Last month (Octoboer 2012) we sent out notices to users who we found to be running outdated WordPress and Joomla! scripts. We will be doing that again this month, and I hope to make this a monthly notice.
If you received a notice in October about an outdated script and you receive another one this month, this simply means that – according to our records – you have not updated the outdated script. We feel that keeping your scripts up to date is important and should be done in order to keep your website safe. That is the purpose of these notices, to inform you that you are running outdated scripts.
Once you update a script, and then keep it updated, you will not receive these outdated notices.
I hope to send the outdated notices early next week to the accounts on our servers.
As I was reading through some of my daily security updates, I came across this post from Secunia:
which I found to be very interesting.
The article focuses mainly on why software updates on your personal computer are important (keeping Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, Java, etc. up to date) and while this is important, this same principle can be applied to other aspects of your web life. Your web hosting account, the scripts you use for your web site, even your smartphone.
An important quote from the article:
“If you do not update your software with the latest security update, you cannot be sure that it is secure. Software has vulnerabilities, and these vulnerabilities work as a potential open door to your computer for hackers, who exploit these openings to gain access to your computer and everything on it – including your bank and credit card details, your passwords, and all your social media activity.
As NorSIS also states: ”Software programs that aren’t updated are one of the most commonly used methods by criminals to take control of private PCs. It is incredibly important to keep the programs updated.””
So again, just remember that it is important that you keep all software up to date with the latest security patches and this will greatly improve your overall web security.
The developers of the Joomla! CMS product recently released a new version of their popular CMS application, Joomla! 2.5. This application is replacing their former product, Joomla! 1.7. Joomla! 1.7 will be going end-of-life on February 24th, 2012. This means that no further updates or releases will be made for the Joomla! 1.7 line of products. All Joomla! 1.7 users need to upgrade to Joomla! 2.5 before February 24th, 2012 so that their website can remain safe and secure.
For a better understanding of this, let’s take a look at all of the current Joomla! products:
Currently the latest version of Joomla! 2.5 is version 2.5.1. This is the latest version of the Joomla! 2.5 series. All users of Joomla! 1.7 need to upgrade to this release tree.
This version of Joomla! is being retired and being replaced with Joomla! 2.5. Versions of Joomla! 1.7 include: 1.7.0, 1.7.1, 1.7.2, 1.7.3, 1.7.4, and 1.7.5. If you are using ANY of these versions of Joomla! then you need to upgrade to Joomla! 2.5.1. Support for Joomla! 1.7 will be ending on Friday, February 24th, 2012. This is coming directly from the Joomla! developers. What this means is that after February 24th, if you continue to use Joomla! 1.7 on your website and a vulnerability is found in the Joomla! 1.7 line of products, the Joomla! developers will not fix this security issue. Your website will likely be defaced, hacked, and your web hosting account will be compromised. We may to to suspend or disable your web hosting account if this happens. PLEASE upgrade your Joomla! 1.7 script to Joomla! 2.5 as soon as possible.
This is a legacy release of Joomla! As far as I am aware of, there is no direct upgrade path from Joomla! 1.5 to Joomla! 2.5. But as far as I know, Joomla! 1.5 is not going end of life on February 24th, so users of Joomla! 1.5 are being allowed to continue to use this version of the script. The latest version of Joomla! 1.5 is 1.5.25. As long as you keep this updated to the latest version of Joomla! 1.5, you should be safe and secure.
Joomla! 1.0 or others
If you are using Joomla! 1.0 or any other version of Joomla! on your website, then it has long since been end of lifed, and is extremely outdated. Anybody that is still using this version of Joomla! is highly at risk for being attacked, hacked, defaced, and having their website completely compromised.
(Update: 02/14/2012 5:12PM CST)
Perhaps a point was not clear in this post. If you are using Joomla! 1.5.25, then you are fine. There is no need for you to upgrade or do anything else.
• If you are using 1.5.xx, some other version than 1.5.25, then you need to consider upgrading to version 1.5.25, the latest version of the Joomla! 1.5 tree.
• If you are using Joomla! versions 1.7.xx OR 2.5, then you need to consider upgrading to Joomla! 2.5.1
• If you are using Joomla! version 1.7.xx please realize that support for this version from the Joomla! developers and community will cease on February 24th, 2012. That is why these users need to upgrade to Joomla! 2.5.1.
• If you are using Joomla! version 1.0.xx OR version 1.6.xx please note that these version have already reached their end-of-life and are no longer being supported or maintained. If you are using one of these versions of Joomla! then you missed the end-of-life cutoff for those respective releases. You probably need to upgrade to Joomla! 2.5.1 but I am not sure what your upgrade path is. I would recommend posting in the Joomla Forums to see what the exact steps are that you need to do.
If you are running anything other than the latest version of your respective Joomla! release tree, then you are using an outdated version and are susceptible to being hacked or compromised. I did find this post on the Joomla! forum that echos why it is important to use an up-to-date script.
