WordPress 3.3 Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

Yesterday two Indian security researchers, Aditya Modha & Samir Shah, released an advisory outlining a Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability within the latest version (at the time of writing) of WordPress 3.3. Many people started re-tweeting the news (including myself) and blogging about it. The problem came when I tried to reproduce the vulnerability, I couldn’t.

I started to think that the vulnerability was a miss-understanding or publicity stunt and was getting annoyed at the many people who were spreading miss-information. I contacted the researchers over Twitter and told them that I was unable to reproduce the vulnerability in any browser or on any WordPress installation including vanilla installs.

The researchers got back in touch with a link to a WordPress installation on which the vulnerability worked. The URL they gave me was an IP address. Within their environment the XSS worked.

At this point I think even the researchers were puzzled. They sent me this code that they believed was the function causing the XSS within wp-includes/functions.php http://pastebin.com/iBnpN8Zm.

function wp_guess_url() {
	if ( defined('WP_SITEURL') && '' != WP_SITEURL ) {
		$url = WP_SITEURL;
	} else {
		$schema = is_ssl() ? 'https://' : 'http://';
		$url = preg_replace('|/wp-admin/.*|i', '', $schema . $_SERVER['HTTP_HOST'] . $_SERVER['REQUEST_URI']);
	return rtrim($url, '/');

The XSS occurs because $_SERVER[‘REQUEST_URI’] (the URI which was given in order to access the page) was used within output before first being sanitized. Or better yet, it shouldn’t have been used at all.

The reason I couldn’t reproduce it or why the researchers couldn’t reproduce outside of their environment? The reason is the ‘else’ never gets triggered when WordPress was installed via a domain.

If you installed WordPress by accessing, for example, you are vulnerable. If however, like most people, but not all, installed WordPress via the domain name, http://www.ethicalhack3r.co.uk you are not vulnerable.

Quick and easy fix until WordPress release a patch? Put $_SERVER[‘REQUEST_URI’] through esc_html() first, esc_html($_SERVER[‘REQUEST_URI’]).

Example (tested):


$url = preg_replace('|/wp-admin/.*|i', '', $schema . $_SERVER['HTTP_HOST'] . esc_html($_SERVER['REQUEST_URI']));


WordPress 3.3.1 has been released that seems to fix the issue.

31 thoughts on “WordPress 3.3 Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

  1. superevr

    If the WordPress site is running HTTPS, there is a good chance that it can still be accessed by IP address, and vulnerable to this bug.

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  11. ethicalhack3r


    It should depend on which you were using when you installed WordPress, the IP address of the domain name.

  12. parsigate

    I have justdPress installation address shouldn’t be the same as the site address.

    and suggest this:
    Moving WP core files to any non-standard folder will make your site less vulnerable to automated attacks. Most scripts that script kiddies use rely on default file paths. If your blog is setup on http://www.site.com you can put WP files in ie: /var/www/vhosts/site.com/www/wp-core/ instead of the obvious /var/www/vhosts/site.com/www/.

    Site and WP address can easily be changed in Options – General. Before doing so please watch this detailed video tutorial which describes what other steps are necessary to move your WP core files to another location.

    do you think it’s really an issue?

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