purple oxanium-font" name="command" value="uptime"> <label for="uptime">uptime</label>

<input type="radio" id="iostat" class="cyber-radio ac-purple oxanium-font" name="command" value="iostat"> <label for="iostat">iostat</label>

<input type="radio" id="mpstat" class="cyber-radio ac-purple oxanium-font" name="command" value="mpstat"> <label for="mpstat">mpstat</label>

<input type="radio" id="netstat" class="cyber-radio ac-purple oxanium-font" name="command" value="netstat"> <label for="netstat">netstat</label>

<input type="radio" id="ps" class="cyber-radio ac-purple oxanium-font" name="command" value="ps aux"> <label for="ps">ps aux</label>

<button class="cyber-button bg-purple fg-white m-2 vt-bot oxanium-font" type="submit">Check System</button> </form>
<div class="code-block" id="response"></div> </div> </body> </html>

That's right, let's see the app!

We see a simple web application that appears to be a server status checking system.

simple web application

The radio buttons and 'Check System' button suggest that we can send commands to be processed by the server and view the output. Let's send some commands and investigate the responses:

Check System' button suggest that we can send commands

Each command provides some information, but one response caught my attention immediately:

one response caught my attention immediately

In the response line PID USER TIME COMMAND 1 root 0:00 node app.js 18 root 0:00 ps aux, we see that all commands are executed by root, which is an intriguing find.

Next, I launched my Burp Suite for further investigation.

Looking at the requests

The first thing I wanted to investigate was the actual request with the command being sent to the server. We see POST requests sent to the /server-status endpoint:


I sent one of these requests in Burp Repeater for a detailed investigation, and it appeared quite minimalisti:

Burp Repeater

There is only one parameter choice with the numeric value of our option. This gives us some insight into the application's internal structure. Let's examine the source code.

Source code analysis

The app has a simple Node.js structure with Dockerfile:

Source code analysis

There is a flag.txt provided, indicating the flag will be in the same directory on the server. After analyzing the source code, I checked the app.js file and saw something very interesting in the POST request handler function:

POST request handler function

Do you see that? There is a hidden character in the line const {choice, } = req.body:


JavaScript has a feature called assignment destructuring, which allows developers to assign multiple variables in a single line of code. This function is used in the line const {choice, } = req.body, and this little symbol is a valid variable name. So, in theory, we could pass a different value in the POST request, and that value would be assigned to that strange "ㅤ" variable.

Moreover, this same symbol also appears in the command list, which indicates which commands we are allowed to run on the server:


Do you see where this is going? We can pass a *some-command* value to that character variable, and it will end up in the list of allowed commands. Let's exploit this hidden vulnerability.

Exploitation of a Null Character

In my Burp Repeater, I tried several requests with different values, and after some trials, I got this response:

several requests with different values

We can pass another parameter with name of , value of our new command, and execute it with choice=6. RCE is officially found! Now it's just a matter of exposing the flag, and we already know where it is thanks to the source code. The simplest way to do this is by using cat ./flag.txt. However, we need to URL encode our command first. I used Cyberchef for this:

value of our new command

Now, we have a mighty payload for the POST request: choice=6&ㅤ=cat%20%2E%2Fflag%2Etxt. Let's try it out!

POST request

There it is.


The challenge presented a fun and educational experience, emphasizing the importance of understanding web application vulnerabilities and the power of detailed source code analysis. The hidden null character provided an unexpected twist, showcasing how even minor details can be exploited in many creative ways.