Google WordPress Plug-in Bug Allows AWS Metadata Theft

A successful attacker could use the SSRF vulnerability to collect metadata from WordPress sites hosted on an AWS server, and potentially log in to a cloud instance to run commands.

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A vulnerability in the Google Web Stories plug-in for WordPress could be exploited via a server-side request forgery (SSRF) vulnerability to steal Amazon Web Services (AWS) metadata from sites hosted on the AWS server. That metadata can include sensitive information such as the AccessKeyId, SecretAccessKey, and Token.

An SSRF vulnerability gives attackers a way to elevate privileges on a compromised system using a modified URL, thereby gaining access to internal resources.

The Web Stories plug-in is an open visual storytelling format for the Web, consisting of animations and other interactive graphics, which can be shared and embedded across sites and apps. There are more than 100,000 active installations of the plug-in.

A Wordfence research team discovered the plug-in was vulnerable to the SSRF bug (CVE-2022-3708) in versions through 1.24.0, due to insufficient validation of URLs supplied via the "url" parameter found via the /v1/hotlink/proxy REST API Endpoint.

"Exploiting this vulnerability, an authenticated user could make web requests to arbitrary locations originating from the web application," Wordfence Threat Intelligence team member Topher Tebow wrote in a Dec. 21 blog post.

He added that, in testing, the team was able to uncover specific metadata used to enable features like EC2 Instance Connect; stolen metadata could then be used to log in to the virtual server and run commands through the terminal.

The researcher noted that this is the tip of the iceberg: "There are many metadata categories provided by AWS that each have specific uses and varying degrees of severity if misused."

The team found the flaw in October, and by the end of November, two blocks of code were updated to fully patch the vulnerability in the plug-in.

"With the patch applied within version 1.25.0 and newer, attempts to obtain AWS metadata will fail," Tebow explained.

He added that the attack can succeed for users logged in with an account that has minimal permissions, such as a subscriber, so the issue particularly threatens sites with open registration.

"The authenticated user does not need high level privileges to exploit this vulnerability," Tebow continued.

Using Zero Trust to Limit SSRF Vulnerabilities

"Understanding the impact of vulnerabilities such as SSRF vulnerabilities is critical for developers," Tebow wrote. "Keeping code secure can be difficult to ensure during the development phase, which is why the code must be tested for vulnerabilities during and after it has been written."

Developers were advised to pay close to attention to their coding practices as they relate to the vulnerabilities inherent in each programming language, ensure any inputs are validated, and to adopt a posture of zero trust authentication.

"SSRF vulnerabilities are possible because the internal and external resources may be configured to assume that requests sent from an internal location are inherently trustworthy," Tebow noted. "By requiring validation and authorization for every action, this default trust is removed, and requests must be validated properly before being considered trusted."

Constant code reviews and updates of WordPress plug-ins and themes are among the other steps that developers can take to limit exploits of WordPress-built websites.

WordPress Sites Face a Raft of Security Issues

Malicious actors have been targeting WordPress sites at a rapid clip — mainly through vulnerable plug-ins — since the beginning of the year: In February, a report found tens of thousands of websites powered by WordPress were vulnerable to attack via a remote code execution (RCE) bug in a widely used plug-in called Essential Addons for Elementor.

In May, there was a widespread attack launched to exploit known RCE flaw in the Tatsu Builder WordPress plug-in, and two months later, researchers discovered a phishing kit that injects malware into legitimate WordPress sites and uses a fake PayPal-branded social engineering scam.

More recently, a threat group called SolarMarker exploited a vulnerable WordPress-run website to encourage victims to download fake Chrome browser updates, while another group of attackers were actively exploiting a critical vulnerability in BackupBuddy, a WordPress plug-in that an estimated 140,000 websites are using to back up their installations.

About the Author(s)

Nathan Eddy, Contributing Writer

Nathan Eddy is a freelance journalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker specializing in IT security, autonomous vehicle technology, customer experience technology, and architecture and urban planning. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Nathan currently lives in Berlin, Germany.

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