Monday, 13 February 2017 09:48

Unpatched WordPress flaw gave hacker entry to openSUSE site

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An unpatched WordPress vulnerability provided the entry point for defacement of the openSUSE news website last week, the chairman of the openSUSE project Richard Brown says.

The site, which is not connected to the other openSUSE sites such as that which offers images for download, appeared to have been defaced by a supporter of the Iraqi Kurds, judging by the image which was placed on the site.

News of the hack was first posted by Dr Roy Schestowitz who runs a website known as Techrights.org.

Brown told iTWire in response to questions that the version of WordPress used on opensuse.news.org had a vulnerability in its REST API which allowed an attacker to alter the content of posts without the need for authentication.

He said the site was not down for any noticeable period of time. "All clean-up and remedial work was done while the site was otherwise serving valid content. This took a lot longer than I would have liked."

richard brown big

openSUSE project chairman Richard Brown.

Asked if it was not ironical that that the site was owned by a company — SUSE — that sells software supposed to be used on the Web for secure hosting, Brown said he was inclined to agree.

"While all of openSUSE's build/test/download infrastructure is hosted at SUSE and administered in co-operation with community volunteers (aka the openSUSE Heroes), news.opensuse.org is one of a handful of services hosted elsewhere on servers wholly operated by Micro Focus," he added.

"SUSE and openSUSE have no administrative access to these machines. This was not meant to be a problem as Micro Focus were responsible for both preventing such issues with timely patching and remedying them quickly with 24/7 support."

Micro Focus is a British mainframe company that bought SUSE, and other companies owned by the Attachmate Group, in 2014.

"In this incident neither expectation was met," Brown said. "This is a serious concern to the openSUSE project which we obviously do not want to see repeated. The Board and the Heroes are actively working on solutions, including the migration of services to full openSUSE control.

"SUSE management are being very helpful and supportive, working with us and on our behalf as we work with Micro Focus to make sure something like this doesn't happen again, or if it does we're in a position to fix it in a timely manner."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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