AIOS Plugin Security Breach: Developers Release Patch and New Version
Bug Found in Version 5.1.9
The developers of the All-In-One Security (AIOS) plugin, installed on more than a million sites, have released a patch after users recently discovered that the plugin remembers passwords in plain text format and stores them in a database accessible to site administrators.
AIOS is a security plugin designed to prevent cyber attacks, including brute force attempts. It warns about using the default administrator username for logging in, prevents bot attacks, captures user activity, and fights spam in comments.
A bug with saving passwords was discovered on the WordPress forums about three weeks ago. The user, who noticed the strange behavior of the plugin, expressed concern that because of this, his organization would not pass the upcoming security check by third-party auditors. On the same day, an AIOS representative told him that “this is a known bug in the latest release” and also provided a script that was supposed to delete the saved data. The user reported that the script is not working.
As it turned out now, AIOS saved passwords automatically when users logged in, and the database with this data was freely available to site administrators. The developers explain that this happened as a result of a bug that appeared in May of this year, in version 5.1.9. Version 5.2.0, released this week, was supposed to fix the problem and also remove the data collected by the plugin.
Security Breach Could Only be Exploited by an Admin
AIOS representatives emphasize that in order to exploit this vulnerability, it was necessary to log on to the system with administrator privileges or equivalent. That is, only an intruder admin could take advantage of the bug, “who could already do such things, because he is an admin.”
It is worth noting that even after the release of AIOS 5.2.0, users complained that the update “breaks” their sites, but does not remove previously collected passwords. AIOS version 5.2.1 was released to solve this problem, but some users still claim that their sites are still down.
In addition, now the maintainers of AIOS are criticized by information security experts, stating that they should warn all affected users about saved passwords so that people can reset their credentials. This is especially true in cases where the same logins and passwords were used on several sites.
Experts Warn Against Storing Passwords in the Clear
Experts have long warned against storing passwords in the clear, given that hackers can relatively easily break into a site and steal data stored in a database. In this context, storing unencrypted passwords in any database—regardless of who has access to it—is a serious security breach.
The AIOS plugin security breach is a reminder of the importance of using strong passwords and regularly changing them. It is also a reminder of the importance of using a reliable security plugin and keeping it up to date. Finally, it is a reminder that even the most reliable security plugins can have bugs, and that users should always be aware of the risks associated with using them.