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WordPress SEOPress Plugin XSS Vulnerability via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Wordfence, a WordPress security software company, published details about a vulnerability in popular WordPress SEO software SEOPress. Before making the announcement, WordFence communicated the details of the vulnerability to the publishers of SEOPress who promptly fixed the issue and published a patch to fix it.

According to WordFence:

“This flaw made it possible for an attacker to inject arbitrary web scripts on a vulnerable site which would execute anytime a user accessed the “All Posts” page.”

The United States government National Vulnerability Database website listed the Wordfence provided CNA (CVE Numbering Authority) rating for the SEOPress vulnerability as a medium level rating and a score of 6.4 on a scale of 1 to 10.

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The weakness enumeration is categorized as:

“Improper Neutralization of Input During Web Page Generation (‘Cross-site Scripting’)”

The vulnerability affects SEOPress versions 5.0.0 – 5.0.3.

What is the SEOPress Vulnerability?

The official SEOPress changelog didn’t really describe the vulnerability or disclose that there was a vulnerability.

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This isn’t a criticism of SEOPress, I’m just noting that SEOPress described the problem in vague terms:

“INFO Strengthening security (thanks to Wordfence)”

Screenshot of SEOPress Changelog

SEOPress changelog

SEOPress changelog

The issue affecting SEOPress allows any authenticated user, with credentials as low as a subscriber, could update the title and description of any post. Because this input was insecure in that it didn’t properly sanitize this input for scripts and other unintended uploads, an attacker could upload malicious scripts that could then be used as part of a cross site scripting attack.

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Although this vulnerability is rated as medium by the National Vulnerability Database (possibly because the vulnerability affects sites that allow user registrations such as subscribers), WordFence cautions that an attacker could “easily” take over a vulnerable website under the listed circumstances.

WordFence said this about the cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability:

“…cross-site scripting vulnerabilities such as this one can lead to a variety of malicious actions like new administrative account creation, webshell injection, arbitrary redirects, and more.”

Cross Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities attack vectors are typically in areas where someone can input data. Anywhere that someone can enter information, like a contact form, is a potential source of an XSS vulnerability.

Software developers are supposed to “sanitize” the inputs, which means they are supposed to check that what is being input is not something that is unexpected.

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REST API Input Insecure

This particular vulnerability affected the input related to entering title and description of a post. Specifically, it affected what’s known as the WordPress REST API.

The WordPress REST API is an interface that allows WordPress plugins to interact with WordPress.

With the REST API, a plugin can interact with a WordPress site and modify the web pages.

The WordPress documentation describes it like this:

“Using the WordPress REST API you can create a plugin to provide an entirely new admin experiences for WordPress, build a brand new interactive front-end experience, or bring your WordPress content into completely separate applications.”

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According to WordFence, the SEOPress WordPress REST API endpoint was implemented in an insecure manner in that the plugin did not properly sanitize the inputs through this method.

Citations

WordFence SEOPress Vulnerability Announcement

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National Vulnerability Database entry on the SEOPress Stored Cross-Site-Scripting issue

WordPress REST API Handbook

Searchenginejournal.com

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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

[embedded content]

Searchenginejournal.com

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