Hackers exploit critical vulnerability in popular WordPress theme component

WordPress admins should check if their sites use the Slider Revolution plug-in and update it immediately, researchers said

Attackers are actively exploiting a critical vulnerability in a WordPress plug-in that's used by a large number of themes, researchers from two security companies warned Wednesday.

The vulnerability affects versions 4.1.4 and older of Slider Revolution, a commercial WordPress plug-in for creating mobile-friendly content display sliders. The flaw was fixed in Slider Revolution 4.2 released in February, but some themes -- collections of files or templates that determine the overall look of a site -- still bundle insecure versions of the plug-in.

The vulnerability can be exploited to execute a local file inclusion (LFI) attack that gives hackers access to a WordPress site's wp-config.php file, researchers from Web security firm Sucuri said in a blog post. This sensitive file contains database access credentials that can be used to compromise the whole site, the researchers said.

In February, ThemePunch, the developer of Slider Revolution, mentioned in the release notes of version 4.2 that a security issue had been fixed but didn't release any additional details about the problem or its impact.

Information about the vulnerability circulated on underground forums for several months, but on Sept. 1 someone posted a proof-of-concept exploit for it on a public site, including a list of WordPress themes that are likely affected, security researchers from Trustwave said Wednesday in a blog post. "Our web honeypots picked up increased scanning activity today."

Sucuri researchers also observed attempts to exploit the vulnerability. "Today alone, there were 64 different IP addresses trying to trigger this vulnerability on more than 1,000 different websites within our environment," they said.

Slider Revolution is sold via CodeCanyon.net, an online market for Web scripts and other components. The plug-in is bought by regular site owners, but also by WordPress theme developers who then bundle it inside their products to enable content slider functionality.

The problem is that when bundled with themes, Slider Revolution's automatic update mechanism is typically disabled. Users then have to rely on theme authors to update the plug-in along with their themes, which in many cases doesn't happen.

"We fix all issues within hours," a technical support representative for Damojo, the Cologne, Germany, company that owns ThemePunch, said Thursday via email. "As you know it is essential that all your plugins, WordPress and servers are always updated with the latest releases. Our direct customers do and can update their plugin regularly and automatically if they choose to."

"The main issue is that theme authors that bundled the slider within their theme did not update the plugin for their customers," the Damojo representative said. "The hint 'Security Fix' [in the release notes] should have ringed some bells. Why haven't they updated the plugin since February?"

The latest version of Slider Revolution is 4.6, released on Aug. 25, but this particular vulnerability only affects versions older than 4.2.

The Damojo representative advised users to check if their themes contain a vulnerable version of the plug-in and to contact the theme authors in case they do, adding that the company shouldn't be blamed for someone else's failures.

This incident highlights yet again the risks of insecure third-party code reuse, a widespread problem that affects all types of software, not just Web applications and WordPress themes.

Many developers use third-party components and libraries in their own software projects and fail to keep up with their security updates. This can lead to situations where a vulnerability is identified and fixed in a software package, but lingers on for months or years in other applications.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags patch managementintrusiontrustwavepatchesExploits / vulnerabilitiesSucuriDamojo

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Lucian Constantin

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?