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Hackers are actively exploiting a critical vulnerability in a widely used WordPress plugin that gives them the ability to take complete control of millions of sites, researchers said.
The vulnerability, which carries a severity rating of 8.8 out of a possible 10, is present in Elementor Pro, a premium plugin running on more than 12 million sites powered by the WordPress content management system. Elementor Pro allows users to create high-quality websites using a wide range of tools, one of which is WooCommerce, a separate WordPress plugin. When those conditions are met, anyone with an account on the site—say a subscriber or customer—can create new accounts that have full administrator privileges.
The vulnerability was discovered by Jerome Bruandet, a researcher with security firm NinTechNet. Last week, Elementor, the developer of the Elementor Pro plugin, released version 3.11.7, which patched the flaw. In a post published on Tuesday, Bruandet wrote:
An authenticated attacker can leverage the vulnerability to create an administrator account by enabling registration (
users_can_register) and setting the default role (
default_role) to “administrator”, change the administrator email address (
admin_email) or, as shown below, redirect all traffic to an external malicious website by changing
siteurlamong many other possibilities:
Now, researchers with a separate security firm, PatchStack, report that the vulnerability is under active exploitation. Attacks are coming from a variety of IP addresses, including:
Files uploaded to compromised sites often have the following names:
URLs of compromised sites are often being changed to:
The broken access control vulnerability stems from Elementor Pro’s use of the “elementor-pro/modules/woocommerce/module.php” component. When WooCommerce is running, this script registers the following AJAX actions:
The update_option function “is supposed to allow the Administrator or the Shop Manager to update some specific WooCommerce options, but user input aren’t validated and the function lacks a capability check to restrict its access to a high privileged user only,” Bruandet explained. He continued:
Elementor uses its own AJAX handler to manage most of its AJAX actions, including
pro_woocommerce_update_page_option, with the global
elementor_ajaxaction. It is located in the “elementor/core/common/modules/ajax/module.php” script of the free version (which is required to run Elementor Pro) :
Anyone using Elementor Pro should ensure they’re running 3.11.7 or later, as all previous versions are vulnerable. It’s also a good idea for these users to check their sites for the signs of infection listed in the PatchStack post.
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