WordPress Releases Critical Security Update

LOS ANGELES — Less than a week after the release of WordPress Version 4.2, a critical security update was released today — along with an admonition for all users to immediately update their installations.

Debuting on April 23, with a goal of improving WordPress’ communication, sharing and simplicity, Version 4.2, nicknamed “Powell” in honor of jazz pianist Bud Powell, offers easier ways to share content, while providing extended character support, enhanced embed options, and streamlined plugin updates.

Now, an emergency patch, Version 4.2.1, has been released to the public and is an update for all previous WordPress versions. The patch addresses a cross-site scripting vulnerability that could enable comment posters to compromise a site.

As for who is affected by this vulnerability, all WordPress-powered sites are at risk if they allow users to post comments via the integrated commenting system.

“An attacker could leverage a bug in the way comments are stored in the site’s database to insert malicious scripts on your site, thus potentially allowing them to infect your visitors with malware, inject SEO spam or even insert backdoor in the site’s code if the code runs when in a logged-in administrator browser,” Marc-Alexandre Montpas wrote for Sucuri.net, advising WordPress site admins to “definitely disable comments on your site until a patch is [installed] to protect your site and customers.”

The unexpected update fuels critics that claim the Open Source WordPress core lacks security, but the opposite is true: As the world’s most popular publishing platform, WordPress is actively embraced by tens of thousands of developers and used in countless websites, making its underlying code perhaps the most scrutinized software on the planet. This means that vulnerabilities are revealed and mitigated far more often than those contained in proprietary systems that are only well-known to a relative handful of developers and users.

WordPress 4.2.1 is now rolling out as an automatic update for sites that support them.

To manually update an installation, download WordPress 4.2.1 or click “Update Now” from the admin Dashboard.