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WordPress Authentication Cookie Integrity Flaw Lets Remote Users Gain Administrative Privileges
SecurityTracker Alert ID: 1019923|
SecurityTracker URL: http://securitytracker.com/id/1019923
(Links to External Site)
Date: Apr 25 2008
User access via network|
Fix Available: Yes Vendor Confirmed: Yes Exploit Included: Yes |
Version(s): 2.5 only|
A vulnerability was reported in WordPress. A remote user can gain elevated privileges on the target application.|
Part of the authentication cookie is not included within the message authentication code calculation. As a result, a remote user can modify authentication cookies in a manner that will not be detected by the cryptographic integrity protection.
A remote user that can register a username can register a specially crafted username beginning with the string "admin" and then modify the resulting cookie to gain administrative privileges on Wordpress.
The vendor was notified on April 22, 2008.
The original advisory is available at:
Steven J. Murdoch reported this vulnerability.
A remote user can gain administrative privileges on the target application.|
The vendor has issued a fixed version (2.5.1), available at:|
Vendor URL: www.wordpress.org/ (Links to External Site)
Linux (Any), UNIX (Any), Windows (Any)|
Source Message Contents
Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2008 17:02:35 +0100|
Subject: [Full-disclosure] Wordpress 2.5 Cookie Integrity Protection
Wordpress 2.5 Cookie Integrity Protection Vulnerability
Original release date: 2008-04-25
Last revised: 2008-04-25
Latest version: http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/users/sjm217/advisories/wordpress-cookie-integrity.txt
CVE ID: CVE-2008-1930
Source: Steven J. Murdoch <http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/users/sjm217/>
An attacker, who is able to register a specially crafted username on
a Wordpress 2.5 installation, is able to generate authentication
cookies for other chosen accounts.
This vulnerability exists because it is possible to modify
authentication cookies without invalidating the cryptographic
If a Wordpress blog is configured to freely permit account creation,
a remote attacker can gain Wordpress-administrator access and then
elevate this to arbitrary code execution as the web server user.
The vulnerability is fixed in Wordpress 2.5.1
Since version 2.5, Wordpress authenticates logged-in users through a
cryptographically protected cookie, based on papers by Fu et al 
and Liu et al . This measure was introduced partly in response to
vulnerability CVE-2007-6013 [3,4].
The new cookies are of the form:
"wordpress_".COOKIEHASH = USERNAME . "|" . EXPIRY_TIME . "|" . MAC
COOKIEHASH: MD5 hash of the site URL (to maintain cookie uniqueness)
USERNAME: The username for the authenticated user
EXPIRY_TIME: When cookie should expire, in seconds since start of epoch
MAC: HMAC-MD5(USERNAME . EXPIRY_TIME) under a key derived
from a secret and USERNAME . EXPIRY_TIME.
The flaw in this scheme is that USERNAME and EXPIRY_TIME are not
delimited in the MAC calculation. Hence the cookie may be modified,
without altering MAC, provided that the concatenation of USERNAME and
EXPIRY_TIME remains unchanged.
This class of vulnerability, the cryptographic splicing attack, was
commented on by Fu et al , but Wordpress does not employ their
An attacker wishing to exploit this vulnerability would therefore
create an unprivileged account with its username starting with
"admin". The cookie returned on logging into this account can then be
manipulated so as to be valid for the administrator account.
A remote attacker, who can create an account with specially crafted
username, is able to gain administrator level access to the Wordpress
installation. Through standard techniques, this can be escalated to
arbitrary PHP code execution as the web server system user.
Upgrade to Wordpress 2.5.1
- De-select "Anyone can register" in the Membership section of
General Settings to disable account creation.
 Dos and Don'ts of Client Authentication on the Web,
Kevin Fu, Emil Sit, Kendra Smith, Nick Feamster
 A Secure Cookie Protocol,
Alex X. Liu, Jason M. Kovacs, Chin-Tser Huang, Mohamed G. Gouda
 Wordpress Cookie Authentication Vulnerability: CVE-2007-6013
Steven J. Murdoch,
2008-04-22: email@example.com notified
Confirmation of receipt received
2008-04-25: Wordpress 2.5.1 released incorporating patch
Vulnerability notice published
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