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Zero-day in popular WordPress plugin exploited in the wild to take over sites

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Hackers have exploited –and are currently continuing to exploit– a now-patched zero-day vulnerability in a popular WordPress plugin to install backdoors and take over sites.

The vulnerability affects WP GDPR Compliance, a WordPress plugin that helps site owners become GDPR compliant. The plugin is one of the most popular GDPR-themed plugins on the WordPress Plugins directory, with over 100,000 active installs.

Around three weeks ago, attackers seem to have discovered a vulnerability in this plugin and began using it to gain access to WordPress sites and install backdoor scripts.

Initial reports about hacked sites were made into another plugin’s support forum, but that plugin turned out to have been installed as a second-stage payload on some of the hacked sites.

After investigations led by the WordPress security team, the source of the hacks was eventually traced back to WP GDPR Compliance, which was the common plugin installed on all reported compromised sites.

The WordPress team removed the plugin from the official Plugins directory earlier this week after they identified several security issues within its code, which they believed were the cause of the reported hacks.

The plugin was reinstated two days ago, but only after its authors released version 1.4.3, which contained patches for the reported issues.

Attacks are still going on

But despite the fixes, attacks on sites still running versions 1.4.2 and older are still going on, according to security experts from Defiant, a company that runs the Wordfence firewall plugin for WordPress sites.

The company’s analysts say they’re continuing to detect attacks that try to exploit one of the reported WP GDPR Compliance security issues.

In particular, attackers are targeting a WP GDPR Compliance bug that allows them to make a call to one of the plugin’s internal functions and change settings for both the plugin, but also for the entire WordPress CMS.

The Wordfence team says they’ve seen two types of attacks using this bug. The first scenario goes like this:

  • Hackers use bug to open the site’s user registration system.
  • Hackers use bug to set the default role for new accounts to “administrator.”
  • Hackers register a new account, which automatically becomes an administrator. This new account is usually named “t2trollherten.”
  • Hackers set back default user role for new accounts to “subscriber.”
  • Hackers disable public user registration.
  • Hackers log into their new admin account.
  • They then proceed to install a backdoor on the site, as a file named wp-cache.php.

This backdoor script (GUI pictured below) contains a file manager, terminal emulator, and a PHP eval() function runner, and Wordfence says that “a script like this on a site can allow an attacker to deploy further payloads at will.”

wp-gdpr-plugin-backdoor.png

Image: Defiant

But experts also detected a second type of attack, which doesn’t rely on creating a new admin account, which might be spotted by the hacked site’s owners.

This second and supposedly more silent technique involves using the WP GDPR Compliance bug to add a new task to WP-Cron, WordPress’ built-in task scheduler.

The hackers’ cron job downloads and installs the 2MB Autocode plugin, which attackers later use to upload another backdoor script on the site –also named wp-cache.php, but different from the one detailed above.

But while hackers tried to make this second exploitation scenario more silent than the first, it was, in fact, this technique that led to the zero-day’s discovery.

This happened because, on some sites, the hackers’ exploitation routine failed to delete the 2MB Autocode plugin. Site owners saw a new plugin appeared on their sites and panicked.

It was, in fact, on this plugin’s WordPress support forum that site owners first complained about hacked sites, and triggered the investigation that led back to the WP GDPR Compliance plugin.

Attackers are stockpiling hacked sites

Right now, the attackers don’t appear to be doing anything malicious with the hacked sites, according to the Wordfence team.

Hackers are just stockpiling hacked sites, and Wordfence has not seen them trying to deploy anything malicious through the backdoor scripts, such as SEO spam, exploit kits, malware, or other kinds of badness.

Site owners using the WP GDPR Compliance plugin still have time to update or remove the plugin from their sites and clean any backdoors that have been left behind. They should do this before their site takes a hit in terms of search engine rankings, which usually happens after Google finds malware on their domains during its regular scans.

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Security Tools Help Bring Dev and Security Teams Together

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Software development teams are increasingly focused on identifying and mitigating any issues as quickly and completely as possible. This relates not only to software quality but also software security. Different organizations are at different levels when it comes to having their development teams and security teams working in concert, but the simple fact remains that there are far more developers out there than security engineers.

Those factors are leading organizations to consider security tooling and automation to proactively discover and resolve any software security issues throughout the development process. In the recent report, “GigaOm Radar for Developer Security Tools,” Shea Stewart examines a roundup of security tools aimed at software development teams.

