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

9/16/2015
05:00 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Wordpress Dodges Further Embarassment By Patching Three Vulns

The popular platform for building and running websites fixed two XSS-scripting vulnerabilities and a potential privilege escalation exploit that could have put millions of sites at risk.

WordPress has released security updates that fix three issues, including two cross-site scripting vulnerabilities and a potential privilege escalation exploit, which could have allowed potential compromise of millions of live web sites, the company reports.

WordPress, a popular PHP-based Content Management System, is the most prominent web platform on the Internet today, running over 20 percent of the top one million websites worldwide, according to some reports.

As a result, cyber criminals and malicious hackers frequently target WordPress instances to gain access to private databases and internal network access. A typical WordPress compromise is based on exploits of vulnerabilities in an outdated plug-in component and, more recently, brute force attacks on WordPress are on the rise. As Daniel Cid, founder & CTO of Sucuri Security, wrote earlier this month on his company blog:

When you have an unprotected login page, you will see brute force attempts. With WordPress sites, the same rule applies. We see thousands of failed login attempts to /wp-login.php on the websites we protect per minute. In fact, failed login attempts jumped from 5.2 million in January  to 40.9 million on Sept. 15, on sites protected behind Sucuri's firewall.”

Heimdal Security, meanwhile, has observed an increase in malicious scripts injected into legitimate websites that redirect Internet users to the Neutrino exploit kit server when accessed. The company said that the attack is “carried out by systemically compromising websites which run an outdated content management system or outdated plugins." The cyber-attack is mainly directed at websites built on WordPress, according to the company.

Today, it’s all about the core code

However, these latest vulnerabilities were in the core WordPress code. So instead of affecting 5,000 to 10,000 sites that installed a specific plug-in, there was the potential for millions of websites worldwide being compromised, says Shahar Tal, head of vulnerability research with Check Point Technologies, which discovered two of the vulnerabilities

“So that is a different magnitude of discovery,” Tal says.

According to WordPress, version 4.3.1 addresses the following vulnerabilities, as well as fixes 26 bugs:

  • WordPress versions 4.3 and earlier are vulnerable to a cross-site scripting vulnerability when processing shortcode tags (CVE-2015-5714). Reported by Shahar Tal and Netanel Rubin of Check Point.
  • A separate cross-site scripting vulnerability was found in the user list table. Reported by Ben Bidner of the WordPress security team.
  • Finally, in certain cases, users without proper permissions could publish private posts and make them sticky (CVE-2015-5715). Reported by Shahar Tal and Netanel Rubin of Check Point.

Attackers have built specific tools, such as scanners, to search out and exploit vulnerabilities on WordPress platforms, Tal says. “There have been countless stories where adversaries – cybercriminals or nation-state adversaries – have actively infiltrated a WordPress website for multiple reasons,” he says.

Attackers are looking for ways to move laterally throughout an organization’s network. By hacking into a company’s web server, adversaries can continue into the internal network to see what they can find.  A second scenario is a watering hole attack, where an adversary can run arbitrary script code to try and infect every visitor to a website with certain malware, Tal says.

Typically a rare occurrence

Compared to the frequent findings of third-party plug-in vulnerabilities, issues with WordPress core code are rare, Tal notes. WordPress core developers are well-trained and have a high security awareness for all released code. This fact was confirmed during Check Point’s audit of the source code. Developers implement multiple layers of security protecting WordPress from most attack vectors Check Point security researchers can think of, Tal notes.

“WordPress in its core is relatively well-secured in comparison with most PHP code that you typically come across,” Tal says. PHP is a server-side scripting language designed for web development but is also used as a general-purpose programming language.

However, the security team lead by Netanel Rubin was very persistent and found several holes.  The first vulnerability allowed the researchers to escalate privileges from a subscriber user with read-only privileges, to a user who could create, write and post content.  A hacker could also use these privileges and create situations to perform SQL injection attacks on databases.  And, then they also discovered the cross-site scripting vulnerabilities.

Check Point’s team notified WordPress and opened up discussions in which they suggested fixes and a few alternatives to address the problems, Tal says. WordPress took one of the suggested alternatives and fixed the cross-scripting vulnerabilities. The privilege escalation fix was more complicated because it touched a sensitive area of code, plus it affected third-party plug-ins and libraries. As a result, the company needed more testing before coming out with that fix, Tal notes, which is now available in WordPress 4.3.1.

Rutrell Yasin has more than 30 years of experience writing about the application of information technology in business and government. View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 10/27/2020
Are You One COVID-19 Test Away From a Cybersecurity Disaster?
Alan Brill, Senior Managing Director, Cyber Risk Practice, Kroll,  10/21/2020
Modern Day Insider Threat: Network Bugs That Are Stealing Your Data
David Pearson, Principal Threat Researcher,  10/21/2020
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-2020-23945
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-27
A SQL injection vulnerability exists in Victor CMS V1.0 in the cat_id parameter of the category.php file. This parameter can be used by sqlmap to obtain data information in the database.
CVE-2020-7754
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-27
This affects the package npm-user-validate before 1.0.1. The regex that validates user emails took exponentially longer to process long input strings beginning with @ characters.
CVE-2020-6023
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-27
Check Point ZoneAlarm before version 15.8.139.18543 allows a local actor to escalate privileges while restoring files in Anti-Ransomware.
CVE-2020-8579
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-27
Clustered Data ONTAP versions 9.7 through 9.7P7 are susceptible to a vulnerability which allows an attacker with access to an intercluster LIF to cause a Denial of Service (DoS).
CVE-2020-6022
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-27
Check Point ZoneAlarm before version 15.8.139.18543 allows a local actor to delete arbitrary files while restoring files in Anti-Ransomware.