Core Security Technologies Advisory 2009.0515

Type packetstorm
Reporter Core Security Technologies
Modified 2009-07-08T00:00:00


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Core Security Technologies - CoreLabs Advisory  
WordPress Privileges Unchecked in admin.php and Multiple Information  
1. *Advisory Information*  
Title: WordPress Privileges Unchecked in admin.php and Multiple  
Information Disclosures  
Advisory ID: CORE-2009-0515  
Advisory URL:  
Date published: 2009-07-08  
Date of last update: 2009-07-08  
Vendors contacted: WordPress  
Release mode: Coordinated release  
2. *Vulnerability Information*  
Class: Local file include, Privileges unchecked, Cross site scripting  
(XSS), Information disclosure  
Remotely Exploitable: Yes  
Locally Exploitable: No  
Bugtraq ID: 35581, 35584  
CVE Name: CVE-2009-2334, CVE-2009-2335, CVE-2009-2336  
3. *Vulnerability Description*  
WordPress is a web application written in PHP that allows the easy  
installation of a flexible weblog on any computer connected to the  
Internet. WordPress 2.7 reached more than 6 million downloads during  
June 2009 [9].  
A vulnerability was found in the way that WordPress handles some URL  
requests. This results in unprivileged users viewing the content of  
plugins configuration pages, and also in some plugins modifying plugin  
options and injecting JavaScript code. Arbitrary native code may be run  
by a malicious attacker if the blog administrator runs injected  
JavasScript code that edits blog PHP code. Many WordPress-powered blogs,  
hosted outside '', allow any person to create unprivileged  
users called subscribers. Other sensitive username information  
disclosures were found in WordPress.  
4. *Vulnerable packages*  
. WordPress 2.8 and previous  
. WordPress MU 2.7.1 and previous, used in  
5. *Non-vulnerable packages*  
. WordPress 2.8.1  
. WordPress MU 2.8.1, used in  
6. *Vendor Information, Solutions and Workarounds*  
Mitigation for the Privileges Unchecked vulnerability (suggested by Core  
Security): this vulnerability may be mitigated by controlling access to  
files inside the 'wp-admin' folder. Access can be prohibited by using  
Apache access control mechanism ('.htaccess' file), see guideline for  
more information [11].  
7. *Credits*  
These vulnerabilities were discovered and researched by Fernando  
Arnaboldi and José Orlicki from Core Security Technologies. Further  
research was made by Jose Orlicki from Core Security Technologies.  
8. *Technical Description / Proof of Concept Code*  
8.1. *Introduction*  
In the last few years several security bugs were found in WordPress  
[1][2]. During 2008, the big amount of bugs reported by researchers lead  
to exploitation by blog spammers [3]. During 2009, a new round of  
attacks has appeared and security researchers are reporting new bugs or  
wrongly fixed previously-reported bugs [4][5]. A path traversal in local  
files included by 'admin.php' has been fixed [6][7] but, in our case, we  
report that administrative privileges are still unchecked when accessing  
any PHP file inside a plugin folder.  
8.2. *Access Control Roles*  
WordPress has a privilege model where any user has an assigned role [8].  
Regarding plugins only users characterized by the role Administrator can  
activate plugins. Notice that only the blog hosting owner can add new  
plugins because these must by copied inside the host filesystem. The  
roles Editor, Author or Subscriber (the latter has the least privileges)  
cannot activate plugins, edit plugins, update plugins nor delete plugins  
installed by an Administrator. Besides that, the configuration of  
specific plugins is a grey area because there is no distinguished  
capability assigned [8].  
Also due to cross-site scripting vulnerabilities inside plugins options  
(something very common), non-administrative users reconfiguring plugins  
may inject persistent JavaScript code. Possibly arbitrary native code  
can be executed by the attacker if the blog administrator runs injected  
JavasScript code that injects PHP code. It is important to observe that  
many WordPress-powered blogs are configured to allow any blog visitor to  
create a Subscriber user without confirmation from the Administrator  
role inside the following URL, although by default the Administrator  
role must create these new users.  
- -----------/  
This can be modified by the administrator in 'Membership/Anyone can  
- -----------/  
8.3. *Privileges Unchecked in admin.php?page= Plugin Local File Includes  
(CVE-2009-2334, BID 35581)*  
No privileges are checked on WordPress plugins configuration PHP modules  
using parameter 'page' when we replace 'options-general.php' with  
'admin.php'. The same thing happens when replacing other modules such as  
'plugins.php' with 'admin.php'. Basic information disclosure is done  
this way. For example, with the following URL a user with no privileges  
can see the configuration of plugin Collapsing Archives, if installed.  
- -----------/  
Instead of the following allowed URL.  
- -----------/  
Another example of this information disclosure is shown on Akismet, a  
plugin shipped by default with WordPress.  
