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Archive for the ‘WordPress’ Category

wordpress.org Cracked, Exploit in 2.1.1 Release

As pointed out on the WordPress development blog, a cracker gained access to the wordpress.org servers and replaced the 2.1.1 download with a modified exploitable version. The exploitable download may have been on the site for three or four days!

It may be a good idea for the developers to sign their releases with a well known and trusted PGP key. This would allow people to verify that downloaded files are really what they should be!
This is a well-established practice used by other projects, for example by the Linux kernel.

WordPress SSL Patch Update

The recently released security update for introduced some changes that broke my HTTPS patch for it. I have updated the patch for WordPress 2.0.6 and 2.0.7-RC1 now: wp2-ssl.patch.

Read the complete SSL setup guide here: Securing WordPress 2 Admin Access With SSL

Regarding WordPress security, please note that there still is a possible exploit for 2.0.6: New WordPress exploit also affects version 2.0.6
Make sure you use safe a PHP version and set register_globals = off.

Securing WordPress 2 Admin Access With SSL

A few people have asked for an updated version of my Securing WordPress Admin Access With SSL guide. So here is an updated version for 2!

The situation has not changed much since WordPress 1.5: WordPress 2.0 still does not support HTTPS access to the admin area when the rest of the blog is served via normal HTTP and I still do not like logging in to my server over unencrypted connections, especially not when using public WLANs. Getting around this WordPress limitation requires quite a few steps:

The Goal

All communication involving passwords or authentication cookies should be done over HTTPS connections. wp-login.php and the wp-admin directory should only be accessible over HTTPS.
Normal reading access, as well as comments, tracebacks, and pingbacks still should go over ordinary HTTP.

The Plan

  • Add an HTTPS virtual host that forwards requests to the HTTP virtual host
  • Modify WordPress to send secure authentication cookies, so cookies never get sent over insecure connections accidentally
  • Require a valid certificate on HTTPS clients. That means to log in to WordPress you need both a valid certificate and a valid password. If someone manages to get your password, he still can not login because he does not have a valid certificate.

The Implementation

Note: This documentation assumes a Debian sarge installation with 2. Some things, in particular Apache module related ones, will be different on other systems.
The server used throughout the instructions is example.org/192.0.34.166. The server’s DocumentRoot is /blog and WordPress resides in /blog/wp. The value of WordPress’ home option is ‘http://example.org’ and the value of its site_url option is ‘http://example.org/wp’.

  • Prepare the SSL certificates:
    • Generate your own certificate authority (CA) if you don’t have one already (I’m using the makefile from OpenSSL Certificate Authority Setup for managing mine) and import it into your browser.
    • Generate a certificate for the SSL server and certify it with your private CA.
    • Generate a certificate for your browser and certify it with your private CA. Most browsers expect a PKCS#12 file, so generate one with
      $ openssl pkcs12 -export -clcerts \
          -in blogclient.cert \
          -inkey blogclient.key \
          -out blogclient.p12

      Then import blogclient.p12 into your browser.

  • Make WordPress SSL-ready:
    Apply this patch to the WordPress code. It makes the following changes:

    • Use secure authentication cookies in wp_setcookie()
    • Make check_admin_referer() work with HTTPS URLs
    • Use HTTPS URLs for notification mails
    • Use HTTPS URLS for redirects to wp-login.php
    • Only allow XML-RPC logins from the local host (ie. the HTTPS proxy)
    • Add the Mark-as-Spam feature from trunk

    The patch is against svn version 3825 of WordPress (ie. WordPress 2.0.3), when you apply it to a newer version, you will likely get some harmless ‘Hunk succeeded’ message. If you are getting ‘Hunk FAILED’ message, just send me note and I’ll update the patch.

  • Enable the necessary Apache modules:
    • Install mod_proxy_html. It will be used to replace absolute ‘http://example.org’ HTTP URLs in the WordPress output with ‘https://example.org’ HTTPS URLs:
      $ aptitude install libapache2-mod-proxy-html

      The module gets enabled automatically after installation.

