25 Sep

Exploitation of Vulnerability in Simple Fields WordPress Plugin Shows That Unlike Other Security Providers We Keep Ahead of Hackers

If you want to understand why security, whether related to WordPress plugins or more broadly, is in such bad shape looking at the state of security journalism would be a good place to start. What you will find with WordPress plugins is that there are frequent stories telling people to update or remove plugins after they have already been widely exploited, which is too late. You might think that journalists would stop and think about that and realize there what is going on isn’t working (there is a line about the definition of insanity that comes to mind), but it doesn’t ever seem to occur for them. If anything they seem to think trying to better address the situation is a bad thing. For example, earlier today we mentioned that a journalist was criticizing us for having spotted a hacker targeting a plugin and then publicly warning everyone about that before there was confirmed exploitation. If journalists were actually interested in doing good journalism another element of that post is worth covering, as a new version of the plugin that fixes the exploited vulnerability has been released, but the WordPress is not allowing those using the plugin to get access to it.

That plugin was part of what looks to have been a set of nine plugins so far that a hacker has been recently looking to exploit. With another of those, Simple Fields, we saw what looked to be the hacker probing on the September 15 and we warned about a persistent cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability that it looked like the hacker would be interested in exploiting the next day. Other security providers still don’t seem to be aware of the issue (they at least have not warned about the issue), even though there is now public confirmation that it is being exploited. What that shows is not only how our service can often help to avoid websites being hacked by warning before the hackers exploit vulnerabilities instead of after, but also that we can help to address security situations that are beyond the scope of the average webmaster on their own. [Read more]

16 Sep

Hackers May Already be Targeting this Persistent XSS Vulnerability in Simple Fields

As part of monitoring we do to make sure we are providing customers of our service with the best possible data on vulnerabilities in WordPress plugins they may be using we monitor for what look to be hackers probing for usage of plugins. Last week through that we found two plugins with unfixed vulnerabilities that hackers would likely target. With a third plugin someone else had figure out what hackers would likely target before us (we are making changes to our process to improve our ability to quickly spot issues like that one). With a new week comes another instance of this. Yesterday we had an apparent hacker probing for usage of the plugin Simple Fields, which has 10,000+ installs, by requesting the following files:

  • /wp-content/plugins/simple-fields/scripts.js
  • /wp-content/plugins/simple-fields/readme.md

In looking into what the hacker might be interested in exploiting in that we found right away that there is a persistent cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the current version of the plugin that is similar to vulnerabilities that hackers have widely exploited recently. We saw other insecure code in the plugin and there look to be additional vulnerabilities, so the plugin should more thoroughly reviewed and secured before being used. [Read more]