22 Sep

PHP Object Injection Vulnerability in DS.DownloadList

For the second time through our proactive monitoring of changes in WordPress plugins for serious vulnerabilities we have found a vulnerability not just as it is added to a plugin, but as the plugin was introduced into the Plugin Directory.

There is a manual review done of plugins before they are approved for the Plugin Directory and that appears to be intended to involve some check of the security of the plugins as it is stated that:

 Then someone will manually review your code. If we find no issues with the security, documentation, or presentation, your plugin will be approved.

There is nothing beyond that, which explains what, if anything, is actually checked for security wise, which is concerning, Unfortunately that isn’t just an issue with that process, everything to do with handling security by the Plugin Directory is very opaque and maybe not unrelated to that, there are a lot of problems with their handling of security as well.

In the case of the plugin DS.DownloadList, what drew our attention to it was a PHP object injection vulnerability, which is a type of vulnerability that hackers have exploited widely in the last year. But during a review of the plugin the whole concept should have been concerning due to what it is described as doing, “A lightweight plugin to download files and browse folders”.

While the plugin has some protection against abuse what we found was that it could be used by anyone to view the contents of directories inside the /wp-content/ directory. That could for example, allow someone to find the names and then download backup files, which would otherwise be protected by the use of non-easily guessable file and directory names.

The PHP object injection vulnerability occurs at the beginning the function wp_ajax_dsdl(), which is located in the file /classes/Action.class.php:

public static function wp_ajax_dsdl()
	$atts = @unserialize(base64_decode($_REQUEST['atts']));

The value of the GET or POST input “atts” will be unserialized, which permits PHP object injection to occur.

From the name of the function you can probably guess that it is accessed through WordPress’ AJAX functionality. In this case it is made accessible whether logged in or not:

add_action('wp_ajax_dsdl', array('\dsdl\Action', 'wp_ajax_dsdl'));
add_action('wp_ajax_nopriv_dsdl', array('\dsdl\Action', 'wp_ajax_dsdl'));

We contacted the developer about the vulnerability a week ago, but have not heard back from them. In line with our disclosure policy, which is based on the need to provide our customers with information on vulnerabilities on a timely basis, we are now disclosing this vulnerability.

Proof of Concept

With our plugin for testing for PHP object injection installed and activated, visiting the following URL will cause the message “PHP object injection has occurred.” to be shown.

Make sure to replace “[path to WordPress]” with the location of WordPress.

http://[path to WordPress]/wp-admin/admin-ajax.php?action=dsdl&atts=TzoyMDoicGhwX29iamVjdF9pbmplY3Rpb24iOjA6e30=


  • September 15, 2017 – Developer notified.

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