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Hackers could attack 1 million websites in a content management system flaw

Kevin Parrish
The team behind the Drupal content management system is releasing updates and patches to fix a highly critical vulnerability. The flaw enables multiple attack vectors and could give complete control of a website to hackers.

A vulnerability discovered in a popular content management system could leave nearly 1 million websites open to attack if left unpatched. The developers behind the content management system, Drupal, label the issue as “highly critical” because the vulnerability enables various attack points and could grant hackers complete control of a website. The vulnerability exists within Drupal 6.x, Drupal 7.x, and Drupal 8.x.  

A content management system is the backbone of a website. It’s a database that stores and manage all digital input, including articles, images, photos, and more. Most content management system layouts provide a friendly interface for inserting content along with the necessary search engine optimization fields to get the resulting webpage noticed on Google, Yahoo, Bing, and so on. 

Drupal is just one of many content management systems to manage pages and media across a website. A few other systems include WordPress, Joomla, and Kentico while many websites simply rely on an in-house content management system for the highest level of customization and security.  

Jasper Mattsson of development house Druid found the vulnerability in Drupal, dubbed as SA-CORE-2018-002, as part of Drupal’s routine security examination. The Drupal team doesn’t go into specifics but merely state that hackers could compromise a Drupal-based site. So far, there is no known exploit to take advantage of this vulnerability, thus site-based sabotage is merely theoretical for now. 

Based on the company’s in-house scoring system, here is what the vulnerability covers: 

  • All non-public data is accessible
  • All data can be modified or deleted
  • Default or common module configurations are exploitable, but a config change can disable the exploit 

“Note on the last point that while a configuration change can theoretically mitigate the issue, it would have to be a drastic configuration change,” the Drupal team states. “The Security Team strongly recommends that the best solution is for sites to upgrade.” 

Finally, here is  Drupal’s update schedule to fix the vulnerability: 

Version  Status  Solution 
Drupal 6.x 

End of Life 

Contact a D6LTS vendor 

Drupal 7.x 

Active 

Upgrade to Drupal 7.58 or
install this patch. 

Drupal 8.3.x 

Not supported 

Upgrade to Drupal 8.3.9 or
install this patch. 

Drupal 8.4.x 

Not supported 

Upgrade to Drupal 8.4.6 or
install this patch. 

Drupal 8.5.x 

Active 

Upgrade to Drupal 8.5.1 or
install this patch. 

 “Drupal 8.3.x and 8.4.x are no longer supported and we don’t normally provide security releases for unsupported minor releases,” the team adds. “However, given the potential severity of this issue, we are providing 8.3.x and 8.4.x releases that includes the fix for sites which have not yet had a chance to update to 8.5.0.” 

According to BuiltWith, 37 percent of the websites using a content management system rely on WordPress followed by Drupal at nine percent and Google’s Search Appliance at three percent. The stats also show that Drupal powers 928,443 sites while WordPress backs 19,883,677 websites, or 5.3 percent of the entire internet, as of April 2.