WordPress users urged to manually update to fix bug that prevents automatic updating

Posted by   Martijn Grooten on   Feb 8, 2018

WordPress has long had a bad reputation in the security community. While this is understandable – compromised installations of the popular content management system are regularly used to spread malware and spam – it is also a little unfair, as the security of WordPress has improved a lot over the years.

Indeed, exploitable vulnerabilities in the WordPress core have become quite rare, with most recent compromises using a flaw in a plug-in or theme. What has made the biggest difference to the security of its install base, though, is the ability, introduced in 2013, for WordPress installations to self-update, thus ensuring vulnerabilities are patched automatically.

Unfortunately, this feature broke in a rather bad way this week. A regular maintenance update contained a bug that triggered a fatal error when WordPress was trying to determine whether it needed updating, thus preventing any updates from being installed automatically.

The bug has since been fixed but, as you can guess, the fix won't be installed automatically. Users are thus being urged to update to WordPress 4.9.4 manually.

wordpress_logo.png

 

It is unclear whether all WordPress installations with auto-update enabled did indeed install the faulty update in the 21-hour period during which it was available, but I have seen reports of people who say their site installed both updates automatically. Though the (sparse) technical details published by WordPress don't make mention of it, is is possible that the issue only affected a subset of the install base. This could also explain how the bug passed the project's QA.

 

 

Though there are are currently no known vulnerabilities in the WordPress core, those running WordPress are strongly advised, if it hasn't auto-updated, to update to 4.9.4 manually sooner rather than later, to make sure they will be protected against future vulnerabilities. And it doesn't hurt to point out that, for the average WordPress user, the self-update function still seems a far better option than any of the available alternatives.

twitter.png
fb.png
linkedin.png
googleplus.png
reddit.png

 

Latest posts:

NCSC gives important advice on lateral movement

The UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has provided helpful and practical advice on preventing and detecting lateral movement by an attacker within a network.

What kind of people attend Virus Bulletin conferences?

If you are considering submitting a proposal for a talk to VB2018 and you're not familiar with the event, you may find it useful to know what kind of people attend the conference.

Olympic Games target of malware, again

An unattributed malware attack has disrupted some computer systems of the 2018 Winter Olympics. In 1994, a computer virus also targeted the Winter Olympics.

There are lessons to be learned from government websites serving cryptocurrency miners

Thousands of websites, including many sites of government organisations in the UK, the US and Sweden, were recently found to have been serving a cryptocurrency miner. More interesting than the incident itself, though, are the lessons that can be…

We need to continue the debate on the ethics and perils of publishing security research

An article by security researcher Collin Anderson reopens the debate on whether publishing threat analyses is always in the public interest.