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WordPress Sites Targeted in Large-Scale Attacks

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WP Sites Targeted in Large-Scale Attacks
by Ram Gall, Wordfence.com
May 5, 2020

Wordfence has been tracking a sudden uptick in attacks targeting Cross-Site Scripting(XSS) vulnerabilities that began on April 28, 2020 and increased over the next few days to approximately 30 times the normal volume we see in our attack data.

The majority of these attacks appear to be caused by a single threat actor, based on the payload they are attempting to inject – a malicious JavaScript that redirects visitors and takes advantage of an administrator’s session to insert a backdoor into the theme’s header.

This threat actor was also attacking other vulnerabilities, primarily older vulnerabilities allowing them to change a site’s home URL to the same domain used in the XSS payload in order to redirect visitors to malvertising sites. ….

More than 20 million attacks were attempted against more than half a million individual sites on May 3, 2020. Over the course of the past month in total, we’ve detected over 24,000 distinct IP addresses sending requests matching these attacks to over 900,000 sites.

All Wordfence users are protected from XSS attacks via the Web Application Firewall’s built-in XSS protection. The Web Application Firewall also has a set of rules protecting against the attacks we’ve seen attempting to modify the home URL of a site. As these attacks appear to be targeted at vulnerabilities that have been patched for months or years, both Wordfence Premium and free Wordfence users should be protected.

Targets

Many of the targeted vulnerabilities have been attacked in previous campaigns. The most popular vulnerabilities targeted were:

  1. An XSS vulnerability in the Easy2Map plugin, which was removed from the WordPress plugin repository in August of 2019, and which we estimate is likely installed on less than 3,000 sites. This accounted for more than half of all of the attacks.
  2. An XSS vulnerability in Blog Designer which was patched in 2019. We estimate that no more than 1,000 vulnerable installations remain, though this vulnerability was the target of previous campaigns.
  3. An options update vulnerability in WP GDPR Compliance patched in late 2018 which would allow attackers to change the site’s home URL in addition to other options. Although this plugin has more than 100,000 installations, we estimate that no more than 5,000 vulnerable installations remain.
  4. An options update vulnerability in Total Donations which would allow attackers to change the site’s home URL. This plugin was removed permanently from the Envato Marketplace in early 2019, and we estimate that less than 1,000 total installations remain.
  5. An XSS vulnerability in the Newspaper theme which was patched in 2016. This vulnerability has also been targeted in the past.

Although it is not readily apparent why these vulnerabilities were targeted, this is a large scale campaign that could easily pivot to other targets.

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