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 A typical WordPress compromise is based on exploits of vulnerabilities in an outdated plug-in component and, more recently, brute force attacks on WordPress are on the rise.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 The company said that the attack is “carried out by systemically compromising websites which run an outdated content management system or outdated plugins."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

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Data Leak Week: Billions of Sensitive Files Exposed Online
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  12/10/2019
Intel Issues Fix for 'Plundervolt' SGX Flaw
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  12/11/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-5252
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-14
There is an improper authentication vulnerability in Huawei smartphones (Y9, Honor 8X, Honor 9 Lite, Honor 9i, Y6 Pro). The applock does not perform a sufficient authentication in a rare condition. Successful exploit could allow the attacker to use the application locked by applock in an instant.
CVE-2019-5235
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-14
Some Huawei smart phones have a null pointer dereference vulnerability. An attacker crafts specific packets and sends to the affected product to exploit this vulnerability. Successful exploitation may cause the affected phone to be abnormal.
CVE-2019-5264
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-13
There is an information disclosure vulnerability in certain Huawei smartphones (Mate 10;Mate 10 Pro;Honor V10;Changxiang 7S;P-smart;Changxiang 8 Plus;Y9 2018;Honor 9 Lite;Honor 9i;Mate 9). The software does not properly handle certain information of applications locked by applock in a rare condition...
CVE-2019-5277
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-13
Huawei CloudUSM-EUA V600R006C10;V600R019C00 have an information leak vulnerability. Due to improper configuration, the attacker may cause information leak by successful exploitation.
CVE-2019-5254
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-13
Certain Huawei products (AP2000;IPS Module;NGFW Module;NIP6300;NIP6600;NIP6800;S5700;SVN5600;SVN5800;SVN5800-C;SeMG9811;Secospace AntiDDoS8000;Secospace USG6300;Secospace USG6500;Secospace USG6600;USG6000V;eSpace U1981) have an out-of-bounds read vulnerability. An attacker who logs in to the board m...