Warning: avoid using pirated themes on WordPress and other CMS sites

Anyone who operates a WordPress, Joomla or Drupal site should exercise extreme caution when selecting themes and plugins. You should assume that any commercial theme or plugin offered for free contains malware.

Popular Content Management Systems (CMS), including WordPress, Joomla and Drupal can be customized through the use of themes and plugins. A theme is a collection of styles and other files that modify the default appearance of a CMS. A plugin typically adds specific functionality to a CMS. Many CMS themes and plugins are available for free, but the commercial ones are among the most popular, since they often include more and better features.

As with all commercial software, CMS themes and plugins are sometimes copied and offered for free on pirate sites. Unfortunately, it’s very easy for a theme or plugin to be modified so that any site using it can be compromised and then used for illegal activities.

The people at Fox-It recently published a document describing “CryptoPHP” (PDF) – malware that is showing up on CMS sites with alarming regularity. They traced the source of the malware to thousands of themes and plugins that had been modified to include a single line of PHP code that allows CryptoPHP to infect any site that uses one of those themes or plugins.

Recommendation: if you operate a CMS site, do not use any commercial theme or plugin that is offered for free. Make sure you obtain themes and plugins from the developer/author, or from a reputable source like wordpress.org.

There’s more information over on the Wordfence blog.

About jrivett

Jeff Rivett has worked with and written about computers since the early 1980s. His first computer was an Apple II+, built by his father and heavily customized. Jeff's writing appeared in Computist Magazine in the 1980s, and he created and sold a game utility (Ultimaker 2, reviewed in the December 1983 Washington Apple Pi Journal) to international markets during the same period. Proceeds from writing, software sales, and contract programming gigs paid his way through university, earning him a Bachelor of Science (Computer Science) degree at UWO. Jeff went on to work as a programmer, sysadmin, and manager in various industries. There's more on the About page, and on the Jeff Rivett Consulting site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *