Drupal: If you weren't quick to patch, assume your site was hacked

Drupal site owners who failed to rapidly deploy a recent critical patch were advised to restore their sites from backups

Users of Drupal, one of the most popular content management systems, should consider their sites compromised if they didn't immediately apply a security patch released on Oct. 15.

The unusually alarming statement was part of a "public service announcement" issued by the Drupal project's security team Wednesday.

"Automated attacks began compromising Drupal 7 websites that were not patched or updated to Drupal 7.32 within hours of the announcement of SA-CORE-2014-005 - Drupal core - SQL injection," the Drupal security team said. "You should proceed under the assumption that every Drupal 7 website was compromised unless updated or patched before Oct 15th, 11pm UTC, that is 7 hours after the announcement."

The SA-CORE-2014-005 advisory, published Oct. 15, warned used about a highly critical SQL injection vulnerability that affects Drupal versions older than 7.32. Exploiting the vulnerability does not require authentication and can lead to a complete website compromise.

The reason why Drupal's security team came out with a stronger warning and additional guidance Wednesday was because of the speed with which attackers began targeting this vulnerability and because a potential compromise can be very hard to detect.

"Attackers may have copied all data out of your site and could use it maliciously," the Drupal security team said. "There may be no trace of the attack."

The vulnerability also allows the installation of multiple backdoors in the site's database, code, file directories and other locations and it's impossible for an administrator to say with complete confidence that all of them were found. Attackers may use such backdoors to attack and compromise other services on the underlying Web server, allowing them to expand their access beyond the website itself, the Drupal security team said.

Users should try to determine whether their websites were patched by their hosting providers before the attacks began or if those providers successfully blocked all attack attempts. If that cannot be guaranteed, the best course of action, according to the Drupal team, is to take the sites offline, delete all their files and databases, restore them from backups made before Oct. 15 and then patch the sites before bringing them back online.

Users should also notify their server administrators that attackers might have compromised other sites and applications hosted on the same servers. If possible, the server should be changed completely before restoring a site. If restoring from a backup is not possible, rebuilding the site from scratch is a better alternative than attempting to clean it up, because backdoors can be extremely difficult to find, the Drupal security team said.

What can make this incident worse is that Drupal, unlike other content management systems like Joomla and WordPress, is heavily used by large organizations, said Daniel Cid, the chief technology officer of Web security firm Sucuri, in a blog post.

Unlike consumers and small businesses, large organizations have certain processes they have to follow when deploying patches and those can take time, he said.

"This is a recipe for disaster, if it's true and those websites are in fact compromised, they could be leveraged and daisy chained for a massive malware distribution campaign," Cid said. "Take that into consideration with the size and audience of brands and the impact grows exponentially."

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags patchesintrusiononline safetysecuritypatch managementSucuridrupalExploits / vulnerabilities

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?