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WordPress Easy WP SMTP Plugin Vulnerability

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Popular WordPress plugin Easy WP SMTP plugin, with over 500,000 active installations, just patched a vulnerability that allows an attacker to take control of a site. The flaw in the WordPress plugin allows hackers to reset the admin password and take complete control of a website.

Easy WP SMTP Vulnerability

The vulnerability is in a debug log file that is exposed because of a very basic error in how the plugin maintained a folder. Plugin folders on a server that contain files that are not meant to be seen by users usually contain a blank index.html file. The purpose of that file is to keep someone from navigating to that folder and discovering a list of files within that folder.

If someone can see the list of files, then they can potentially access those files, which is the case.

The folder where the debug log file exists does not have an index.html file. So on servers where directory index listings are not disabled by default a malicious hacker can gain access to that file.

What they first do is obtain an admin level user name from the WordPress site they are trying to hack using widely known methods.

Then they access the WordPress login page and send a password reset for the admin account.

Finally they access the debug log file and retrieve a record of the password reset link that the WordPress site sent. Once they retrieve that link they can enter it, reset the password and then enjoy full access to the WordPress site.

Folder Problem Documented in Changelog

The Easy WP SMTP Vulnerability plugin maintains what is called a changelog that documents all the changes within each update. The changelog is meant to be read so that a user can understand what an update is changing.

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Normally when a vulnerability is being patched the plugin developers will note that a vulnerability is being patched. This gives the WordPress publisher the information they need to make an informed decision as to whether or not to update a plugin or wait.

A changelog that informs a publisher that an update is plugging a vulnerability allows that publisher to make an informed decision to update the plugin in order to avoid getting hacked.

The Easy WP SMTP plugin changelog only says that they are inserting an index.html file in a folder to prevent anyone from browsing it. That should be warning enough that this is an important update, but only if the publisher understands that peeking into the folder is dangerous.

Screenshot of Easy WP SMTP Changelog
Screenshot of Easy WP SMTP Changelog

Update Plugin Immediately

Full details and description of this vulnerability is available at the NinTechNet blog.

It is highly recommended that all users of the Easy WP SMTP plugin update to a version that is higher than version 1.4.2.

Searchenginejournal.com

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 languageScreenshot 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.

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.

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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.

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

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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

[embedded content]Searchenginejournal.com

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