Timeline

Saturday, August 6th: 10 AM

I eagerly opened up the email and read through the information. Both laptops were prepped and ready to go and I had a 10 pack of Monster Energy sitting in the fridge (9 if you count the one I had already downed.) I had a game plan, I was ready for this…I was so wrong!

10:45 AM

BAM! First box down. Confidence level: 1000%

I had prepped for this, I was ready. This box was my bread-and-butter.

Feeling like a God, I rush off and check my initial scans on the remaining boxes. Like any good pentester, I start to further enumerate my findings through various methods. Many interesting things stand out…many gotchas as well.

2:00 PM

Confidence Level: 90%

After 3 hours I was no closer to a low priv shell on the remaining boxes. I did have a lot of information to go off of though. I found that I was bouncing around to much, jumping from host to host after only 30 minutes. At this point I decided it was a good time for a break and left the house to run my wife some food at work.

8:30 PM

Confidence Level: 5%

It was at this point, approaching the half way mark, that I started to curse the world. I was doubting my abilities; wondering why I even signed up for this course in the first place. I spent so much time practicing one skill that the rest of them just weren’t there. I had made 0 progress in nearly 10 hours! Sure, I found some things, I could get MORE information, but I no clue what information I should be getting…

I went to my room feeling defeated and decided on 20 minutes of shut eye. I thought maybe if I rested my brain for a minute things would start to click…I was wrong. Ten minutes later I was back at it.

12:30 AM

Confide…There was no confidence at this point!

At this point I threw my hands up and decided a longer bit of sleep was needed. I set my alarm for 3 AM and laid down…

5:00 AM

ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!!

My wife’s alarm buzzed as I jumped out of bed realizing I didn’t turn my freaking volume up on my phone. Now I only had 5 hours left and only 1 host…ONE HOST! I needed at least 3 more to pass this exam. Screw confidence at this point, every stat was at 0…0 confidence, 0 intelligence, 0 self worth. I’m screwed!

6:37 AM

Text to my wife:

Well, I’m sure I failed!

8:00 AM

Chair flies behind me as I land root on another machine! Confidence restored, I only need TWO MORE HOSTS!

8:30 AM

Confidence level: 90% Another host bites it! OMG!!! One more host to go, just ONE MORE HOST and I got this, I win this game! I’m 10 points from the finish line. I have one hour and 15 minutes to land one more host.

8:45 AM

We got this…WE GOT THIS. Just picked up a low priv shell on one more host. Just need to escalate and I’m home free. Sitting at 60 points, if I get this host I’ll have enough points to pass. LET’S ESCALATE!

9:45 AM

Tap0 disconnects, exam time is over. Total score: 60 points with one low priv shell. 65 points if you count my Exam report as well. Will they count that low priv? Will I get points for it?

Confidence level: 50%

Yes…50%. It’s in the hands of offsec right now.

Noon

Lab report and exam report sent off to Offsec.

Monday 6:35 PM

VICTORY!

We are happy to inform you that you have successfully completed the Penetration Testing with Kali Linux certification exam and have obtained your Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) certification.

Official Review!

Don’t go into the exam lightly, and don’t rush! I landed all hosts in the lab environment in 41 days and felt very confident that I would smash the exam. I even set an arbitrary limit on myself, told myself I’d get it in under 12 hours and have the weekend to myself. Oh how wrong I was.

I wouldn’t say it was a lack of skill, the skill was there. The mental game was where it was at. I had 24 hours…24 hours to own the required number of hosts and I rushed. I bounced around without focus thinking I would just know what to do.

After I rested and went back to it with no confidence thinking I would fail; That’s when things started to click. When I had reached the point of failure thinking I wouldn’t pass things started to fall into place. It’s amazing what the right mindset will do for you! It was almost like I had to approach it as if I wasn’t going to win, like I was playing an impossible game and instead of focusing on winning, I should just focus on surviving until the very end.

In the end, I have no technical review, I have no advice on what you should and should not study. Instead, I’ll leave you with this quote:

β€œIn order to rise from its own ashes, a Phoenix first must burn.” ― Octavia E. Butler