HomeNewsLarge scale attack campaign targets WordPress sites’ database credentials

Large scale attack campaign targets WordPress sites’ database credentials

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There have been reports that hackers tried to download configuration files from sites using WordPress to steal their database credentials.

In May 2020, the WordPress community narrowly dodged a large-scale security catastrophe. This incident, meticulously documented by Wordfence, a prominent web application firewall (WAF) provider, serves as a stark reminder of the constant vigilance required to maintain website security.

Let's delve deeper into the attack campaign, its implications, and the crucial steps website owners can take to safeguard their WordPress installations.

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The Attack Unfolds: A Ruthless Credential Hunt

The attack, spanning the latter half of May 2020, targeted a staggering 1.3 million WordPress websites. The primary objective of the attackers was to steal database credentials, the keys to the kingdom for any website. Here's how the attack unfolded:

  • Brute Force Configuration File Download: Hackers launched a brute-force attack, bombarding websites with automated attempts to download a critical file – wp-config.php. This file stores sensitive information, including database usernames and passwords.
  • Exploiting Vulnerabilities: The attackers likely targeted websites with known vulnerabilities in themes or plugins. These vulnerabilities could grant them a foothold on the website, potentially allowing for easier access to the wp-config.php file.
  • Sheer Volume, Coordinated Effort: The sheer volume of attacks, estimated at 130 million attempts, suggests a coordinated effort by a sophisticated hacking group. They spread the attacks across 20,000 IP addresses, making it more challenging to detect and block individual attacks.

The Stakes: Why Database Credentials Matter

Database credentials are the crown jewels of a website. If compromised, attackers can gain complete control over the website's data, potentially leading to:

  • Defaced Websites: Hackers can replace website content with malicious code or propaganda, damaging the website's reputation and user trust.
  • Data Breaches: User information, such as names, email addresses, and even financial details, could be stolen and sold on the dark web.
  • SEO Poisoning: Attackers might manipulate the website's content to impact its search engine ranking, hindering online visibility negatively.
  • Malware Distribution: Compromised websites can be used to spread malware to unsuspecting visitors, further expanding the attack's reach.

READ ALSO: The Ultimate WordPress Security Guide

Lessons Learned: Protecting Your WordPress Site

The WordPress credential hijacking campaign serves as a valuable learning experience for website owners. Here are some crucial steps you can take to protect your WordPress site:

  • Keep WordPress, Themes, and Plugins Updated: Regular updates patch known vulnerabilities, making it significantly harder for attackers to exploit them. Set up automatic updates whenever possible.
  • Choose Reputable Themes and Plugins: Only install themes and plugins from trusted developers with a good reputation for security. Research and avoid themes or plugins with known vulnerabilities.
  • Utilize a Web Application Firewall (WAF): A WAF like Wordfence can act as a shield, filtering out malicious traffic and blocking brute-force attacks before they succeed.
  • Strong Passwords are Key: Use strong, unique passwords for your WordPress admin account and database credentials. Consider using a password manager to generate and manage complex passwords.
  • Limit Remote Database Access: If possible, configure your server to restrict remote access to your database. This additional layer of security makes it harder for attackers to exploit stolen credentials.
  • Regular Backups: Maintain regular backups of your website's files and database. In case of a security breach, backups allow you to restore your website to a clean state.

Conclusion: Vigilance is Key in the Digital Age

The WordPress credential hijacking campaign highlights the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats.

By staying informed about security vulnerabilities, implementing recommended security practices, and remaining vigilant, website owners can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to such attacks.

Remember, website security is an ongoing process, not a one-time fix. By prioritizing security and taking proactive measures, you can ensure your WordPress website remains a safe and secure space for your visitors.

READ ALSO: WordPress malware pinpoints WooCommerce sites for Magecart attacks

SecureBlitz advises that you change your database password by contacting your host company, even if your site does not grant remote database access, to avoid getting your sensitive data tampered with by an attacker who has gained access to your database credentials.

Note: This was initially published in June 2020 but has been updated for freshness and accuracy.


About the Author:

amaya paucek
Writer at SecureBlitz | Website

Amaya Paucek is a professional with an MBA and practical experience in SEO and digital marketing. She is based in Philippines and specializes in helping businesses achieve their goals using her digital marketing skills. She is a keen observer of the ever-evolving digital landscape and looks forward to making a mark in the digital space.


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