Learning the Basics

7 minute read


These past 2 months I was able to:

  • Participate on four CTFs (ctf.live, ctf.virseccon.com, BootUpCTF, and Jupiter Rockets)
  • Bought the domain name defendergb.org for my blog and cleaned up my blog’s code
  • Learned the basics of using git and branches
  • Practiced variant XSS within OWASP-BWA and in bug bounties
  • Began reading through “The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook”
  • Started a Udemy Course - Practical Ethical Hacking - The Complete Course [Recommended - check CyberMentor Twitter for discounts]
  • Went through a few of Kontra’s Application Security Training [HIGHLY recommended]
  • Tried HackTheBox and TryHackMe rooms/challenges
  • Using CherryTree as my primary source of note taking.
  • Started a Gitbook to publish my notes: https://defender-gb.gitbook.io/


While I was able to learn lots these past months, there is a VAST amount of things within my backlog that I wish to address first. The following are courses/tasks that are in my backlog that I have not been able to get to:

Always make sure not to overwhelm yourself with tasks, but weekly track the work you have done, otherwise, it feels like you have done no progress. I have found it very helpful to set weekly goals and find a fair line between exaggerated and slacking goals. The security industry is vast and you will need to allocate time to study, but mental health is also important for proactive learning.

Technical Learnings

CTFs and Cyber challenges

You can find my notes of ctf.virseccon under my Write-ups section, I’m not able to provide ctf.live notes as its still on-going, and I did not take extensive notes for SANS’s BootUpCTF and Jupiter Rockets. All in all, I believe CTFs can be used to grind security skills, and allows you to focus on specific sectors of security (Example: Web Sec, Crypto, Binary, Forensics, Networking, etc), it’s easy to go through all beginner level challenges for each sections but you don’t get to learn much. The learning comes from hours spent on a difficult challenge, that’s where you learn more about specific technologies. Other technics that will help you develop further is taking notes of the research and techniques you used.

Good resources and example of note-taking for CTFs are Apsdehal’s CTF resource matrix, HackTrick’s CTF/Pentesting Notes, and David Rook’s CTF Resources

My CTFs scores:

VirSecCon score - 686th

BootUp CTF score - 223th

Jupiter Rockets score - 87th

HTB and TryHackMe

At the time of writing, I reached Script Kiddie (Level 1) in HTB and aim to get Hacker (Level 2) by end of the month. I truly enjoy Hack The Box (HTB) and TryHackMe as both help you create methodologies. TryHackMe focuses on guiding you though challenges, focusing on helping you learn and can provide guides. HTB gives you tips but does not give you the answers, it’s focused on giving you a challenge, and forcing you to use your skills of enumeration and recon. I have done two easy boxes within HackTheBox and 3 practice rooms within TryHackMe so far, below I went into more detail on what I learned.

I would suggest watching ippsec’s HTB videos and CyberMentor’s HTB videos to see what HTB challenges compose of. I plan on creating YouTube videos on retired HTB boxes ones I have gained enough experience.



  • Web App login bypass with sql injection
  • Image upload a hidden php command shell image
  • Use php to create a python reverse shell
  • Enumerate to get Database credentials and dump database to get user password
  • Use CVE-2018-9310 to create a python script hidden inside a fdisk and run sysinfo to get a reverse command shell and get root level.


  • Bruteforcing admin login
  • Utilized vulnerability within Bludit CMS 3.9.2 to get RCE
  • Enumerate to get user hashed password and get user level
  • Find vulnerability within sudo 1.8.27 to give local Priv escalate and get root level


CC: Steganography

  • Teaches steganography in images and sound using following tools:
    • Steghide (jpg)
    • zsteg (png and bmp)
    • exiftool (image metadata)
    • stegoveritas (All image types and extract data)
    • Sonic Visualizer (spectrograms - audio files)

RP: Nmap

  • How to use nmap, looking at manual, etc

Introduction to OWASP ZAP

  • How to use OWASP ZAP, proxy setup, etc

My badges:

Development Learnings


I learned the concept of Software Development Life-cycle (SDLC) for work although this doesn’t directly tied hacking, I think it’s important to learn and understand. Proper applications and tools created by developers follow a SDLC model. SDLC model composes of planning, defining, designing, building, testing, deployment. While these are just terms, the general idea is after develop/testing/deploying there will be a cycle to continue development and testing.

For example, you are doing a penetration test and review a company’s main infrastructure and web app, you find no vulnerabilities, although you find a external facing forum hosted in company’s network that uses a deprecated apache version. You can start deriving that 1) the are small applications that are not properly maintaining and 2) allows you to shift your attack as these apps are more likely to have vulnerabilities.


Before starting to code for my blog, I have never used git for development. My extended knowledge with git composed of pulling git repositories of tools or scripts. I didn’t have a development environment to test my code before pushing code changes.

This video had a good explanation of the bases of using git for development. Below are notes on my most used commands:

# Initial setup
# Configure Git with SSH to stop asking for email and password of git
# Great first time user guide: https://kbroman.org/github_tutorial/pages/first_time.html
# Github guide: https://help.github.com/en/github/authenticating-to-github/adding-a-new-ssh-key-to-your-github-account 
ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C "your_email@example.com"
ssh-add ~/.ssh/id_rsa
## Add the SSH key to your GitHub account. https://help.github.com/en/github/authenticating-to-github/adding-a-new-ssh-key-to-your-github-account
git config --global user.email "your_email@example.com"

## Local git repository
$ mkdir git-repo-name && cd git-repo-name
$ git init
$ # Write some code.
$ git add 
$ git commit -m "New repo"

## Pushing local git repo to github
$ # Create repository on Github
$ git remote add origin git@github.com:username/new_repo
$ git push -u origin master

## Creating repo on github an pulling locall
$ # Create repository on Github
$ git pull git@github.com:username/new_repo

# Ones I make modifications to existing repository I use these commands every time:
$ git add .
$ git commit -m "Added stuff"
$ git push

I choose to use Jekyll’s Plainwhite template for my blog and took inspiration from wanda15tw’s blog and leeranrell’s blog to design my blog.


Practical Ethical Hacking Course

I am 40% through this Udemy course, I would highly recommend anyone who is new or wants to understand the tecnhical side of cyber security industry. It goes through Networking, Linux basic, Python basic, Ethical Hacker Methodology, Information Gathering (Recon), Scanning and Enumeration, Exploitation, Hack The Box walkthroughs, and more.

All my notes on the course so far are hosted on my Notes repository within on CherryTree, I will do an extensive review ones I am done with the course.

Cherrytree Practical Ethical Hacking course notes

Kontra’s Application Security Training

I found “Kontra’s Application Security Training” site through a Twitter post and have shared it with my friends and colleagues. Kontra’s AppSec training is a great way to learn web application vulnerabilities through an interactive web portal. I have only done the TikTok XSS but so far they have 21 labs and continue to expand! Examples of vulnerabilities they cover: Command Injection, SSRF, Directory Traversal. SQL injection, and more! As I continue to do more labs I will add my write-ups.


Note Taking Improvements

The “Practical Ethical Hacking” course emphasizes note-taking, because of this recommendations, I started using CherryTree as my note-taking solution. In order to sync between my laptop and desktop, I followed MrChrisWeinert’s CherryTreeGitSync which allows you to create a Git repository to store the cherrytree file of your notes and every time you open or exit cherrytree the script syncs with the git repository.

Although I have enjoyed using CherryTree and will continue to use it, my main form of sharing my hacking notes will be moved to my Defender Notes Gitbook.

Cherrytree notes