XSS: Definition and Fixes

Cross-site scripting (XSS) is a common cybersecurity threat that affects many large companies, with almost 40% of all cyberattacks targeting XSS vulnerabilities. This type of attack involves injecting malicious scripts into trusted websites, such as those run by web giants like eBay, Google, Facebook, and Twitter. While XSS attacks have been around since the early days of the web, they remain a significant threat to website security today.

JavaScript is the most common target of XSS attacks, as it is fundamental to most browsing experiences. Cybercriminals can use JavaScript to log into the back of web pages and insert malicious scripts. There are two main ways that cybercriminals perform XSS attacks on WordPress websites: by exploiting user input or bypassing the same-origin policies.

Exploiting user input is the most common way that cybercriminals perform XSS attacks. Most WordPress websites have user input fields, such as search bars, comment forms, login pages, and contact forms. The input field is typically enabled by a JavaScript-powered WordPress plugin or theme active on the website. However, not all WordPress plugins and themes are 100% secure, and many of them have XSS vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals can utilize these vulnerabilities in input fields to run malicious activities.

Bypassing same-origin policies involves using session cookies to get around the policy that restricts one page from retrieving information from other web pages. Session cookies store login credentials, credit card information, shipment details, and other sensitive data. Cybercriminals can use code injected into user input to steal session cookies and then use them to login to users’ accounts and steal financial data.

XSS attacks are dangerous because they can steal account credentials, financial data, and facilitate phishing scams. They can also spread computer worms or get access to users’ computers remotely. XSS attacks allow hackers to hijack user accounts, spread malware, control users’ computers remotely, scan and exploit intranet applications.

There are three main types of cross-site scripting attacks: stored, reflected, and DOM-based XSS. Stored XSS vulnerabilities take place when user input is stored in a database, comment field, visitor log, or other target servers. Reflected XSS vulnerabilities take place when a web application immediately returns user input in a search result, error message, or any other response. DOM-based XSS vulnerabilities occur in the DOM rather than in the part of HTML.

To prevent XSS attacks, website owners can validate and sanitize user inputs, install security plugins that regularly scan for malware and use firewalls to block malicious traffic, implement WordPress hardening measures, manage all WordPress updates, and back up their website. Additionally, installing anti-XSS plugins can help secure user input fields such as comment forms, login fields, or search bars.

In conclusion, understanding what cross-site scripting is and taking preventative measures is crucial for website owners to keep their websites safe from cyberattacks. By validating and sanitizing user inputs and installing security and anti-XSS plugins, website owners can protect their WordPress websites from XSS vulnerabilities.

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