Websense Threat Report Repeats False Claims of WordPress Hackings

In Websense’s 2010 Threat Report they listed WordPress Attacks as on of the significant events of the year. They also claimed that WordPress “was hacked numerous times in 2010”. While its true that some outdated WordPress installations were hacked during the year (as they and other web software have been for years), the hacks that they refer to in their report, which were much larger than any actual hacks of WordPress, were not hacks of WordPress at all. The hacks they refer to were actually hacks that targeted hosting providers that would allow malicious code to be added to websites hosted with the provider whether they were running WordPress, other software, or no software at all.

In most of the hacks the malicious code was placed in all files that had a .php extension. WordPress, by the nature of being the most popular web software, was the most of often affected, but all web software that have files with a .php extension were also affected. In other cases the hacks targeted database fields specific to WordPress, but they could have affected any other software that utilized a database if the hacker had chose to target them instead of WordPress.

Websense is not alone is making these false claims, other supposed security experts also made similar claims and some hosting provider have attempted to lame blame on WordPress. Network Solutions was the only one to later apologize for blaming WordPress.

Websense also claimed that “numerous vulnerabilities were known to exist during the height of the attacks”. Seeing as WordPress was not hacked as claimed, the claimed numerous vulnerabilities also don’t exist. In fact during the year the only security vulnerability that required the release of a new version of WordPress was one that allowed “logged in users can peek at trashed posts belonging to other authors”. This vulnerability would not have allowed the WordPress installation to have been hacked.

Making false claims about WordPress’s security damages WordPress reputation without improving security. In fact it may have the effect of decreasing security, as it may lead to people to use software that does not focus on security as well as WordPress does. WordPress responds quickly to security issues, automatically informs users of upgrade within their software, and makes it relatively easy to upgrade the software as well. By comparison two web software apps that have actually had major hackings in 2010 have not responded properly, osCommerce has chosen not release a patch for their security vulnerabilities and OpenX has recommend a fix for a vulnerablility that actually causes future upgrades to fail.

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