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WordPress Zero-Day Vulnerability Found in 'Social Warfare' Plugin

'Social Warfare' was open to attacks through use of a stored Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability that was introduced with the latest change made to the plugin (3.5.2).

Larry Loeb

March 26, 2019

3 Min Read

A WordPress plugin with over 70,000 installations was found to have a zero-day vulnerability that was exploited in the wild.

The plugin, "Social Warfare," was open to attacks through use of a stored Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability that was introduced with the latest change made to the plugin (3.5.2). The flaw would allow attackers to inject malicious JavaScript code into the social share links present on a site's posts.

The Social Warfare plugin is one of the most popular WordPress social media sharing plugins and has more than 805,000 downloads.

An attacker using the zero day would be able to input a URL pointing to a crafted configuration document, which would then overwrite the plugin's settings on the victim's site.

Wordfence, a security firm, was able to provide an in-depth analysis of what was actually occurring.

A visitor to a compromised site would be redirected to other malicious sites, such as tech support scams.

Social Warfare posted to Twitter that:

  • "We are aware of a zero-day exploit affecting Social Warfare currently being taken advantage of in the wild. Our developers are working to release a patch within the next hour. In the meantime, we recommend disabling the plugin. We will update you as soon as we know more. — Warfare Plugins (@warfareplugins)"

The plugin developers came up with the 3.5.3 update in rather short order which basically rolled back the changes made in 3.5.2, and therefore the vulnerability. The plugin's Changelog indicated the update was an "Immediate security patch for 3.5.x" without further information.

The 3.5.2 version of the plugin was pulled from the WordPress repository for a period, and then reinstated. That would mean an automatic notification of a needed update for the plugin would be generated.

Additionally, the developers also made a direct link to the corrected version available before it made it into the repository to increase the speed of dissemination.

However, the sites using Social Warfare were not mollified so easily. One, TechAeris, illuminated what they felt to be the real problem: trust.

"When you run a website," it posted on its site, "a certain level of trust extends to the developers of plugins you run to help enhance your website, especially when you are paying for premium plugins. When you're running plugins that 70,000 other websites are running, that trust factor gains a sort of implied additional trust. Sure, mistakes happen, and sure Social Warfare was relatively quick with a fix once they were made aware of the exploit. But, unfortunately, that earned trust has been broken and we will be moving on."

How customers react to a stressful situation is always unpredictable. Some, like TechAeris, will just walk away. Others will continue the relationship into the future. But this example shows how coding problems can end up affecting a product's bottom line in a meaningful way.

— Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek.

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About the Author(s)

Larry Loeb

Blogger, Informationweek

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet protocol. His latest book has the commercially obligatory title of Hack Proofing XML. He's been online since uucp "bang" addressing (where the world existed relative to !decvax), serving as editor of the Macintosh Exchange on BIX and the VARBusiness Exchange. His first Mac had 128 KB of memory, which was a big step up from his first 1130, which had 4 KB, as did his first 1401. You can e-mail him at [email protected].

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