I hope this helps to clear up the confusion.
Backing up your account
Before attempting a Joomla! update we encourage you to create a backup of your account. Joomla! may have a backup component in it’s system, but I am not familiar with that. We do provide a backup method which you can use via your cPanel, to back up your entire account. For instructions on this see:
It’s always a good idea to keep a backup copy of your website, in case something happens to your website. While we’d like to believe that upgrading your Joomla! 1.7 to Joomla! 2.5 will be seamless, in the event that something goes wrong, having a backup of your website can be a life saver.
Upgrade Instructions – Non-Softaculous Users
Upgrading from Joomla! 1.7 to Joomla! 2.5 is suppose to be easy. The Joomla! developers have placed an instruction guide on their website:
I have personally tried the Extension Manager: Update method and the Admin Tools method to upgrade a non-production level version of Joomla! to version 2.5. This worked without any issues. But I would stress that I did not have any extension or components installed and the Joomla! website was non-production level.
If you have questions about the upgrade process, I highly encourage you to speak out at the Joomla! forums:
They have a lot more experience with Joomla! than we do and can likely better answer and upgrade questions you may have.
Upgrade Instructions – Softaculous Users
If you installed Joomla! through Softaculous, then you should be able to upgrade Joomla! to version 2.5 from within Softaculous. Unfortunately, I did not have a test site involving this, so I do not know how well this method works. If it fails to work, you may be able to complete one of the Non-Softaculous methods from above to upgrade your website.
If you are a Softaculous Joomla! 1.7 user and have attempted the Softaculous Joomla! 2.5 upgrade, we would like to hear about your experiences with this, so we can share this information with other users. Leave us a comment on how this procedure worked for you.
The one thing I can tell you is that if you ignore this warning about upgrading your Joomla! 1.7 website to Joomla! 2.5, then you are putting your website at risk of being compromised. There will be no further updates to the Joomla! 1.7 release tree, and so continuing to use Joomla! 1.7 means that you are continuing to use an outdated and unsupported piece of software.
This is all a continuing effort to keep our web hosting users informed and aware of security implications on their accounts. I can speak from experience, trying to recover from an account hack can be more difficult than taking measures to prevent a hack. Running up-to-date and supported software is one of the best things you can do to keep your website secured.
I found this blog post talking about the top 7 ways that a hacker will attempt to hack into your WordPress script and into your web hosting account.
3 of the top 5 methods is utilizing known vulnerabilities in old and outdated scripts, themes, components, plugins, and extensions. This underscores why it is so very important that you keep all scripts, not just WordPress, and all extensions to those scripts, up-to-date.
1. Upgrade to the newest version of WordPress
2. Upgrade all your themes and plugins to their newest versions
5. Know what other web applications you have installed
I encourage you to take a moment and read through this post. It is very well written. And further explains how you can keep your hosting account safe and secure.
Props to Mr. Maunder for a well written article.
As we have documented in previous posts (here and here) an exploit is making its way through the Internet in a security hole in the popular TimThumb addon. TimThumb is common in many WordPress themes.
Lately we have been seeing a lot of hacks as a result of this vulnerability. So many in fact that we are going to have to take measures to protect our servers and our clients from this vulnerability.
Starting today, September 27th 2011, we will be going through the servers and disabling any outdated TimThumb scripts that we find. This may have the adverse affect of disabling the thumbnails and thumbnail creation of your images in your WordPress blog or other scripts. We apologize for this, but the alternative is to risk having your account hacked into through this vulnerability.
WordPress users need to contact the developers of whatever theme they are using on their blog and insure that they are aware of this TimThumb vulnerability. The fix for this vulnerability will have to come from your theme developer. If the theme you are using is no longer being maintained, then this should be red flag that this is not a theme you should be using. If the developer refuses to include the updated TimThumb in their theme, then this should also be a red flag for you.
The purpose of all of this is to protect your webhosting account and keep your account from being hacked into.
The TimThumb exploit is still out there. More theme developers are updating their themes to include fixed solutions for this library.
The TimThumb project was forked into another project, called WordThumb by Mark Maunder and then recombined with the TimThumb project. As a result the versions of TimThumb is a little out of whack. The current version of TimThumb appears to be 2.7, however any version after (and including) 1.34 appears to have fixed the major issue with TimThumb. Each subsequent release of TimThumb just adds additional security layers, and for this reason version 2.7 is probably the version you need to be using.
However, the best thing you can in regards to this vulnerability is talk to developer, the person that wrote the WordPress theme you are using, and ask them if the theme is vulnerable to this security issue. It is important to note that this is not a security issue with WordPress. In fact TimThumb is used by other applications other than WordPress. WordPress is just the most common venue for TimThumb, and select WordPress users are more likely to be affected by this. It is also worth pointing out that not all WordPress uses are affected by this, it just depends on what themes you have installed and are using on your website.
