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WordPress 5.8.1 Released to Fix Multiple Vulnerabilities via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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WordPress announced a security and maintenance release, version 5.8.1. It is important to update WordPress, especially versions 5.4 to 5.8 in order fix three security issues.

WordPress 5.8.1 Security and Maintenance Release

It’s not uncommon for WordPress or any software for that matter to publish a bug fix update following a major version update in order to fix unforeseen issues as well as introduce improvements that didn’t make it in time for the major release.

In WordPress those updates are called a maintenance release.

This update also includes a security update, which is somewhat uncommon for the WordPress core. That makes this update more important than the typical maintenance release.

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WordPress Security Issues Fixed

WordPress 5.8.1 fixes three vulnerabilities:

  1. A data exposure vulnerability within the REST API
  2. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the Gutenberg block editor
  3. Multiple critical to high severity vulnerabilities in the Lodash JavaScript Library

All three of the above vulnerabilities are so concerning that the WordPress announcement recommends immediately updating WordPress installations.

REST API Vulnerability

The WordPress REST API is an interface that allows plugins and themes to interact with the WordPress core.

The REST API has been a source of security vulnerabilities, including most recently with the Gutenberg Template Library & Redux Framework vulnerability that affected over a million websites.

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This vulnerability is described as a data exposure vulnerability, which means that sensitive information could be revealed. There are no other details at this time regarding what kind of information but it could be as severe as passwords to data that could be used to mount an attack through another vulnerability.

WordPress Gutenberg XSS Vulnerability

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities happen relatively frequently. They can happen whenever there is a user input like a contact or email form, any kind of input that is not “sanitized” to prevent the upload of scripts that can trigger unwanted behavior in the WordPress installation.

The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) describes the potential harm of XSS vulnerabilities:

“An attacker can use XSS to send a malicious script to an unsuspecting user. The end user’s browser has no way to know that the script should not be trusted, and will execute the script.

Because it thinks the script came from a trusted source, the malicious script can access any cookies, session tokens, or other sensitive information retained by the browser and used with that site. These scripts can even rewrite the content of the HTML page.”

This specific vulnerability affects the Gutenberg block editor.

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WordPress Lodash JavaScript Library Vulnerabilities

These vulnerabilities may be the most concerning. The Lodash JavaScript library is a set of scripts used by developers that have been found to have multiple vulnerabilities.

The latest and safest version is Lodash 4.17.21.

The U.S. Homeland Security sponsored CVE List website details the vulnerability:

“Lodash versions prior to 4.17.21 are vulnerable to Command Injection via the template function.”

There appear to be many other vulnerabilities affecting the Lodash library in the 4.1.7 branch as well.

WordPress Urges Immediate Updating

These security vulnerabilities add a sense of urgency to this update. All publishers are recommended by WordPress to update.

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The official WordPress announcement recommends updating:

“Because this is a security release, it is recommended that you update your sites immediately. All versions since WordPress 5.4 have also been updated.”

Citations

WordPress 5.8.1 Security and Maintenance Release

CVE Lodash Vulnerability Description CVE-2021-23337

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NEWS

Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

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But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

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One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

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