25 Apr

What Security Review? Brand New WordPress Plugin Contains Widely Exploited Freemius Library Vulnerability

Brand new WordPress plugins are supposed to go through a security review before being allowed in the Plugin Directory. Either those reviews are not happening or they are failing to catch things that should have been caught. Take the plugin WP Buddha Free Adwords Plugin (Free Adwords Campaigner), which we came across due our proactive monitoring of changes made to plugins in the Plugin Directory to try to catch serious vulnerabilities flagging that it contained an authenticated option update vulnerability that was in older version of the Freemius library, which has been widely exploited.

Yesterday when we went to double check on that we found that the plugin didn’t actually work when installed, since the developer has placed most of the files in the wrong place in the Subversion repository for it. But when we pulled a copy of the files from the Subversion repository and moved them to the correct location we confirmed that the vulnerability is exploitable. That issue has now been fixed and the vulnerability remains in the plugin.

We have long offered to provide the team running the Plugin Directory help to have a capability similar to that monitoring. Running the plugin through our Plugin Security Checker would have warned about that as well. We have long offered the team running the Plugin Directory free access to the advanced mode of that tool for free. We haven’t heard any interest from that team to either of those offers.

What seems more concerning with the team running the Plugin Directory when it comes to that vulnerability is that nearly two months after it became public that the vulnerability was discovered by and exploited by hackers before even being fixed, there are still many plugins using it that have not been updated to fix it, but have remained in the directory despite being vulnerable. That includes one with 20,000+ installs and another with 10,000+ installs.

Due to the moderators of the WordPress Support Forum’s continued inappropriate behavior we are full disclosing vulnerabilities in protest until WordPress gets that situation cleaned up, so we are releasing this post and then leaving a message about that for the developer through the WordPress Support Forum. You can notify the developer of this issue on the forum as well. Hopefully the moderators will finally see the light and clean up their act soon, so these full disclosures will no longer be needed (we hope they end soon). You would think they would have already done that, but considering that they believe that having plugins, which have millions installs, remain in the Plugin Directory despite them knowing they are vulnerable is “appropriate action”, something is very amiss with them (which is even more reason the moderation needs to be cleaned up).

Update: To clear up the confusion where developers claim we hadn’t tried to notify them through the Support Forum (while at the same time moderators are complaining about us doing just that), here is the message we left for this vulnerability:

Proof of Concept

The proof of concept can be found in our previous post on the vulnerability.

Is It Fixed?

If you are reading this post down the road the best way to find out if this vulnerability or other WordPress plugin vulnerabilities in plugins you use have been fixed is to sign up for our service, since what we uniquely do when it comes to that type of data is to test to see if vulnerabilities have really been fixed. Relying on the developer’s information, can lead you astray, as we often find that they believe they have fixed vulnerabilities, but have failed to do that.

Concerned About The Security of the Plugins You Use?

When you are a paying customer of our service you can suggest/vote for the plugins you use to receive a security review from us. You can start using the service for free when you sign up now.

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