WordPress Security

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The WordPress Security Team is made up of approximately 50 experts including lead developers and security researchers — about half are employees of Automattic (makers of WordPress.com, the earliest and largest WordPress hosting platform on the web), and a number work in the web security field. The team consults with well-known and trusted security researchers and hosting companies3.

The WordPress Security Team often collaborates with other security teams to address issues in common dependencies, such as resolving the vulnerability in the PHP XML parser, used by the XML-RPC API that ships with WordPress, in WordPress 3.9.24. This vulnerability resolution was a result of a joint effort by both WordPress and Drupal security teams.

WordPress Security Risks, Process, and History

The WordPress Security Team believes in Responsible Disclosure by alerting the security team immediately of any potential vulnerabilities. Potential security vulnerabilities can be signaled to the Security Team via the WordPress HackerOne5. The Security Team communicates amongst itself via a private Slack channel, and works on a walled-off, private Trac for tracking, testing, and fixing bugs and security problems.

WordPress Security

Each security report is acknowledged upon receipt, and the team works to verify the vulnerability and determine its severity. If confirmed, the security team then plans for a patch to fix the problem which can be committed to an upcoming release of the WordPress software or it can be pushed as an immediate security release, depending on the severity of the issue.

For an immediate security release, an advisory is published by the Security Team to the WordPress.org News site6 announcing the release and detailing the changes. Credit for the responsible disclosure of a vulnerability is given in the advisory to encourage and reinforce continued responsible reporting in the future.

Administrators of the WordPress software see a notification on their site dashboard to upgrade when a new release is available, and following the manual upgrade users are redirected to the About WordPress screen which details the changes. If administrators have automatic background updates enabled, they will receive an email after an upgrade has been completed.

Automatic Background Updates for Security Releases

Starting with version 3.7, WordPress introduced automated background updates for all minor releases7, such as 3.7.1 and 3.7.2. The WordPress Security Team can identify, fix, and push out automated security enhancements for WordPress without the site owner needing to do anything on their end, and the security update will install automatically.

When a security update is pushed for the current stable release of WordPress, the core team will also push security updates for all the releases that are capable of background updates (since WordPress 3.7), so these older but still recent versions of WordPress will receive security enhancements.

Individual site owners can opt to remove automatic background updates through a simple change in their configuration file, but keeping the functionality is strongly recommended by the core team, as well as running the latest stable release of WordPress.

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