Security Experts:

WordPress Content Injection Flaw Makes XSS Bug More Severe

Sucuri has shared details about one of the cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities patched last week in WordPress. The flaw can be highly useful to attackers if combined with a content injection bug that has been exploited in the wild.

WordPress 4.7.3, released on March 6, patches six vulnerabilities, including three XSS issues. One of them, a stored XSS tracked as CVE-2017-6817, was identified and reported by Sucuri researcher Marc Montpas.

The flaw allows an authenticated attacker to inject arbitrary JavaScript code into posts, and it can be exploited via YouTube URLs and shortcodes. An attacker with contributor privileges can leverage the flaw to create a backdoor on the targeted website.

Since exploitation requires at least contributor privileges, the vulnerability is considered low risk. However, the risk is higher on WordPress versions prior to 4.7.2, which addresses a critical content injection and privilege escalation flaw.

The content injection vulnerability, also discovered by researchers at Sucuri, has been exploited in the wild for remote code execution and to deface a large number of web pages. Combining the content injection flaw with the stored XSS allows a remote attacker to inject malicious JavaScript code into posts on a WordPress site.

“Combined with the recent content injection vulnerability we found, it’s possible for a remote attacker to deface a random post on the site and store malicious Javascript code in it,” explained Montpas. “This code would be executed when visitors view the post and when anyone edits the post from the WordPress dashboard. As a result, an administrator tries to fix the defaced post, they would unknowingly trigger the malicious script, which could then be used to put a backdoor on the site and create new admin users.”

The stored XSS has been around for some time, even before version 4.7, while the content injection flaw affects versions 4.7 and 4.7.1. Version 4.7.x is running on roughly half of WordPress websites, and judging by the large number of sites affected by the content injection attacks, many of them are not updated automatically.

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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.