November 4, 2014 By Shane Schick 2 min read

Most people probably like to go to work under the assumption that their website wasn’t hacked, but representatives of the Drupal content management system (CMS) say those who failed to immediately patch a critical vulnerability were likely compromised.

A prepared statement on Drupal.org details the nature of the vulnerability, which takes the form of a SQL injection flaw that allows automated attacks to hit sites that use the CMS. The vulnerability was discovered in mid-October, and though a patch was released, attackers likely targeted sites in less than eight hours, Threatpost reported.

Ironically, the CVE-2014-3704 vulnerability was specifically intended to thwart SQL injection attacks, in which malicious software code is used to gain access to a database. CSO Online said attackers were able to take advantage of unpatched Drupal sites to steal information and even take them over entirely. Like Heartbleed, which affected untold numbers of websites around the world, Drupal is largely looked over by a team of about 40 volunteers, CSO Online noted. This lack of resources may explain why the issue was initially disclosed in a public bug-tracking report from last year.

The potential impact of attacks on Drupal websites could be wide-ranging. The Web Host Industry Review noted an estimated 24 percent of .gov websites use the CMS, but it has been adopted far beyond the public sector as well. At this point, experts are suggesting that upgrading to Version 7.3 or applying the patch will not be enough and that users should assume their site has been infiltrated.

Instead, ZDNet and others shared an eight-point response plan that website administrators should pursue. The steps included taking sites offline and replacing them with a temporary HTML page, moving to a new server or removing files from the old server for analysis and restoring to backup versions of the site from before Oct. 14, 2014.

This last point is hugely important because, as PCWorld and others reported, attackers may have tried to cover their tracks by first compromising Drupal sites and then applying the patch themselves to prevent others from breaking in. In other words, even if a site looks like it’s already safe, it’s probably not.

If the site is hosted by a third party, administrators of other websites managed by the same service provider should also be notified. In fact, eWEEK interviewed sources that suggested it was service providers who played a key role in revealing the extent of the danger and recording details about some of the first attacks.

Image Source: Flickr

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