- -----------/  
All plugins we have tested are vulnerable to this kind of information  
disclosure, but in many of them the PHP files accessed just crashed. On  
the other hand, for example, with capability 'import', privileges are  
checked inside 'admin.php':  
if ( ! current_user_can('import') )  
wp_die(__('You are not allowed to import.'));  
- -----------/  
More dangerous scenarios exist, all of them can be exploited by users  
with the Subscriber role, the least privileged.  
8.4. *Abuse example: XSS in plugin configuration module*  
If installed, *Related Ways To Take Action* is an example of a WordPress  
plugin that is affected by many cross-site scripting vulnerabilities  
(XSS) that can be leveraged by an attacker using the unchecked  
privileges described in this advisory to inject persistent JavaScript  
code. Possibly, arbitrary native code can be executed by the attacker if  
the blog administrator, when he/she logs in, runs injected JavasScript  
code that edits blog PHP code. The original URL for reconfiguring the  
plugin can be accessed only by the Administrator role.  
- -----------/  
But replacing the PHP file with the generic 'admin.php' any blog user  
can modify this configuration.  
- -----------/  
The following JavaScript injection can be entered within field *Exclude  
actions by term* to exemplify this kind of abuse. When the administrator  
enters the same page the injected browser code will be executed and  
possibly blog PHP can be modified to run arbitrary native code.  
- -----------/  
This is the worst scenario that we found for the vulnerability.  
8.5. *Abuse example: viewing WP Security Scanner Plugin Dashboard*  
If installed, the WordPress Security Scanner Plugin dashboard can be  
viewed similarly by any user besides the administrator using the plugin  
configuration page URL without modification. This dashboard includes  
common default blog configuration settings that are insecure and should  
be modified by the blog administrator or hosting.  
- -----------/  
8.6. *Abuse example: reconfiguring WP-IDS, a WordPress Hardening Project*  
If installed, the *Intrusion Detection System Plugin (WPIDS)*[10] can be  
reconfigured accessed with the same vulnerability.  
- -----------/  
This gives an attacker the possibility to disable many features of the  
plugin, for example reactivate the forgotten password feature and  
reactivate the XML-RPC blog interface. Also you can deny the weblog  
service by configuring this plugin to be overly sensitive, blocking any  
request. However the plugin cannot be totally disabled because the  
essential IDS parameters 'Maximum impact to ignore bad requests' and  
'Minimum impact to sanitize bad requests' are verified on the server  
side of the blog and cannot be distorted to deactivate the sanitizing or  
blocking features of the web IDS plugin.  
8.7. *Other Information Disclosures (CVE-2009-2335, CVE-2009-2336, BID  
WordPress discriminates bad password from bad user logins, this reduces  
the complexity of a brute force attack on WordPress blogs login  
(CVE-2009-2335, BID 35584). The same user information disclosure happens  
when users use the forgotten mail interface to request a new password  
(CVE-2009-2336, same BID 35584). These information disclosures seem to  
be previously reported [6] but the WordPress team is refusing to modify  
them alleging *user convenience*.  
Default installation of WordPress 2.7.1 leaks the name of the user  
posting entries inside the HTML of the blog.  
<small>June 3rd, 2009 <!-- by leakedusername --></small>  
- -----------/  
Also several administrative modules give to anyone the complete path  
where the web application is hosted inside the server. This may simplify  
or enable other malicious attacks. An example follows.  
- -----------/  
Notice: Use of undefined constant ABSPATH - assumed 'ABSPATH' in  
[WP_LEAKED_PATH]\wp-settings.php on line 110  
Notice: Use of undefined constant ABSPATH - assumed 'ABSPATH' in  
[WP_LEAKED_PATH]\wp-settings.php on line 112  
Warning: require(ABSPATHwp-includes/compat.php) [function.require]:  
failed to open stream:  
No such file or directory in [WP_LEAKED_PATH]\wp-settings.php on line 246  
Fatal error: require() [function.require]: Failed opening required  
(include_path='.;[PHP_LEAKED_PATH]\php5\pear') in  
[WP_LEAKED_PATH]\wp-settings.php on line 246  
- -----------/  
9. *Report Timeline*  
. 2009-06-04:  
Core Security Technologies notifies the WordPress team of the  
vulnerabilities ( and offers a technical  
description encrypted or in plain-text. Advisory is planned for  
publication on June 22th.  
. 2009-06-08:  
Core notifies again the WordPress team of the vulnerability.  
. 2009-06-10:  
The WordPress team asks Core for a technical description of the  
vulnerability in plain-text.  
. 2009-06-11:  
Technical details sent to WordPress team by Core.  
. 2009-06-11:  
WordPress team notifies Core that a fix was produced and is available to  
Core for testing. WordPress team asserts that password and username  
discrimination as well as username leakage are known and will not be  
fixed because they are convenient for the users.  
