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Concerns raised about WordPress’ new ‘White Screen Of Death’ protection feature

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Security researchers warn that a new feature that will ship with the next version of the WordPress CMS can be abused to disable security plugins and put WordPress sites and blogs at risk.

The feature, which has a very cool name in “WSOD (white-screen-of-death) Protection” and is considered the equivalent of a WordPress Safe Mode, is scheduled to make its debut with the release of WordPress 5.1, expected this spring.

Also: A botnet of over 20,000 WordPress sites is attacking other WordPress sites

As described by WordPress core developer Felix Arntz, the feature allows WordPress to recognize when a fatal PHP error occurs and what plugin or theme is causing it.

The WSOD Protection feature will pause the plugin or theme’s code and allow the site’s administrator to access the backend panel, where they can investigate and disable the culprit(s) causing the errors.

WordPress WSOD Protection

Image: Felix Arntz

The WordPress team began working on the WSOD Protection feature months ago. The feature is part of a grand master plan to help site owners update from using outdated PHP 5.x servers to using the newer 7.x branches.

The WSOD Protection feature was created at first to allow site owners to recover from site crashes after the PHP 7.x migration, but WordPress developers realized this could also be used to catch errors after updates to WordPress plugins or themes, which sometimes also crash sites in similar ways.

But as the feature took shape and neared completion, several security researchers have realized that it could also be abused.

In a blog post published earlier this week, bug hunter Slavco Mihajloski pointed out that attackers could use low-end and sometimes harmless exploits in WordPress plugins to trigger a fatal PHP error that will be caught by the WSOD protection feature.

Since the WSOD protection feature is designed to pause the faulty plugin’s execution, Mihajloski argues that attackers could abuse it to disable firewalls, two-factor authentication, brute-force protection, and other security-focused plugins installed on WordPress sites.


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Mihajloski’s worries were also shared by Matt Rusnak, QA Lead at WordFence. In a bug report discussing the feature, Rusnak also pointed out several other attack scenarios where the WSOD Protection feature would end up helping attackers.

  1. A plugin may be paused because another plugin used a lot of memory. When a site’s memory_limit is reached, the plugin that happened to be running at the time can be paused, even if it’s not using excessive memory. That might cause security issues, or may just be confusing for the admin, since the paused plugin(s) aren’t necessarily the cause of the issue.
  2. Local File Inclusion vulnerabilities in any plugin/theme will give the attacker the ability to pause many plugins at will. When any plugin/theme is vulnerable to “Local File Inclusion (LFI)”, an attacker often cannot use that to make changes to the site, but if plugins can be paused by WP 5.1 for redeclaring an existing class, an attacker can choose specific plugins to pause, even if those plugins are not vulnerable. I’ve included examples for Jetpack, WPS Hide Login, and Akismet, with a demo plugin with a simple LFI vulnerability. (There are over 1100 entries on Exploit DB at www.exploit-db.com when searching “local file inclusion” without quotes — some are old or are not WP plugins, but it’s common enough to be a concern.)
  3. It might be possible that max_execution_time has the same issue as memory_limit. I haven’t made a test case yet. On a shared host that is running slowly, or any server under heavy load (including during intentional DoS or brute force attacks), many of the requests could cause timeouts, which could occur in random plugins’ code or the theme’s code.

The WordPress team answered to Rusnak’s feedback with plans to add a new option in the wp-config.php settings file that would allow site owners to disable WSOD Protection. The new option is named WP_DISABLE_FATAL_ERROR_HANDLER.

It is unclear if WSOD protection will ship enabled by default or not when WordPress 5.1 is released, but the feature remains dangerous still, regardless of the addition of the new wp-config.php option.

Security experts recommend that for the time being, site owners only enable it temporarily when updating the PHP server, the WordPress core, or its themes and plugins. Otherwise, keep it disabled.

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Security

GigaOm Radar for Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR)

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Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) emerged as a product category in the mid-2010s. At that point, SOAR solutions were very much an automation and orchestration engine based on playbooks and integrations. Since then, the platforms have developed beyond the initial core SOAR capabilities to offer more holistic experiences to security analysts, with the aim of developing SOAR as the main workspace for practitioners.

Newer features offered by this holistic experience include case management, collaboration, simulations, threat enrichment, and visual correlations. Additionally, SOAR vendors have gradually implemented artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies to enable their platforms to learn from past events and fine-tune existing processes. This is where evolving threat categorization and autonomous improvement become differentiators in the space. While these two metrics are not critical for a SOAR platform, they may offer advantages in terms of reduced mean time to resolution (MTTR), resilience against employee turnover, and overall flexibility.

