How attackers slip inside WordPress

Press Alert

Article from Issue 275/2023

WordPress is an incredibly popular tool for building websites, and don't think the attackers haven't noticed. We'll show you what to watch for.

According to the WordPress website, a staggering 42 percent of the World Wide Web runs on WordPress software. It is not difficult to see why the huge number of WordPress websites around the world is a major draw for attackers. Discovering a WordPress bug allows the attacker to repeat the process hundreds of times. In some cases, they can even automate the process for a rinse-and-repeat attack which could be a real danger for millions of website owners.

This article looks at some of the techniques an attacker can use to gain shell access to a server that is running WordPress. Once they've attained shell access, the attacker can use standard privilege escalation techniques to take full control of the machine.

Pen testers have many ways to describe the structure of an Internet attack (sometimes with seven phases or more), but I prefer to keep things simple. The process starts with an Enumeration phase, where the attacker learns about the components of the target system. Next is an Exploitation phase, which is focused on gaining shell access. I think of the last phase as the Post Exploitation phase, where attackers set up persistence for future access and then start enumerating other resources that the compromised target has access to in order to move around the infrastructure.


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