The security blog Sucuri has a list of SOME affected WordPress themes:
However it is important to point out that this is not a complete list. Just because your WordPress theme is not listed here, does not mean that it is not affected by this exploit. Again, the best step is to talk to your WordPress theme developer and ask them if you are affected by this vulnerability.
Matt Mullenweg, the founder and creator of WordPress, has an interesting post about this issue:
We are going to be going through the servers looking for timthumb.php files that may be affected by this. You should receive an email from us if this is found on your webhosting account. However, not all themes use the timthumb.php filename and for those we will not be able to find them. So just because you did not receive an email from us, this does not mean that you are affected by this. Again, I cannot stress this point enough, the best thing you can do is talk to your theme developer and ask them if you are affected by this. Your theme developer, the makers of your theme, are going to be your best bet at finding out if you are vulnerable to this.
As we mentioned in an earlier post, today we are beginning the deployment of new ModSecurity filters on our shared hosting servers.
We haved decided to push out these updates a few days before they were scheduled due to the recent TimThumb exploit (some details here). These new rules will hopefully help mitigate any damage that this exploit can cause (But please note – The new ModSecurity rules do not solve the problem completely, affected TimThumb users should upgrade or discuss this with your theme developer). We are going to be going through the servers looking for TimThumb scripts in the next few days and you may receive an email about this.
These new ModSecurity rules do have the potential to cause certain security issues for some websites. Some actions and files will generate false positives. Rules can be exempted for your website, if a certain rule is causing you problems. You will just need to open a support ticket with our support staff regarding this.
To open a support ticket, go to our Account Management page:
And click on the Support Ticket link.
These new rules should help prevent exploits and compromises on your webhosting account, this is why they are being put into place. We do apologize for any inconvenience these new rules might cause.
We are going to be updating some software on the servers that will add additional layers of security to the frontend of the servers.
This software aims to filter out malicious requests that may be part of an attack on your website or a hacking attempt. The software is not perfect, no layer of security will be, but it does a good job of limiting these types of attacks. As always, there is no substitute for updating the scripts on your website and keeping them up-to-date.
We have tested this new filtering software on a few of our servers with great results. We will be expanding this to all of our servers, perhaps early next week (August 8th – August 12th).
Our tests have shown very minimal impact with end-user’s websites. However there is a possibility that this software can interfere with the normal operations of your website, depending on how arguments and data is passed around on your website. Exemptions can be made for your website, but unfortunately we won’t know that exemptions need to be made unless you tell us that you are experiencing problems.
This security software should allow for a more safe and secure hosting environment.
UPDATE Aug 2, 2011 02:29PM CDT — If you want to know if your website is vulnerable to this. Open a support ticket and our technicians will look at your account and work with you to minimize this threat.
A security issue has been disclosed in the TimThumb project. This vulnerability allows a hacker or malicious user to hack into your account.
Information about this vulnerability and a disclosure is at:
This vulnerability is in the timthumb.php file, and is included in a lot of WordPress themes (though it is not necessarily exclusive to WordPress scripts/themes).
Really this should be addressed by the WordPress theme creators, whoever wrote the WordPress theme you may be using for your WordPress script. Or it should be addressed by the developer of whatever application you are using. However, as an end-user YOU will need to be responsible and update your theme or your script to resolve this issue. A developer that releases a new version to fix this insecurity will do you absolutely no good, unless you explicitly upgrade the theme or script.
There is an update to the timthumb.php file, version 1.34, that fixes this insecurity, and that file is posted on Google Code:
At this time, I am mixed on how to react to this. We have a lot of WordPress scripts on our servers. I am afraid that not many of these users will update their themes to fix this issue, or perhaps the theme makers themselves will not release a fix for this in a timely manner. This will result in a lot of WordPress scripts being hacked. I can disable the timthumb.php file on the servers, this would mean any website that uses the timthumb.php file would stop functioning correctly, but it would keep save those accounts from being hacked and compromised. Right now, I am probably going to wait and see how the theme makers respond to this issue, and hope that they act accordingly and that WordPress and TimThumb users act responsibly and keep their scripts and themes up-to-date.
For WordPress users, I would recommend that you contact the developer or vendor (the website that you downloaded or purchased your WordPress theme from) and ask them if they are aware of this vulnerability, if it applies to your WordPress theme, and what their plans are for fixing this issue.
I found this article concerning the insecurities of osCommerce and how a vulnerability in the software lead to a mass compromise of potential confident information, such as credit card information.
osCommerce has never been a favorite shopping cart application for me. The seemingly lack of attention the osCommerce developers give to the vulnerabilities in their product, means that an osCommerce reliant website may be vulnerable to a compromise at any time.
If you use osCommerce on your website, I would encourage you to put a lot of thought into switching to a different system. One that updates frequently to fix known security vulnerabilities. I would also encourage you to check out Mal’s E-Commerce hosted solution.
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