We’ve observed a lot of acquisition activity in the SOAR space. This was to be expected considering that, after 2015, a sizable number of pure-play SOAR vendors entered the market. Larger players with a wider security portfolio are acquiring these SOAR-specific vendors in order to enter the automation and orchestration market. We expect to see more SOAR acquisitions as the security tools converge, very likely into next-generation Security Information & Event Management products and services (SIEMs).

SIEM is a great candidate for a central management platform for security activities. It was designed to be a single source of truth, an aggregator of multiple security logs, but has been limited historically in its ability to carry out actions. In the past few years, however, SIEMs have either started developing their own automation and orchestration engines or integrated with third-party SOAR vendors. Through a number of acquisitions and developments, multiple players with wider security portfolios have begun to offer SOAR capabilities natively as part of other security solutions.

Going forward, we expect SOAR solutions to be further integrated into other products. This will include not only SIEM, but also solutions such as Extended Detection and Response (XDR) and IT automation. The number of pure-play SOAR vendors is unlikely to increase, although a handful may remain as fully agnostic solutions that enterprises can leverage in instances when their existing next-generation SIEM platforms do not meet all their use cases. However, for pure-play SOAR vendors to remain competitive, they will need to either expand into other security areas or consistently outperform their integrated counterparts.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

The post GigaOm Radar for Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) appeared first on Gigaom.

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GigaOm Radar for Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)

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Very few organizations see disaster recovery (DR) for their IT systems as a business differentiator, so they often prefer to outsource the process and consume it as a service (DRaaS) that’s billed monthly. There are many DRaaS providers with varying backgrounds, whose services are often shaped by that background. Products that started as customer-managed DR applications tend to have the most mature orchestration and automation, but vendors may face challenges transforming their application into a consumable service. Backup as a Service (BaaS) providers typically have great consumption models and off-site data protection, but they might be lacking in rich orchestration for failover. Other DRaaS providers come from IaaS backgrounds, with well-developed, on-demand resource deployment for recovery and often a broader platform with automation capabilities.

Before you invest in a DRaaS solution, you should attempt to be clear on what you see as its value. If your motivation is simply not to operate a recovery site, you probably want a service that uses technology similar to what you’re using at the protected site. If the objective is to spend less effort on DR protection, you will be less concerned about similarity and more with simplicity. And if you want to enable regular and granular testing of application recovery with on-demand resources, advanced failover automation and sandboxing will be vital features.

Be clear as well on the scale of disaster you are protecting against. On-premises recovery will protect against shared component failure in your data center. A DRaaS location in the same city will allow a lower RPO and provide lower latency after failover, but might be affected by the same disaster as your on-premises data center. A more distant DR location would be immune to your local disaster, but what about the rest of your business? It doesn’t help to have operational IT in another city if your only factory is under six feet of water.

DR services are designed to protect enterprise application architectures that are centered on VMs with persistent data and configuration. A lift-and-shift cloud adoption strategy leads to enterprise applications in the cloud, requiring cloud-to-cloud DR that is very similar to DRaaS from on-premises. Keep in mind, however, that cloud-native applications have different DR requirements.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

The post GigaOm Radar for Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) appeared first on Gigaom.

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GigaOm Radar for DDoS Protection

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With ransomware getting all the news coverage when it comes to internet threats, it is easy to lose sight of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks even as these attacks become more frequent and aggressive. In fact, the two threats have recently been combined in a DDoS ransom attack, in which a company is hit with a DDoS and then a ransom demanded in exchange for not launching a larger DDoS. Clearly, a solid mechanism for thwarting such attacks is needed, and that is exactly what a good DDoS protection product will include. This will allow users, both staff and customers, to access their applications with no indication that a DDoS attack is underway. To achieve this, the DDoS protection product needs to know about your applications and, most importantly, have the capability to absorb the massive bandwidth generated by botnet attacks.

All the DDoS protection vendors we evaluated have a cloud-service element in their products. The scale-out nature of cloud platforms is the right response to the scale-out nature of DDoS attacks using botnets, thousands of compromised computers, and/or embedded devices. A DDoS protection network that is larger, faster, and more distributed will defend better against larger DDoS attacks.

Two public cloud platforms we review have their own DDoS protection, both providing it for applications running on their public cloud and offering only cloud-based protection. We also look at two content delivery networks (CDNs) that offer only cloud-based protection but also have a large network of locations for distributed protection. Many of the other vendors offer both on-premises and cloud-based services that are integrated to provide unified protection against the various attack vectors that target the network and application layers.

Some of the vendors have been protecting applications since the early days of the commercial internet. These vendors tend to have products with strong on-premises protection and integration with a web application firewall or application delivery capabilities. These companies may not have developed their cloud-based protections as fully as the born-in-the-cloud DDoS vendors.

In the end, you need a DDoS protection platform equal to the DDoS threat that faces your business, keeping in mind that such threats are on the rise.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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