21 - FTP


The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) protocol is a standard network protocol used for the transfer of files between a client and server on a network. The FTP protocol operates at the Application Layer (L7) layer of the OSI model.

FTP is built on a client-server model architecture and uses separate control and data connections between the client and the server. FTP users may authenticate themselves with a clear-text sign-in protocol, normally in the form of a username and password, but can connect anonymously if the server is configured to allow it.

For secure transmission that protect, through encryption using cryptographic protocols, the username and password as well as the data transferred, FTP is often secured with an additional SSL/TLS layer (FTPS). The technologically different SSH File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) protocol achieves the same purpose, by providing file access, transfer, and management capabilities over the Secure Shell protocol (SSH) protocol. FTPS is associated by default with the TCP port 990 while SFTP, a subsystem of SSH, is usually used over the TCP port 22.

For file transfers or directory listings, FTP opens additional TCP connections on dynamic ports. In active mode the client creates a local listener and let the server know about its IP and port combination using the PORT command and the server then connects to the clients port (usually from port 20 on the server side). In passive mode the server opens the port and let the client know where it listens in response to the clients PASV command.

Network scan

nmap can be used to discover open FTP service and conduct basic recon operations:

nmap -v -sT -A -p 21 <IP | RANGE | CIDR>

Anonymous login

FTP services may allow anonymous connections with the anonymous or ftp accounts, i.e login that do not require the knowledge of a password to connect. Some FTP services may however parse the password to ensure it looks like a valid email address, so in doubt, it is recommended to always provide an email address as password whenever attempting an anonymous login.

nmap's default NSE script scan (-sC option, included with -A) will attempt anonymous login on the discovered FTP services. To specifically scan the network for FTP services supporting anonymous login, the following command can be used:

nmap -v -p 21 -sV --script ftp-anon.nse <IP | RANGE | CIDR>

ftp <HOST | IP>
Name: anonymous
Password: fake@email.com

Authentication brute force

The patator Python multi-purpose brute-forcer can be used to brute force credentials on exposed FTP / FTPS services:

patator ftp_login host=<TARGET> user=FILE0 password=FILE1 0=<WORDLIST_USERS> 1=<WORDLIST_PASSWORDS> [tls=<0 | 1>]-x ignore:mesg='Login incorrect.' -x ignore:mesg='User cannot log in.' -x ignore,reset,retry:code=500

FTP clients

[Linux | Windows] FTP Linux basic CLI client

The Linux or Windows built-in ftp clients can be used to connect and interact with an FTP service.

# Connects to the specified FTP service.
ftp> open <HOSTNAME | IP>

# Lists the remote files.
ftp> dir
ftp> ls

# Changes the working directory on the remote system.
ftp> cd

# Changes the working directory on the local system.
ftp> lcd

# Sets the transfer mode to binary, which is required to maintain the integrity of non-ASCII files.
# Expected response: "# 200 Type set to I".
ftp> binary

# Toggles the interactive mode on and off, which can be used to avoid confirmation whenever using the mget or mput commands.
ftp> prompt

# Prints the specified file content without downloading the file locally.
ftp> get <REMOTE_FILE> -

# Downloads the specified file.

# Downloads the files matching the specified regex.
ftp> mget <* | *.txt | ...>

# Uploads the specified file.

# Uploads the files matching the specified regex.
ftp> mput <* | *.txt | ...>

[Linux] Recursive FTP download using wget

The wget utility can be used to recursively download every files from a given FTP server:

wget --mirror ftp://anonymous:nopass@<IP>:<PORT>
wget --mirror ftp://<USER>:<PASSWORD>@<IP>:<PORT>

# The --no-passive option can be used to disable passive mode for FTP connections failing after the PASV command.
wget --no-passive --no-parent --mirror ftp://<USER>:<PASSWORD>@<IP>:<PORT>

[Linux | Windows] FileZilla

FileZilla is a cross-platforms, open source and feature-rich client with a graphical user interface that support the FTP, FTPS, and SFTP protocols.



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