Bash my Head Against a Wall

Couldn’t think of a better pun

There’s a server in one of our makerspaces. A dinky desktop computer shoved into a server rack, but running Ubuntu Server nonetheless. I was able to get the root user login and password from one of our graduating seniors before he went off to flex his pent up CS prowess. I was traveling with the Spartans DBC for the summer, but I was eager to start tinkering with the server, so I whipped out my iPhone and started messaging my buddy Julius since he was on campus. The server is only accessible via devices with authorized SSH keys, so I fired up Termius and generated an SSH key for Julius to put into the server from the terminal at the makerspace. That’s when we started running into problems.


By default, giving someone access to a user on a Linux server is as simple as pasting their public key into the authorized_keys file. This is normally located in ~/.ssh/authorized_keys. I already have an account on the server and my laptop was authorized to login. I figured I’ll just put my phone’s pubkey into my file and bingo,
I'm in
I’m in.

Well I was not in. There was no .ssh folder in my user’s home directory. Odd. Creating an authorized_keys file didn’t work. Using the find command I found the authorized_keys file, except it was a directory and it was in /etc/ssh. Turns out this is where config for key auth is. The admin created an authorized_keys folder, gave each user their own key file in there, changed the logic in sshd_config for searching for keys (specifically, to /etc/ssh/authorized_keys/%u, which was pretty cool), and then just forgot about it. No sweat though, I learned a lot about key auth. Putting my key in my respective user file allowed me to be
I'm actually in
actually in.

However, now it was time to deal with the fact that every time I tried to tab complete anything (which I frequently do) it was yelling at me for the disk being full and being unable to create a temp file.

This was really annoying

So yeah, the drive was totally full. Couldn’t create any new files. A df showed the mounted disk at 100% used capacity. I had Julius attempt to run du -h | sort -h from root to list all the directories and their human-readable sizes sorted by size, but there wasn’t enough temp space to comb through the whole disk. So I found this command on stack overflow, du -cha --max-depth=1 / | grep -E "M|G" which would show sizes for all directories and files and their totals, but only those that are in the megabytes or gigabytes. Adding a sort and going 3 levels deep revealed that 97% of the usage was coming from a user named bitcoin. Classic.

Basically all of the imposing files were in a folder called blocks. A little bit of googling told me that this server was probably originally set up to be a full node for Bitcoin. That would explain why the computer was named “fullnode.” :grimacing:

Deleting the entire Bitcoin block chain felt like taking a breath of fresh air. I attempted to figure out what you’re supposed to do with a wallet.dat ‘cuz I assumed there might be some value in Bitcoin or something in there, but every solution seemed fairly convoluted. I tried some python-based wallet importer/exporter but the walletdump had a bunch of scary errors in its output so I gave up on that. Maybe I’m rich, who knows.

Probably not.

Remote pseudo root access

Great, the drive has space and I’m in from my phone. But I can’t do anything cause I don’t have sudo privileges. In all my wisdom I decided to resort to relaying my desires to Julius and having him execute commands from the root terminal. After a painful hour of this I realized I can just give my user sudo privileges since, hey, it’s basically our server now. Running usermod -aG sudo gabe on the root and reconnecting did the trick.

Written on August 20, 2019