Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

4/30/2020
12:00 PM
50%
50%

Researchers Find Vulnerabilities in Popular Remote Learning Plug-ins

As more students move to online learning platforms, vulnerability researchers are revealing security flaws in some common software plug-ins.

Three popular WordPress plug-ins for online learning have significant software vulnerabilities that could allow attackers to access student information, steal money from course creators, or escalate their privileges to become teachers, according to an advisory published by security firm Check Point Software Technologies. 

Researchers from the company analyzed three popular plug-ins — used by tens of thousands of schools, companies, and websites — to provide online courses and quiz capabilities. They discovered critical issues in each platform, including SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and the unrestricted ability to upload files. The company notified the creators of the plug-ins and each has produced a patched version, which closes the vulnerabilities on up-to-date platforms.

"Many courses are using WordPress plug-ins because they make it really easy to start up a website and create content," says Omri Herscovici, vulnerability research team lead at Check Point. "And, obviously, the Corona situation has raised the importance of these platforms, opening up a pretty huge attack surface area."

Online learning has received a massive boost as most US schools have canceled in-person classes and moved learning online for the rest of the school year. In addition, workers urged to stay at home and avoid going out as the economy worsens are increasingly turning to online courses to pick up new skills.

Check Point argues that the increased popularity of remote learning will lead to more scrutiny by vulnerability researchers.

"These remote learning platforms open up a potential attack vector, especially because most workers are accessing these platforms from their home," Herscovici says. "And online researchers are focusing on these platforms in use by students — like they have done with Zoom — to find security issues. 

WordPress is a popular perennial target for both attackers and security researchers.

Over the past five years, dozens of vulnerabilities have been found in the main WordPress platform. As more research has focused on popular plug-ins for the platform, vulnerabilities have skyrocketed, topping more than 1,000 issues found last year, according to the National Vulnerability Database

The specific online learning plug-ins investigated by Check Point — LearnPress, LearnDash, and LifterLMS — are used by more than 100,000 schools, organizations, and content creators. Each of the plug-ins has at least one vulnerability, which the company found during its two-week research effort, including the unrestricted uploading of files on LifterLMS (CVE-2020-6008), SQL injection vulnerabilities on both LearnDash (CVE-2020-6009) and LearnPress (CVE-2020-6010), and a previously discovered unpatched vulnerability in LearnPress that could allow a student to become a teacher (CVE-2020-11511).

"Just prior to releasing the blog we found that this vulnerability was a duplicate and was also discovered by Wordfence," Check Point stated in its advisory. "Both of the vulnerabilities we reported [to LearnPress] received the same treatment from the author – the vulnerable functions were completely purged from the new patched version. A classic case of 'the best code is no code at all.'" 

The three platforms appear to have, for the most part, escaped attention from vulnerability researchers. Only a handful of CVEs have been assigned to the platforms since 2018, and no published security flaws exist before that year in the National Vulnerability Database.

The relative lack of security auditing may be changing. In March cybersecurity service Astra found a cross-site scripting flaw in LearnDash (CVE-2020-7108). Last year, LifterLMS fixed a vulnerability (CVE-2019-15896) that could have allowed administrator accounts to be created.

"The scope of these vulnerabilities demonstrate why procurement processes should include a security verification step," said Tim Mackey, principal security strategist with application-security firm Synopsys, in a statement sent to Dark Reading. "That verification step should look for any latent or unpatched vulnerabilities, but also look for weaknesses in configuration and susceptibility to attack. While we would love to accept that all vendors apply stringent security reviews to the code they release, the reality is those practices vary considerably between organizations, and defects do slip through."

Check Point did not investigate the major online course services, such as Coursera, edX, and Udemy, which do not use publicly available software so cannot be tested without permission. Because of their size, Herscovici argues they have likely had their software analyzed and tested.

"I'm not aware of their build quality, but most of these platforms are large, so they likely have had security audits," he says. 

Herscovici hopes that Check Point's publication of details of the recent vulnerability will lead to the developers of the plug-ins and course creators taking cybersecurity more seriously.

"We wanted to raise awareness to make sure that their learning systems are secure," he says. "It's their responsibility to make sure that they fully protect customers."

Related Content:

A listing of free products and services compiled for Dark Reading by Omdia analysts to help meet the challenges of COVID-19. 

Check out The Edge, Dark Reading's new section for features, threat data, and in-depth perspectives. Today's top story: "Election Security in the Age of Social Distancing."

Veteran technology journalist of more than 20 years. Former research engineer. Written for more than two dozen publications, including CNET News.com, Dark Reading, MIT's Technology Review, Popular Science, and Wired News. Five awards for journalism, including Best Deadline ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 9/25/2020
Navigating the Asia-Pacific Threat Landscape: Experts Dive In
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  9/25/2020
Startup Aims to Map and Track All the IT and Security Things
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  9/22/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world -- and enterprise computing -- on end. Here's a look at how cybersecurity teams are retrenching their defense strategies, rebuilding their teams, and selecting new technologies to stop the oncoming rise of online attacks.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-26120
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-27
XSS exists in the MobileFrontend extension for MediaWiki before 1.34.4 because section.line is mishandled during regex section line replacement from PageGateway. Using crafted HTML, an attacker can elicit an XSS attack via jQuery's parseHTML method, which can cause image callbacks to fire even witho...
CVE-2020-26121
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-27
An issue was discovered in the FileImporter extension for MediaWiki before 1.34.4. An attacker can import a file even when the target page is protected against "page creation" and the attacker should not be able to create it. This occurs because of a mishandled distinction between an uploa...
CVE-2020-25812
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-27
An issue was discovered in MediaWiki 1.34.x before 1.34.4. On Special:Contributions, the NS filter uses unescaped messages as keys in the option key for an HTMLForm specifier. This is vulnerable to a mild XSS if one of those messages is changed to include raw HTML.
CVE-2020-25813
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-27
In MediaWiki before 1.31.10 and 1.32.x through 1.34.x before 1.34.4, Special:UserRights exposes the existence of hidden users.
CVE-2020-25814
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-27
In MediaWiki before 1.31.10 and 1.32.x through 1.34.x before 1.34.4, XSS related to jQuery can occur. The attacker creates a message with [javascript:payload xss] and turns it into a jQuery object with mw.message().parse(). The expected result is that the jQuery object does not contain an <a> ...