Tips & Tricks
There is a big sense of accomplishment when solving a box completely on your own, but when you’re just getting started, that can feel impossible. A great resource for HackTheBox players trying to learn is writeups, both the official writeups available to VIP subscribers and the many written and video writeups developed by the HackTheBox community.
Some people worry about spoilers and robbing themselves of a potential learning experience, and while there's some logic to this thought process, with over 250 machines available on HackTheBox and new ones published every week, there will always be more boxes to learn from. Ignoring these resources can slow down your success, leaving you demotivated and not learning at all.
When learning to hack vulnerable machines like on HackTheBox, the necessary skills can be divided into three categories:
Many people focus on Hacking Techniques, which is fine but without all three skills, it will be hard to find success. An easy way to identify if you fall into this category is how much time you spend on a box after getting the root flag. After rooting the box, you should spend time looking at how each service was installed and reading other writeups to identify anything you may have missed.
Improving all three of these skill sets can be really tough, especially if you are not well-rounded already. If you are having trouble solving easy machines, chances are there’s just a small component you are missing. If you follow the steps below, we are sure you’ll find success!
Repetition is the best way to consistently be successful. Not only is it a proven method of memory retention but as long as you stick with it, you haven’t failed! Solving machines on HackTheBox without any guidance requires a lot of endurance and foundations that no beginners possess. If you burn yourself out trying to solve a machine, it will be tough for you to stay motivated in order to reap the benefits of repetition.
It’s always great to see progress, without write-ups machines are an open-ended problem which makes it very unpredictable on the amount of time you’ll spend solving a machine. If your goal is two machines per week and your training plan does not involve write-ups then a machine could take 30 minutes to full days. Having such an unpredictable time requirement means it won’t fit into a schedule which makes consistency difficult.
One of the things I wish I knew when I was younger is that professionals often don’t know what they are doing and learn “on the job”. When people join a tech company, it shouldn’t be expected that they hit the ground running and are immediately successful. Oftentimes new employees will shadow an experienced person and soak up their knowledge. This method is great but historically it did require getting a job first and shadowing on the job has become less efficient with the major shift to remote work. However, reading write ups or watching videos provides many of the same benefits of shadowing. The only thing that may be difficult is asking questions but you’d be surprised how often you’ll get a response when leaving a comment on their media or asking on Twitter.
Knowing the benefits of repetition, goals, and virtual shadowing, you can combine everything and create a training plan, which will help keep you motivated and always learning. Below are two different potential training plans, the first is how ippsec would approach it and the second is 0xdf’s. The purpose of showing both is to demonstrate there is no one answer, find what works for you, and make it your own!
Learning is much better with friends, I would highly recommend finding people around the same skill level that also enjoy doing similar things. If you're looking for friends to solve boxes with, our Discord Community is full of people at all skill levels. The best channels for this are under the "HTB: Platform" section, where there are specific places to talk about each type of challenge. Additionally, there are dedicated channels for the latest two boxes. Those dedicated channels are a great place to meet people as everyone there will be doing the same box as yourself.