A new phishing attack targeting WordPress sites uses fake database upgrade messages to cause serious problems for site owners and operators.
As reported by research firm Sucuri, this attack differs from previous phishing campaigns because it uses an email that is designed to look like a legitimate WordPress request prompting users to upgrade their database immediately. Using style and font choices similar to those of actual WordPress updates — along with a footer resembling that of parent company Automattic — fraudsters attempt to lure users into clicking an “Upgrade” button. Next, victims are asked for their username and password, followed by a request for website name and administrator username.
Indicators of illegitimacy include multiple grammatical errors in the emails themselves and the mention of an imminent “deadline,” neither of which is consistent with WordPress or hosting providers in general.
Pressing Problems for Site Owners
When attackers collect usernames, passwords and website addresses, they have everything they need to deface site content and deliver malware to users. Additionally, full access to WordPress sites enables malicious actors to install backdoors, allowing them to come and go as they please. As a result, businesses may experience a sudden drop in site traffic or discover that they’ve been blacklisted by popular search services.
This new campaign is also worrisome for its human element. While employee awareness of phishing techniques is on the rise, the simplicity of this attack, combined with its at-a-glance authenticity, makes it a real risk for WordPress administrators and anyone in charge of content creation. Given the repeated advice of security experts to upgrade services and sites ASAP to avoid compromise, it’s no surprise that some administrators are fooled by the sudden appearance of this WordPress “upgrade.”
How to Raise Awareness of Phishing Campaigns
Security experts recommend conducting comprehensive employee training to promote the concept of shared responsibility for enterprise security. Security leaders should follow this up with videos, newsletters and in-person training sessions to ensure that employees have the most up-to-date information.
IBM experts also recommend implementing phishing identification and reporting mechanisms that use machine learning and advanced phishing detection algorithms to spot new campaigns before they compromise corporate networks.