Getting into an abandoned WordPress site

wordpress-logo-hoz-rgb

If you ever find an abandoned Linux server running WordPress on your network that was left for dead but still running somehow, here are some tips on what to do. I just went through this and was amazed when I discovered the WordPress install wasn’t compromised.

1. Get root. Kind of goes without saying. Get console and if you don’t have the root password to the box, you’re not going anywhere.

2. Get mysql root. WordPress is probably running mysql as a the backend db. If you don’t have that, reset it.

3. Get into mysql at the command-line and find the wordpress db to get to the wp-users table.

4. Your db is probably titled “wordpress” but it could be a variant of that.

2015-07-16_8-35-25

5. Select the wp-users table in your WordPress db and reset the password for the ID =1 user.

2015-07-16_8-51-00

6. Reset that password in the table for the ID 1 entry

7. That should give you login to the old WordPress site (http://www.site.com/wp-admin/)  via the browser.

After you are able to login, I wish you the best. Unpatched WordPress sites are a constant target for bots in need of sites to host malware, so you are very lucky if you find the site has not been compromised. When I logged-in, I found a WordPress 3.2 site which puts it at about 4 years old against the release history.

https://codex.wordpress.org/WordPress_Versions

 

 

 

Stopping WordPress /xmlrpc.php Apache requests with UFW on Ubuntu

The WordPress XML-RPC ping attack is pretty annoying. For large sites and coordinated attacks, the XML-RPC issue can get insane. For my site, the /xmlrpc.php queries/post attempts are more of a log annoyance. Still, it is a hassle that I wanted to kill. The various WordPress plugins to help with this and the .htaccess commands really didn’t give me the closure I wanted, so it was time to leverage the bundled firewall, UFW, on my Ubuntu server.

Here is the problem. A quick grep of the /var/log/apache2/access.log will show the issue.

grep-xmlrpc

The various plugins for WordPress, the Apache .htaccess allow/deny commands or the rewrite don’t really stop the query to the webserver service but they do minimize the response traffic required. For most of these servers doing the attacks, there is no value in even having them connect to server anymore once they have pinged it to death for hours. These are not users, these are bots and I’d rather not even let them have a response.

I had very minimal firewall rules around web and mail services on this server prior to going after the xmlrpc.php attacks. But, it was time to add a few to the serial offending ips coming after my xmlrpc.php and WordPress. If your server is getting attacked by hundreds or thousands of IPs, than this method is more laborious that what you want to do. You can try to go with the fail2ban framework with WordPress and Linux. On my server running Ubuntu, the request problem is pretty contained to just a few IPs from time to time trying their luck with my WordPress xmlrpc.php. So, the path of blocking them outright is an easy thing to do.

The UFW community page at Ubuntu is great. I have always hated manual IPTables rules, so UFW is nice and clean to deal with.I reset ufw to default rules to clean-out all my old setups and start from scratch again. Add the rules you need for basic services and ports via the standard or advanced methods. There is also a GUI tool, GUFW, to handle this, but it has it’s limitations. You need to enable UFW if it isn’t active and add some rules to kill off the bad guys from even connecting to the server. If you can do this via a perimeter firewall, great. This is a home server, so the router in doesn’t have much beyond basic port forwarding functionality.

The issue with Apache and UFW is that Apache will read the rules in numeric order. So, any deny commands you do by IP or IP/port/service need to be ahead of the 80/http and 443/https allow rules. If you try to block and do your deny rules below the Apache2 allow rule for 80/443, it will not do anything for you. Get those deny rules up!

You can do this through the insert ufw command.

After pumping in a few of them, your rules will start to look like this:

First few rules via ufw status numbered
First few rules via ufw status numbered

I could have been specific to the IP and incoming port and only block http or https, but why with these IPs either evil bots or compromised servers. My allow for port 80 and 443 rules are further down the numeric list. Issuing a reload and watching the apache2 access.log will provide validation that these servers aren’t going to bug you anymore. You can also flip the ufw logs to medium to get a better sense of the activity it is deflecting if you need proof.

Spam comment of note

SPAM BOT

Found this commenet in my Worldpress spam comments area. Like me, everyone running a blog or comments section gets a ton of bots trying to post and send links back, but this one is notable because they didn’t generate the code properly or something and you see all the permutations of the wording. Enjoy.


 

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Any way keep up wrinting.|
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{Tx|Texas}! Just wanted to {tell you|mention|say} keep up
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you|Cheers|Appreciate it|Kudos}!|
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{Reading through|Looking at|Going through|Looking through}
this {post|article} reminds me of my previous roommate!

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My slight tweaks on wp-svbtle

screenshot-3

After around a year or so of using a forked wp-svbtle theme from ThemesKult, I really wanted to go back and get as standard as possible. I had previously done a lot of messing with the style.css and some other files in the standard branch over at Github. But, I wanted to come clean and take advantage of the improvements. Here are some ideas if you are thinking about doing the same.

Using page redirects in WordPress vs. coding in links in the wp-svbtle header

I was doing some wacky mods to the header to get some links on the sidebar. Recent builds of wp-svbtle have support for WordPress widgets and menus. So, no crazy need anymore to get nutty and fork the header.php. I did get the WordPress plugin Speedy Page Redirect that does a great job on kicking WordPress page entries to external links.

Speed Page Redirect in WordPress example

Rather than coding a link to something like a social media profile, you can just create a page in WordPress, put it in the nav menu you are using with wp-svbtle and off you go. Much better than trying to maintain a forked file that often gets updated over a GH.

Tweaking the search css to get it in alignment with the pages on the sidebar

The default css entries for pulling-in and placing the built-in WordPress search widget was a little off for me for whatever reason. Here is the css in the style.css of wp-svbtle as of 2013-08-25:

But I made a slight change on the margin-left. I doubled it. That seemed to fix the issue of alignment in my testing.

It’s a beautiful theme and I really like the feel while also having the extra tools around comments, plugins, widgets, and all the other advantages of the WordPress ecosystem. I continue to be happy with it even after looking and many other themes and options out there.

 

Traffic Visualization Generated From Hacker News via Logstalgia

I wanted to play with Logstalgia (https://github.com/acaudwell/Logstalgia) a little so I found an older Apache log file back in Jan 2013 from my website when I was fortunate to get some votes and get on the first page on Hacker News. The video is using standard Logstalgia compiled on Ubuntu 13.10. I accelerated the speed during capture and put a minute or two of the log in prior to HN activity to provide a sense of normal before 14:49 when things get crazy.

Hacker News Traffic Visualization via Logstalgia from Jonathan Mergy on Vimeo.