Security Experts:

Flaw in WordPress Themes Plugin Allowed Hackers to Become Site Admin

A serious vulnerability found in a WordPress themes plugin with over 200,000 active installations can be exploited to wipe a website’s database and gain administrator access to the site.

ThemeGrill Demo Importer is a popular plugin that allows WordPress website administrators to import demo content, widgets and settings for ThemeGrill themes.

Researchers at web security company WebARX discovered recently that versions 1.3.4 through 1.6.1 of the plugin are affected by a critical vulnerability that allows an unauthenticated attacker to wipe the entire database of a WordPress website. The researchers believe the flaw has existed for the past 3 years.

The security hole can be exploited against websites where a ThemeGrill theme has been installed and activated. Exploitation of the vulnerability causes the database to be populated with default settings and data, and if the database includes a user named “admin,” exploitation will also result in the attacker being automatically logged in as an administrator.

Oliver Sild, the CEO of WebARX, told SecurityWeek that it’s possible that not all WordPress sites on which the ThemeGrill Demo Importer is installed are vulnerable to attacks as their operators may not have used the plugin to actually install a theme — as noted earlier, this is a condition for the exploit to work.

Sild, whose company provides vulnerability detection and virtual patching software to protect websites from third-party component vulnerabilities, noted that exploitation of the ThemeGrill flaw can be automated.

The vulnerability was reported to ThemeGrill developers on February 6 and it was patched on February 16 with the release of version 1.6.2.

WebARX has published a blog post describing the technical details of the vulnerability and how it was patched by the developers.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.