Why CMS Security Vulnerabilities Happen (and How to Protect Yourself)
Crownpeak Logo Posted by Crownpeak June 08, 2021

Why CMS Security Vulnerabilities Happen (and How to Protect Yourself)

With website security breaches a constant worry, cybersecurity has become an important aspect of doing business today. Given the scope of the threat, with websites subject to constant attacks from malicious actors around the globe, a robust security program is crucial to protect your business and the hard-earned trust you’ve built with your customers.

A major source of security vulnerabilities can be an organization’s content management system (CMS). If your CMS doesn’t feature a resilient and secure application service infrastructure, it can leave you open to intrusion and place your valuable data at risk. 

Enterprise CMS security risks stem from a variety of sources. In addition to the security characteristics of CMS infrastructure, potential vulnerabilities associated with updating and operating a CMS must also be considered. Because many businesses rely heavily on their websites for lead generation, new customer acquisition, and vital business functions, protecting your site from unwanted intrusion should be a mission-critical objective. Given the scope of online activity in today’s business world, the sheer number of transactions and business functions processed online extends the potential attack surface presented by the sites/applications enabling these transactions.   

A study performed by Trustwave found at least one vulnerability in 97% of the websites examined. 

Whether you use your website for crucial business operations or for branding/lead acquisition purposes, a cybersecurity breach can have serious consequences both from a reputational and financial standpoint. While network attacks, such as DDoS  attract a great deal of public attention, attacks that steal your valuable data or involve regulatory violations or brand hijacking can prove to be just as or even more damaging.

The following are three of the most common ways CMS security vulnerabilities can occur:

1. Unapplied updates and security patches

For any company with a traditional on-premises CMS, or a traditional CMS installed in the cloud (also referred to as “Fake Cloud” as the inherent advantages of the cloud aren’t fully realized in this model), the burden of installing feature updates and security patches issued by the vendor falls to them. 

Applying updates and patches is notoriously complicated, costly and resource-intensive, and aside from the CMS itself, requires comprehensive testing of integrations, third-party plugins and APIs. For this reason, it is common for companies to delay the cost and disruption and continue to run software that is two or more years out of date. 

The problem is that unapplied updates are a major source of risk and this is a noted vulnerability of these types of CMS architectures vs modern Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), True Cloud vendors.

Besides an inability to access new features and functionality, failing to perform updates and patches can significantly increase the risk of security breaches. Because security flaws in a software product are typically quickly shared among threat actors once discovered, most software providers make a point of patching such vulnerabilities as rapidly as possible once they have been identified.  

The longer these security updates go unaddressed, the greater the chance that a threat actor will use an unpatched security vulnerability to launch an attack on your site. As a result, unapplied updates are a prime source of security breaches. 

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2. Content vulnerabilities

In addition to failing to patch known security vulnerabilities, another major source of cybersecurity incidents stems from placing operational aspects of a CMS in the same location where content is stored. Doing so increases the risk that threat actors will gain access to confidential data or be able to hijack operational command of a solution. If they manage to do so, significant damage can be done to your company’s reputation and business operations. 

Alongside the potential exposure of customer data, damage can also be caused if sensitive information is hacked from pre-production environments: Consider the implications of a leaked release of sensitive corporate announcements or financial reporting data.

Traditional, coupled CMS are most at risk of these types of security breaches due to their design. Because the back-end content design functionality is linked to the front-end content delivery segment of the platform, if an attacker finds a flaw in the security of the website linked to the CMS, it can result in access to the operational portion of the platform. This, in turn, can lead to a serious security breach of customer data and sensitive content as well as the potential hijacking of the compromised website. A decoupled CMS architecture is more inherently secure than a coupled one, as content management and delivery are isolated.

3. Poor Network Security

Attacks, such as DDoS, can harm your company’s reputation by causing customers and prospects to question your company’s ability to keep its website available and open for business. These attacks don’t typically seek to gain control of a website’s operational functions, but rather to compromise a website’s availability.

How to protect against CMS security vulnerabilities

To defend against CMS security vulnerabilities, a robust series of measures is needed, that must encompass both CMS design considerations and active measures to deter attackers and cure security vulnerabilities as soon as they are discovered. In each case, modern, decoupled, SaaS solutions have a native advantage.

These measures include:

SaaS automatic updates

When it comes to cybersecurity, SaaS WCM solutions have a fundamental advantage: Updates and security patches are automatically applied so enterprises can be confident that they are protected at all times. In addition, because SaaS providers, unlike traditional vendors, are responsible for securing the application itself, they tend to invest heavily in security technology and expertise and offer the most robust protections in the market.

A truly cloud-native solution such as Crownpeak Digital Experience Manager (DXM) automatically updates the platform on a regular basis, providing security updates immediately they become available, giving customers peace of mind.

Separation of content management from delivery

While traditional, monolithic or “coupled” CMS face security challenges due to their linkage between front-end and back-end platform functionality, decoupled CMS avoid this potential vulnerability by design. Because there is no shared functionality between the content design and content delivery portions, these CMS avoid placing sensitive operational applications on a public website. 

At Crownpeak, our applications function as hybrid multi-tenant environments. This means that while stateless infrastructure is shared across all customers, stateful services such as database and file systems are partitioned between customers. As a result of this design:

  • No Crownpeak customer’s data co-resides with that of any other customer.
  • Intrusion detection software is standard across Crownpeak’s entire infrastructure.
  • Crownpeak offers additional services that provide support for encryption of data at rest in both the CMS and web hosting environments.

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Additional cybersecurity protection

A lot of CMS vendors rely on their internal team to manually protect against DDoS attacks and infrastructure vulnerabilities. 

Unlike other SaaS providers, Crownpeak ensures end-to-end security as part of our best-in-class offering by partnering with Webscale. Our SaaS products are managed and maintained on Amazon Web Services (AWS), which offers industry-leading security practices and robust controls designed to maintain security and data protection in the cloud. As an AWS Advanced Technology Partner with Digital Customer Experience Competency status, Crownpeak meets the highest standards for security and regulatory compliance.

To defend against network attacks, Crownpeak, powered by Webscale Cloud Security Suite, offers comprehensive 360-degree protection from the traffic edge to the proxy layer and deep into the application infrastructure. This allows customers a live look into their infrastructure, enabling them to identify unwanted changes, customize controls to protect against sophisticated attacks, and the ability to react against intrusions in critical moments. 

Create and deploy content securely with a Crownpeak CMS

Crownpeak offers the most secure digital experience platform available, and for this reason is the favored solution for enterprises with exacting security requirements and companies operating in highly regulated sectors.

Our clients are protected by secure software development best practices, which include formal design reviews by the internal Crownpeak security team, threat modeling, completion of risk assessment, and static code analysis as well as recurring penetration testing by carefully selected, independent industry experts.

To learn more about Crownpeak security features, contact us today.

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