Flaw in popular Web analytics plug-in exposes WordPress sites to hacking

Attackers can easily crack cryptographic keys used by the WP-Slimstat plug-in and use them to read information from a site's database

WordPress site owners using the WP-Slimstat plug-in installed should upgrade it to the latest version immediately in order to fix a critical vulnerability, security researchers warn.

WP-Slimstat, a Web analytics plug-in for WordPress, has been downloaded over 1.3 million times and is highly rated by users. The plug-in allows site owners to track returning visitors and registered users, monitor JavaScript events, detect intrusions, analyze email campaigns and more.

Researchers from Web security firm Sucuri found a vulnerability that stems from weak cryptographic key generation in WP-Slimstat versions 3.9.5 and lower. If attackers can determine the secret key used by the plug-in, they can launch blind SQL injection attacks that enable them to read sensitive information from the site's database.

That sensitive information can include usernames, password hashes, and, in certain configurations, WordPress secret keys that if exposed, can lead to a total takeover of the affected sites, Sucuri senior vulnerability researcher Marc-Alexandre Montpas said in a blog post Tuesday.

The plug-in's secret key is generated by running the MD5 hash algorithm over a timestamp that corresponds to the plug-in's installation on the website. Guessing when the plug-in was installed might appear to be hard, but it's not.

An attacker can determine the year when the site was created, which is likely the same year when the plug-in was installed, by looking at the Internet Archive or other sources online. Once that part of the timestamp is determined, there are 30 million possible values left for the rest of it.

Testing all those values and comparing the resulting signatures with signatures used on the site can be done in 10 minutes using most modern CPUs, Montpas said.

"This is a dangerous vulnerability, you should update all of your websites using this plugin as soon as possible," the researcher said.

The WP-Slimstat developers released version 3.9.6 last week in order to address the issue.

"The security of our users' data is our top priority, and for this reason we tightened our SQL queries and made our encryption key harder to guess," they wrote in the plug-in's changelog. "If you are using a caching plugin, please flush its cache so that the tracking code can be regenerated with the new key."

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags patchessecurityAccess control and authenticationSucuriencryptiondata protection

More about

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Lucian Constantin

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place