WordPress Releases Security Update (February 2016)

On the 3rd of February WordPress released a security update to their popular self-hosted blogging tool/content management system (CMS, defined) bringing it to version 4.4.2.

This is a critical security update that resolves 2 security issues. One is a server-side request forgery (SSRF) attack that could allow information disclosure since it has the potential to bypass normal access controls. The remaining issue was present on the login page of WordPress which could have been used to cause a redirect for a user trying to login.

Due to the severity of these issues, WordPress is advising it’s users to update immediately.

Separately a ransomware (defined) campaign is compromising very large numbers of WordPress websites by adding obfuscated (defined within this post) JavaScript (defined) to the websites that results in visitors to those sites being redirected to a website of the attacker’s choice. The JavaScript can deliver the ransomware to a victim system if it is using outdated versions of Adobe Flash Player/Reader, Microsoft Internet Explorer or Silverlight since it makes uses of the Nuclear exploit kit (defined). At this time there is very little detection of the exploit code using VirusTotal.com

A shortlist of recommendations to protect your WordPress website against this ransomware campaign is shown below (for your convenience). This list including further details of this threat is available from Heimdal Security’s blog post (I wish to express my sincere thanks to them for making such detailed information available to protect against this threat):

  • Keep software and your operating system updated at all times
  • Backup your data, do it often and in multiple locations
  • Use a security tool that can filter your web traffic and protect you against ransomware, which traditional antivirus cannot detect or block.

Moreover; a technical description of how this attack occurs against a WordPress website is available within this Sucuri blog post. Malwarebytes also provide advice and a further technical description in their blog post as they describe how the exploits have switched from the Nuclear exploit kit (defined) the to the Angler exploit kit.

As always; WordPress users can update their CMS manually (access your WordPress dashboard and choose Updates -> Update Now). Since version 3.7 of WordPress an automatic updater (thanks to Sophos for this useful piece of information) will install the above mentioned update in the background. WordPress.com hosted blogs such as the one you are reading now automatically receive such security updates.

For more information on installing updates to commonly used software, this blog can assist. Please see the “Protecting Your PC” page for how to keep software updated. Moreover; specific information on Adobe updates is available here with Microsoft updates discussed here.

Thank you.

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