Stewart identified three critical criteria to bear in mind when evaluating developer security tools. These include:

  • Vendors providing tools to improve application security can and should also enhance an organization’s overall security posture.
  • The prevailing “shift-left” mindset doesn’t necessarily mean the responsibility for reducing risk should shift to development, but instead focusing on security earlier in the process and continuing to do so throughout the development process will reduce risk and the need for extensive rework.
  • Security throughout the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC) is critical for any organization focused on reducing risk.

Figure 1. How Cybersecurity Applies Across Each Stage of the Software Development Lifecycle *Note: This report focuses only on the Developer Security Tooling area

Individual vendors have made varying levels of progress and innovation toward enhancing developer security. Following several acquisitions, Red Hat, Palo Alto Networks, and Rapid7 have all added tooling for developer security to their platforms. Stewart sees a couple of the smaller vendors like JFrog and Sonatype as continuing to innovate to remain ahead of the market.

Vendors delving into this category and moving deeper into “DevSecOps” all seem to be taking different approaches to their enhanced security tooling. While they are involving security in every aspect of the development process, some tend to be moving more quickly to match the pace of the SDLC. Others are trying to shore up existing platforms by adding functionality through acquisition. Both infrastructure and software developers are now sharing toolsets and processes, so these development security tools must account for the requirements of both groups.

While none of the 12 vendors evaluated in this report can provide comprehensive security throughout the entire SDLC, they all have their particular strengths and areas of focus. It is therefore incumbent upon the organization to fully and accurately assess its SDLC, involve the development and security teams, and match the unique requirements with the functionality provided by these tools. Even if it involves using more than one at different points throughout the process, focus on striking a balance between stringent security and simplifying the development process.

Read more: Key Criteria for Evaluating Developer Security Tools, and the Gigaom Radar for Developer Security Tool Companies.

The post Security Tools Help Bring Dev and Security Teams Together appeared first on Gigaom.

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Key Criteria for Evaluating User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA)

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Cybersecurity is a multidisciplinary practice that not only grows in complexity annually but evolves nearly as quickly. A survey of the security landscape today would reveal concerns ranging from the classic compromised servers to the relatively new DevSecOps practices aimed at securing the rapid deployment of new code and infrastructure. However, some things remain constant no matter how much change is introduced. While technology evolves and complexity varies, there is almost always a human component in
risks presented to an organization.

User Behavior Analysis (UBA) was designed to analyze the actions of users in an organization and attempt to identify normal and abnormal behaviors. From this analysis, malicious or risky behaviors can be detected. UBA solutions identify events that are not detectable using other methods because, unlike classic security tools (an IDS or SIEM for example), UBA does not simply pattern match or apply rule sets to data to identify security events. Instead, it looks for any and all deviations from baseline user activity.

As technology advanced and evolved, and the scope of what is connected to the network grew, the need to analyze entities other than users emerged. In response, entity analysis has been added to UBA to create UEBA or User and Entity Behavior Analysis. The strategy remains the same, but the scope of analysis has expanded to include entities involving things like daemons, processes, infrastructure, and so on.

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 Key Criteria for Evaluating User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) appeared first on Gigaom.

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GigaOm Radar for Developer Security Tools

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As we learned in the associated GigaOm report, “Key Criteria for Evaluating Developer Security Tools,” the most cost-effective method for reducing risk in software development is to identify and fix issues as close to the developer as possible. As the number of software developers continues to vastly outnumber the number of security professionals allocated to any software project, organizations need to invest in security tooling and automation that can help software developers consider and mitigate security risks in a proactive manner.

Add to this situation an appreciation for how the role of the developer has changed vastly over the last few years: Developers aren’t just responsible for software components; they can write infrastructure components, security controls, automations/integrations, and so forth. This has blended the worlds of the traditional software developers and the infrastructure and operations teams responsible for the environments that software components are deployed to. A much wider range of job titles can be incorporated into the developer role now, which requires the same security tooling and process oversight as does traditional software development.

As we consider how to evaluate vendors for developer security tools, we need to take these points into account:

  • All vendors involved in improving application security can contribute to an organization’s overall enhanced security posture.
  • “Shift-left” mindsets do not imply that the work of reducing risk is simply shifted to the developer, but rather that adding a focus on security early in the process will reduce risk and rework as software moves through the delivery pipeline.
  • Security throughout the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC) is key for any organization that is focused on reducing risk.

In this report we have identified a number of vendors that address the specific need to catch and remediate security issues earlier in the software development lifecycle, which we articulate in the report as table stakes, key criteria, and evaluation metrics. While we review 12 vendor solutions here, we ruled out many more, including several offering capabilities focused on runtime protection, which merit review in upcoming GigaOm Key Criteria and Radar Reports.

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 Developer Security Tools appeared first on Gigaom.

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