In a recent investigation case, security researchers at Sucuri revealed that 26,000 different WordPress sites were generating a sustained rate of 10,000 to 11,000 HTTPS requests per second against one website, and sometimes even peaked at 20,000. The problem is that any WordPress website could be used to attack the availability of other websites if the pingback feature is enabled (its default setting).
The HTTP flood or Layer 7 attacks would inundate the web server with Layer 7 requests resulting in very large DDoS attacks and disrupt a server by exhausting its resources at the application layer and not at the network layer. They do not require as many requests or as much bandwidth to cause damage; they are able to force a large consumption of memory and CPU on most PHP applications, content management systems (CMS), and databases.
Founder and CTO of Sucuri, Daniel Cid recommends disabling pingbacks on your site. Although It won’t protect you from being attacked, but will stop your site from attacking others.
“The best course of action is to disable pingbacks and if possible, disable xmlrpc altogether if you are not using it. If you are, you can make some very small changes to your .htaccess file to allow only whitelisted IPs to access the file. This might be the case with the popular JetPack plugin.” He said.
It has been known for years that the WordPress pingback service can be abused for DDoS attacks mainly because website owners rarely bother to prevent their site from being added to a botnet. Since the attack is coming from thousands of different IP’s, network-based firewalls will do little to stop the attacks as they only do rate limiting per IP address. The researchers discovered that the majority of IP addresses used in this attack were sites hosted on popular VPS/Cloud/Dedicated server providers: Amazon AWS, Digital Ocean, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Hetzner, OVH and Linode.
The researchers discovered that the majority of IP addresses used in this attack were sites hosted on popular VPS/Cloud/Dedicated server providers: Amazon AWS, Digital Ocean, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Hetzner, OVH and Linode.
About the Author
Ali Taherian (@ali_taherian) is an enthusiastic information security Officer. He’s finished his education in information security and has recently been involved in banking software and payment security industry. Taherian is proud to be certified IBM Cloud Computing Solution Advisor and ECSA and enjoys sharing and tweeting about security advances and news.
Edited by Pierluigi Paganini
(Security Affairs – DDoS, WordPress)