11 Jul

We Added Three Times As Many Previously Unknown Vulnerabilities as the WPScan Vulnerability Database Did Last Month

If you are getting vulnerability data on WordPress plugins from someone other than us it is likely coming from the WPScan Vulnerability Database. That this is the data source being used often isn’t disclosed and we have yet to see anyone put any proper disclaimer as to the quality of the data or that they are simply passing along unverified claims.

If you go back through previous posts we have tagged related to that data source you can see more about the issues that come with their data, but we thought another way of looking how we provide superior data (which is just one of the features of our service) and why anyone paying a security service shouldn’t be provided their data was to look at how we compared to them in adding previously unknown vulnerabilities to our data set last month. In doing that we spotted an improvement to our process to provide even better data (we have a post coming out soon about another recent improvement) and a reminder that others involved in disclosing vulnerabilities can do a better job.

The top line, which people would probably be most interested in, is that we added 43 previously unknown vulnerabilities to our data last month and WPScan Vulnerability Database only added 14. That works out to them having only added a third as many, 33%, vulnerabilities last month.

WPScan Missed the Most Serious Vulnerabilities

Quantity isn’t everything though. While much of the security industry seems to be all too willing to make minor vulnerabilities sound like big threats, the reality is that most vulnerabilities are of little threat to the average website. They would be of more concern for the small sliver of websites that are likely to be targeted by hackers, which is the kind of websites we see more as being ones that it makes sense to use our service.

In looking at the vulnerabilities added to both sources last month, two vulnerabilities, an arbitrary file upload and arbitrary file viewing vulnerability, in one plugin stand out. Both of these are ones that are likely to be targeted by hackers if they were aware of them. The vulnerabilities were fixed, but the developer didn’t change the version number when they made that change. That means that those that already updated to the latest version remain vulnerable (as well as anyone still running an older version). We notified the developer after spotting that problem, but nearly a month later the version number still hasn’t been changed. For those using our service, they were notified long ago and provided instruction to resolve this problem by uninstalling and then reinstalling the plugin. For those relying on the WPScan Vulnerability Database’s data, they are completely unaware of these vulnerabilities.

There really isn’t a good reason for WPScan Vulnerability Database to missing those vulnerabilities. While we found that the vulnerabilities had been discovered and fixed through our extensive monitoring, which we have seen no evidence that anyone else even comes close to doing, the people behind that data source (or anyone else since they accept public submissions) could have simply followed our blog and become aware of these vulnerabilities, but apparently doing that is too difficult.

Room for Improvement on Our End

Since we have pointed several major problems with WPScan’s data additions, it would be unfair not to point out where we were less than perfect. To do that let’s take a look at the vulnerabilities added to WPScan’s data last month and whether we included them.

Also Included

10 of the 14 vulnerabilities they added were also added to our data during the month:

The last vulnerability listed there though is a good reminder of one of the quality issues with WPScan’s data. While their data lists the vulnerability as having been “fixed in version 4.6.5”, in truth it wasn’t fixed in that version or even fixed at the time they listed it as having been fixed. As we noted at the time, we notified the developer of the disclosure of the unfixed vulnerability and it was fixed shortly after that. If not for us the vulnerability likely would still be in the plugin.

Not Really a Vulnerability

Two of the reported vulnerabilities they included are ones that we were aware of but did not included in our data since they really are not vulnerabilities:

For Photo Gallery by WD, we already discussed the reason for the lack of inclusion.

For WP Jobs, access to the relevant page is restricted to those with the edit_themes capability, which would normally be Administrators, so this really wouldn’t be a vulnerability since Administrators normally already have the ability to do the equivalent of this. There is the possibility of related type of vulnerability that we have started to add to our data for which that plugin should be listed, which we will be discussing in an upcoming post.

Missed Vulnerabilities

Finally two vulnerabilities that actually existed that we were aware of but had not included in our data as of last month (they are now included):

For WP-Testimonials, the vulnerability was listed by the discoverer as being exploitable by an “authenticated user”, that is, someone logged in to WordPress. What was missing and often is missing from reports is what level of access a user has to have to exploit the vulnerability. That obviously makes a big difference, since most potential vulnerabilities are really not vulnerabilities if only accessibly by Administrators since among other things, they normally can edit plugins and remove any security protection.

In the case of this vulnerability it was normally only accessible by Administrators, but what we originally missed is that the plugin allows changing what users had access to the relevant page, so we should have listed it. We normally do check for that, but in preparing this post we realized a better way to do that. Instead of trying to look through a plugin’s settings, the better way to check for that is to look at the underlying code. In this instance when we went to write up this post we noticed the relevant code registering the vulnerable page listed the variable “$sfs_admng” as the capability need to access it:

add_menu_page('Testimonials', 'Testimonials', $sfs_admng, 'sfstst_manage', 'sfstst_adminpage', plugins_url('/wp-testimonials/sfstst_icon.png'));

When we went to look at what was used to specify that value we could see that it could be set from an option (setting):

if (get_option('sfs_admng') == '') { $sfs_admng = 'update_plugins'; } else {$sfs_admng = get_option('sfs_admng'); }

For WP Live Chat Support, the reason for our lack of earlier inclusion is the discloser had not provided enough information in their report to verify the vulnerability without us doing additional work. Doing that for this particular vulnerability got overtaken by other items that we needed to deal with. In this case though WPScan’s inclusion didn’t really provide their user with a better situation since when we got a chance to look into the details of the vulnerability we found that it had only been fixed in one of two locations it occurred. After we spotted that we notified the developer and it has now been resolved, so those relying on WPScan’s data and keeping their plugins up to date are protected despite not being told of what versions were really impacted.

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