    • Enable mod_proxy and mod_ssl
      $ a2enmod proxy
      $ a2enmod ssl

      Debian provides sane default configurations for both modules. You might want to take a look at the configuration files (ssl.conf and proxy.conf) nevertheless.
      I have changed SSLCipherSuite to

      TLSv1:SSLv3:!SSLv2:!aNULL:!eNULL:!NULL:!EXP:!DES:!MEDIUM:!LOW:@STRENGTH

      in ssl.conf in order to just allow TLS v1 and SSL v3 ciphers which provide strong encryption and authentication (see ciphers(1)).

    • If you are compressing WordPress output (that is if you enabled the ‘WordPress should compress articles (gzip) if browsers ask for them’ option) then also enable mod_headers:
      $ a2enmod headers
  • Configure Apache to listen on the HTTPS port
    $ cat > /etc/apache2/conf.d/ssl.conf << EOF
    <IfModule mod_ssl.c>
    	Listen 443
    </IfModule>
    EOF
  • Modify the blog virtual host to limit access to wp-login.php and wp-admin to the local host. Also completely deny access to files which should never be accessed directly. Here is an example: 10-wp2-example.org
  • Now setup the HTTPS virtual server: 20-wp2-example.org-ssl
    If you are compressing WordPress output you have to enable the RequestHeader line.
  • Enable the site and restart Apache
    $ a2ensite 20-blog-ssl
    $ /etc/init.d/apache2 restart
  • Remove the old WP cookies from your browser
  • Test the new setup!

February 1st, 2006: wp2-ssl.patch updated for WordPress 2.0.1

March 11st, 2006: WordPress 2.0.2 has been released, fixing some security issues. The HTTPS patch still applies fine to that version.

March 19th, 2006: Updated wp2-ssl.patch. Changes: Fix bug in list-manipulation.php, use HTTPS for ‘Login’ and ‘Register’ links, backport ‘Mark-as-Spam’ feature from trunk

May 1st, 2006: WordPress 2.0.3 has been released. Here is the updated wp2-ssl.patch.

July 29th, 2006: WordPress 2.0.4 has been released, fixing some security issues. Here is an updated version of the wp2-ssl.patch.

January 12st, 2007: wp2-ssl.patch updated for 2.0.6 and 2.0.7-RC1

January 15st, 2007: WordPress 2.0.7 has been released. The patch still applies fine to that version.

WordPress Security Annoyances

As if the unprofessional handling of security announcements (see Another WordPress Security Update and More on Security Announcements) wouldn’t be bad enough, the WordPress developers also seem to have problems with organizing releases.

Stefan Esser reports that there are two WordPress 1.5.2 versions. The first one, which didn’t fix the problem it was supposed to fix, was available for download for several hours before it silently was replaced by the fixed second version.

It’s hard to understand why the version number wasn’t bumped for the second release and why the WordPress developers didn’t inform users about the mistake.

The comments from the WordPress crowd are a bit weak in my opinion. If there’s FUD about WordPress’ security it’s the sole fault of the WordPress developers!

More on Security Announcements

Some people seem to misunderstand what I said about the latest WordPress update.

I, myself, am perfectly able to figure out what was broken and how it was fixed. That’s not the point. I was commenting on the handling of security announcements by the WordPress developers.

I expect to get information about security issues from a central, easy-findable place from any project or product that has public exposure and more than a handful of users. (Yes, I expect that from open source projects too. Look around the net to see how good others handle it.)
Expecting your users to gather information about a problem from forums, blogs, foreign sites, or the source code is simply unprofessional.

The often used argument that more specific information only helps hackers is just plain naïve: WordPress is open source, its code and even nicely formatted svn changesets are freely available on the web. Hackers are not stupid, they’ll find the issues.

Note, I’m not saying you should post sample exploits publicly. Just give enough information that administrators can determine whether their systems are vulnerable and how severe the problem is. Again, go around the net and look how other projects handle security announcements.