21 - Pentesting FTP

Basic Information

The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a standard network protocol used for the transfer of computer files between a client and server on a computer network. It is a plain-text protocol that uses as new line character 0x0d 0x0a so sometimes you need to connect using telnet or nc -C.

Default Port: 21

21/tcp open  ftp


nc -vn <IP> 21
openssl s_client -connect crossfit.htb:21 -starttls ftp #Get certificate if any

Connect to FTP using starttls

lftp :~> set ftp:ssl-force true
lftp :~> set ssl:verify-certificate no
lftp :~> connect
lftp> login                       
Usage: login <user|URL> [<pass>]
lftp> login username Password

Unauth enum

You can us the commands HELP and FEAT to obtain some information of the FTP server:

214-The following commands are recognized (* =>'s unimplemented):
214-CWD     XCWD    CDUP    XCUP    SMNT*   QUIT    PORT    PASV    
214-EPRT    EPSV    ALLO*   RNFR    RNTO    DELE    MDTM    RMD     
214-XRMD    MKD     XMKD    PWD     XPWD    SIZE    SYST    HELP    
214-NOOP    FEAT    OPTS    AUTH    CCC*    CONF*   ENC*    MIC*    
214-PBSZ    PROT    TYPE    STRU    MODE    RETR    STOR    STOU    
214-APPE    REST    ABOR    USER    PASS    ACCT*   REIN*   LIST    
214-NLST    STAT    SITE    MLSD    MLST    
214 Direct comments to root@drei.work
 MFF modify;UNIX.group;UNIX.mode;
 MLST modify*;perm*;size*;type*;unique*;UNIX.group*;UNIX.mode*;UNIX.owner*;
211 End


In Active FTP the FTP client first initiates the control connection from its port N to FTP Servers command port – port 21. The client then listens to port N+1 and sends the port N+1 to FTP Server. FTP Server then initiates the data connection, from its port M to the port N+1 of the FTP Client.

But, if the FTP Client has a firewall setup that controls the incoming data connections from outside, then active FTP may be a problem. And, a feasible solution for that is Passive FTP.

In Passive FTP, the client initiates the control connection from its port N to the port 21 of FTP Server. After this, the client issues a passv comand. The server then sends the client one of its port number M. And the client initiates the data connection from its port P to port M of the FTP Server.

Source: https://www.thesecuritybuddy.com/vulnerabilities/what-is-ftp-bounce-attack/

Anonymous login

anonymous : anonymous anonymous : ftp : ftp

ftp <IP>
>ls -a # List all files (even hidden) (yes, they could be hidden)
>binary #Set transmission to binary instead of ascii
>ascii #Set transmission to ascii instead of binary
>bye #exit

Here you can find a nice list with default ftp credentials: https://github.com/danielmiessler/SecLists/blob/master/Passwords/Default-Credentials/ftp-betterdefaultpasslist.txt


Anon login and bounce FTP checks are perform by default by nmap with -sC option or:

nmap --script ftp-* -p 21 <ip>


  • ftp

  • port:21

Browser connection

You can connect to a FTP server using a browser (like Firefox) using a URL like:


Note that if a web application is sending data controlled by a user directly to a FTP server you can send double URL encode %0d%0a (in double URL encode this is %250d%250a) bytes and make the FTP server perform arbitrary actions. One of this possible arbitrary actions is to download content from a users controlled server, perform port scanning or try to talk to other plain-text based services (like http).

Download all files from FTP

wget -m ftp://anonymous:anonymous@ #Donwload all
wget -m --no-passive ftp://anonymous:anonymous@ #Download all

Some FTP commands

  • USER username

  • PASS password

  • HELP The server indicates which commands are supported

  • PORT 127,0,0,1,0,80This will indicate the FTP server to establish a connection with the IP in port 80 (you need to put the 5th char as "0" and the 6th as the port in decimal or use the 5th and 6th to express the port in hex).

  • EPRT |2||80|This will indicate the FTP server to establish a TCP connection (indicated by "2") with the IP in port 80. This command supports IPv6.

  • LIST This will send the list of files in current folder

  • APPE /path/something.txt This will indicate the FTP to store the data received from a passive connection or from a PORT/EPRT connection to a file. If the filename exists, it will append the data.

  • STOR /path/something.txt Like APPE but it will overwrite the files

  • STOU /path/something.txt Like APPE, but if exists it won't do anything.

  • RETR /path/to/file A passive or a port connection must be establish. Then, the FTP server will send the indicated file through that connection

  • REST 6 This will indicate the server that next time it send something using RETR it should start in the 6th byte.

  • TYPE i Set transfer to binary

  • PASV This will open a passive connection and will indicate the user were he can connects

FTPBounce attack

Some FTP servers allow the command PORT. This command can be used to indicate to the server that you wants to connect to other FTP server at some port. Then, you can use this to scan which ports of a host are open through a FTP server.

Learn here how to abuse a FTP server to scan ports.****

You could also abuse this behaviour to make a FTP server interact with other protocols. You could upload a file containing an HTTP request and make the vulnerable FTP server send it to an arbitrary HTTP server (maybe to add a new admin user?) or even upload a FTP request and make the vulnerable FTP server download a file for a different FTP server. The theory is easy:

  1. Upload the request (inside a text file) to the vulnerable server. Remember that if you want to talk with another HTTP or FTP server you need to change lines with 0x0d 0x0a

  2. Use REST X to avoid sending the characters you don't want to send (maybe to upload the request inside the file you needed to put some image header at the begging)

  3. Use PORTto connect to the arbitrary server and service

  4. Use RETRto send the saved request to the server.

Its highly probably that this will throw an error like Socket not writable because the connection doesn't last enough to send the data with RETR. Suggestions to try to avoid that are:

  • If you are sending an HTTP request, put the same request one after another until ~0.5MB at least. Like this:

  • Try to fill the request with "junk" data relative to the protocol (talking to FTP maybe just junk commands or repeating the RETRinstruction to get the file)

  • Just fill the request with a lot of null characters or others (divided on lines or not)

Anyway, here you have an old example about how to abuse this to make a FTP server download a file from a different FTP server.

Filezilla Server Vulnerability

FileZilla usually binds to local an Administrative service for the FileZilla-Server (port 14147). If you can create a tunnel from your machine to access this port, you can connect to it using a blank password and create a new user for the FTP service.

Config files


HackTricks Automatic Commands

Protocol_Name: FTP    #Protocol Abbreviation if there is one.
Port_Number:  21     #Comma separated if there is more than one.
Protocol_Description: File Transfer Protocol          #Protocol Abbreviation Spelled out

  Name: Notes
  Description: Notes for FTP
  Note: |
    Anonymous Login
    -bi     <<< so that your put is done via binary

    wget --mirror 'ftp://ftp_user:UTDRSCH53c"$6hys@'
    ^^to download all dirs and files

    wget --no-passive-ftp --mirror 'ftp://anonymous:anonymous@' 
    if PASV transfer is disabled


  Name: Banner Grab
  Description: Grab FTP Banner via telnet
  Command: telnet -n {IP} 21

  Name: Cert Grab
  Description: Grab FTP Certificate if existing
  Command: openssl s_client -connect {IP}:21 -starttls ftp

  Name: nmap ftp
  Description: Anon login and bounce FTP checks are performed
  Command: nmap --script ftp-* -p 21 {IP}

  Name: Browser Connection
  Description: Connect with Browser
  Note: ftp://anonymous:anonymous@{IP}

  Name: Hydra Brute Force
  Description: Need Username
  Command: hydra -t 1 -l {Username} -P {Big_Passwordlist} -vV {IP} ftp

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