. 2009-06-12:  
Core tells the WordPress team that the patch will be tested by Core as a  
courtesy as soon as possible. It also requests confirmation that  
WordPress versions 2.8 and earlier, and, are vulnerable to  
the flaws included in the advisory draft CORE-2009-0515.  
. 2009-06-12:  
WordPress team confirms that WordPress 2.8 and earlier plus are vulnerable to the flaws included in the advisory draft.  
. 2009-06-17:  
Core informs the WordPress team that the patch is only fixing one of the  
four proof of concept abuses included in the advisory draft. Core  
reminds the WordPress team that the advisory is scheduled to be  
published on June 22th but a new schedule can be discussed.  
. 2009-06-19:  
Core asks for a new patched version of WordPress, if available, and  
notifies the WordPress team that the publication of the advisory was  
re-scheduled to June 30th.  
. 2009-06-19:  
WordPress team confirms they have a new patch that has the potential to  
break a lot of plugins.  
. 2009-06-29:  
WordPress team asks for a delayance on advisory CORE-2009-0515  
publication until July 6th, when WordPress MU version will be patched.  
. 2009-06-29:  
Core agrees to delay publication of advisory CORE-2009-0515 until July 6th.  
. 2009-06-29:  
Core tells the WordPress team that other administrative PHP modules can  
also be rendered by non-administrative users, such as module  
'admin-post.php' and 'link-parse-opml.php'.  
. 2009-07-02:  
WordPress team comments that 'admin.php' and 'admin-post.php' are  
intentionally open and plugins can choose to hook either privileged or  
unprivileged actions. They also comment that unprivileged access to  
'link-parse-opml.php' is benign but having this file open is bad form.  
. 2009-07-02:  
Core sends the WordPress team a new draft of the advisory and comments  
that there is no capability specified in Worpress documentation for  
configuring plugins. Also control of actions registered by plugins is  
not enforced. Core also notices that the privileges unchecked bug in  
'admin.php?page=' is fixed on WordPress 2.8.1-beta2 latest development  
. 2009-07-06:  
Core requests WordPress confirmation of the release date of WordPress  
2.8.1 and WordPress MU 2.8.  
. 2009-07-07:  
WordPress team confirms that a release candidate of WordPress 2.8.1 is  
made available to users and that the advisory may be published.  
. 2009-07-06:  
Core requests WordPress confirmation of the release date of WordPress MU  
and WordPress MU new version numbers.  
. 2009-07-07:  
WordPress team release WordPress 2.8.1 RC1 to its users.  
. 2009-07-08:  
WordPress team confirms that WordPress MU 2.8.1 will be made available  
as soon WordPress 2.8.1 is officially released. Probably July 8th or 9th.  
. 2009-07-08:  
The advisory CORE-2009-0515 is published.  
10. *References*  
[1] WordPress vulnerabilities in CVE database  
[2] SecuriTeam List of WordPress Vulnerabilities  
[3] WordPress Vulnerability - YBO Interactive Blog  
[4] bablooO/blyat attacks on WP 2.7.0 and 2.7.1  
[5] Security breach - xkcd blog  
[6] WordPress vulnerabilities digest in English  
[7] CVE-2008-0196  
[8] WordPress Roles and Capabilities  
[9] WordPress Download Counter  
[10] WordPress Intrusion Detection System Plugin  
[11] Hardening WordPress with htaccess  
11. *About CoreLabs*  
CoreLabs, the research center of Core Security Technologies, is charged  
with anticipating the future needs and requirements for information  
security technologies. We conduct our research in several important  
areas of computer security including system vulnerabilities, cyber  
attack planning and simulation, source code auditing, and cryptography.  
Our results include problem formalization, identification of  
vulnerabilities, novel solutions and prototypes for new technologies.  
CoreLabs regularly publishes security advisories, technical papers,  
project information and shared software tools for public use at:  
12. *About Core Security Technologies*  
Core Security Technologies develops strategic solutions that help  
security-conscious organizations worldwide develop and maintain a  
proactive process for securing their networks. The company's flagship  
product, CORE IMPACT, is the most comprehensive product for performing  
enterprise security assurance testing. CORE IMPACT evaluates network,  
endpoint and end-user vulnerabilities and identifies what resources are  
exposed. It enables organizations to determine if current security  
investments are detecting and preventing attacks. Core Security  
Technologies augments its leading technology solution with world-class  
security consulting services, including penetration testing and software  
security auditing. Based in Boston, MA and Buenos Aires, Argentina, Core  
Security Technologies can be reached at 617-399-6980 or on the Web at  
13. *Disclaimer*  
The contents of this advisory are copyright (c) 2009 Core Security  
Technologies and (c) 2009 CoreLabs, and may be distributed freely  
provided that no fee is charged for this distribution and proper credit  
is given.  
14. *PGP/GPG Keys*  
This advisory has been signed with the GPG key of Core Security  
Technologies advisories team, which is available for download at  
Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)  
Comment: Using GnuPG with Mozilla -