By: Shankar
April 27 2018

Best Security Focussed CMS - Drupal 8

Website security is one of the most significant aspects that every business considers to thrive on and dominate the internet space. Vulnerabilities in your sites can give hackers the upper hand in finding a key to the safety vault. Drupal 8 stands out as the most favored Content Management System (CMS) which comes bundled with a plenitude of advantages over other leading content management frameworks.

Ever since Drupal 8 came into the scene, it has emerged as the most technically improved CMS in terms of security. A slew of security modules also constitutes its reputation as the best CMS for website security.

How is Drupal the most secure CMS?

DrupalCon Baltimore 2017 had a discussion that delved into the security improvements of the Drupal 8. This session talked about betterments in the context of PHP web application security. They showed that the vulnerabilities reported in Drupal 7 code were resolved in Drupal 8.

What are the essential features that make Drupal 8 the best CMS in terms of security?

Security Team of Drupal spread across the world are a driving force in finding out anomalies and fixing them. 

The goals of the Security Team are to resolve reported issues in a Security Advisory. They provide help for contributed module maintainers. They document these identifications and modifications to make sure that developers don’t find themselves tied in knots. They assist the infrastructure team to keep the Drupal.org infrastructure secure.

The Security Working Group (SecWG) strives hard to make sure that Drupal core and Drupal’s contributed project ecosystem provides the secure platform. It also ensures that it gives developers best security practices.

SecWG assesses the measures taken by the Security Team, helps in the timely and efficient rectification of issues and makes sure that the Security Team has the required resources.

In case of any security update, the community ensures that you get notified the day patches are released. Security release windows are released every Wednesday for contributed projects, and the third Wednesday of every month for core, usually, for a fixed period of time.

Drupal community notifies about the patch updates as soon as it releases. Usually, these releases are done every Wednesday for contributed projects and third Wednesday of every month for Drupal core.

As a not-for-profit charitable organization, OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) focuses on improving the security of software. Drupal conforms to the OWASP standards and its community is committed towards prevention of safety hazards.

Drupal Community constitutes over a million contributors towards its enhancement.

That’s the biggest advantage of being an open source platform. Every one of the members is proactively assessing typical oddities and trying to fix that. Such stringent measures make sure that issues are timely reported and sorted out.

The stored password gets encrypted when you install Drupal for the very first time. Characters are added to the password, that is, it is salted. It is then run through the hash function. Such intricacies make it tougher to break the password.

Moreover, there are modules that can support two-factor authentication and SSL certificates.

Having an open source code base, contributed user modules are properly reviewed and verified by the Drupal Community.

Once they are thoroughly checked by the Drupal core maintainers, it is made available for everyone to incorporate that into their setup. Any member can play around Drupal modules and report any issues that have occurred in their system.

Database encryption can be done efficaciously with the help of Drupal. It is configurable to encrypt your complete website or just a part of it like content types, nodes, and taxonomy terms.

Access controls offered by Drupal is a top-notch feature. Dedicated accounts for certain user roles with specified permissions can be done easily. For instance, you can have separate user accounts for Admin and Content Editor.

Such restrictions help in providing right permissions to the right person. Provision of irrelevant permissions only poses more convolutions.

Constant updates provided by Drupal ensures that the website is properly configured and is up to date. Proactively providing patches for the add-ons and plugins lends top-of-the-line security.

Key industries like governmental and international organizations, digital media and higher education institutions are using Drupal for curating and producing great content on their website. Drupal has given them a spectacular framework to safeguard their website from threats.

What are the major technological advancements that made Drupal 8 a force to reckon with when it comes to website security?

Major Technical Improvements

Drupal 8 has closed down many glitches and bugs reported in Drupal 7.

Removing the PHP input format in the core is probably the most important advancement which has removed code execution vulnerability. That means administrator login does not have to be executed with arbitrary PHP code or shell commands anymore.

Twig templates, which is used for HTML generation, is considered one of the most important improvements. This has resulted in better validation of 3rd party themes.

Twig auto-escaping has also prevented most frequently found Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in the custom site themes and custom and contributed modules.

Tracking configuration in code has been streamlined with an auditable history of changes through Configuration Management Initiative. Also, it helps in avoiding mistakes that creep in during manual configuration. Configuration changes in the production server can be completely blocked.

Use of filtered HTML format for content entry has prevented the execution of XSS attacks on other site users.

User session and session ID management has also been fortified in Drupal 8.

These are some of the most important modifications that have taken shape in Drupal 8. There are also several modules that have given impetus to its reputation as the most secure CMS. Let’s find out.

Top security modules

Drupal 8 is packed with multiple modules that give an extra layer of security.

Authentication purpose modules can come handy for top-level security. Modules like Login Security can help in restricting the login flow. Password Policy lets you define rules for setting account passwords. Two-Factor Authentication enables OTP authentication. 

Security Review purpose modules like Coder scans and assesses your Drupal code.

Spam Prevention purpose modules like Captcha help you include captcha support with any form on the website.

Check out our detailed explanation of top Drupal security modules.

Comparison between major CMS platforms

Statistically, Drupal performs much better than leading CMS platforms for preventing safety hazards.

Sucuri, security platform for websites, compiled the ‘Hacked Website report’. It analyzed more than 34,000 infected websites. Among the statistics that it shared, one of the parameters was to compare the affected open-source CMS applications.

Wordpress, Joomla, and Magento suffered the most. The infection crept in due to improper deployment, configuration, and the maintenance.

Bar graph showing infected websites platform in 2017
Source: Sucuri

The infection rate of major content management frameworks had a varied change. While Wordpress had a significant increase from 74 percent in 2016 Q3 to 84 percent in 2017, Magento had a slight rise from 6 percent in 2016 Q3 to 6.5 percent in 2017.

Joomla had a considerable drop from 17 percent in 2016 Q3 to 13.1 percent in 2017. Drupal bettered its rate from 2 percent in 2016 Q3 to 1.6 percent in 2017.

Bar graph showing CMS infection comparison in 2017
Source: Sucuri

MDPI, which pioneers in open access publishing, prepared a report called ‘A Comparative Study of Web Content Management Systems’. They used Acunetix software for auditing the website. They compared Drupal and Joomla in terms of most commonly occurring vulnerabilities - SQL injection and XSS. Drupal came out as the clear winner.

Summary

Website security is the most important constraint to survive without any existential threats. Drupal has been the frontrunner when it comes to choosing the security focussed CMS.

Being an open source platform and Drupal’s security team’s efforts in providing essential features and timely updates in Drupal 8 has come to the fore in making it the most reliable and secure CMS.

The transition from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 has seen a tremendous advancement in blocking the vulnerabilities.

For an extra layer of security, Drupal 8 comes with several remarkable security modules.

Statistically proven, Drupal is the best CMS in terms of security among the major CMS platforms.

Contact us at [email protected] to get the best out of Drupal 8 and its security features.