Drupal’s Security: Best Practices

Whether you're running a small blog, a bustling e-commerce site or a corporate portal, ensuring that your platform is safe from threats is a top priority. However, it's not simply a matter of “secure” or “not secure.” 


A collage featuring Drupal security

Drupal, a popular content management system (CMS), is recognized for its strong focus on security. Instead of simply categorizing issues as “high”, “medium” or “low” severity, Drupal uses a more detailed 25-point scale to score security vulnerabilities. This nuanced approach acknowledges that security is not black and white and allows the Drupal community to better assess the severity and impact of security issues. This then enables them to prioritize and address the issues effectively.

That’s how Drupal earned the trust of some of the most security-conscious organizations like NASA, innovators like Tesla, and a host of government entities across the United States.

Although it's extremely rare, but when a security issue hits that dreaded 25/25 mark, Drupal sends an alert. Most of the time, security issues fall somewhere in the middle. They still require an immediate response but don’t send everyone panicking. Despite this detailed and nuanced approach, many people still worry about the security of their sites, especially as threats become increasingly more sophisticated.

In this article, we’ll demystify Drupal’s security and discuss best practices to ensure your site remains a safe and trusted place for your users.

Is Drupal Secure? The Open Source Issue

When managing a website, one of the first questions many people ask is, “Is my platform secure?” For Drupal users, this question is often accompanied by concerns specific to open source software. 

By nature, open source software is a bit of an open book – anyone can view the code. This transparency might seem like a double-edged sword. On one hand, malicious actors can spot  vulnerabilities. On the other, being open source means a vast community of developers and users can scrutinize the code for any weaknesses. This collective scrutiny leads to the rapid identification and patching of vulnerabilities. 

Essentially, Drupal's security is continuously being tested and reinforced by an active, engaged community. This collaborative effort means Drupal is robust in its security measures and proactive with constant updates and improvements. This CMS doesn't just offer security updates; it provides detailed security reports and advisories that are openly shared with the community, ensuring everyone is informed and can take appropriate action. 

Security updates are reliably rolled out on Wednesdays, complete with a detailed scoring system to indicate the severity of the fix. For the most critical updates, Drupal goes a step further by offering advanced warnings through the Drupal Steward Program (providing proactive security measures) with Pantheon as a founding partner. This level of transparency and regularity in updates makes Drupal a trusted and secure choice for website owners.

Despite the robust security measures in place, no system is entirely invulnerable. Recognizing potential risks and understanding how to mitigate them is key to maintaining a secure Drupal website. Here are some common vulnerabilities:

  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS): This occurs when attackers inject malicious scripts into content being delivered to a browser. Drupal actively works to sanitize inputs and outputs to prevent such attacks. However, these sanitizations only work if developers use Drupal's theming system correctly (which was surprisingly hard before Drupal 8). 
  • Authentication Bypass: This risk involves attackers gaining unauthorized access to the site by circumventing login mechanisms. Regular updates and strong password policies help mitigate this risk.
  • Remote Code Execution (RCE): In such scenarios, attackers execute arbitrary code on the server. Drupal's rigorous code review process aims to close any loopholes that could allow RCE.
  • SQL Injection: This involves inserting malicious SQL queries via the input data from the client to the application. Drupal's use of a SQL abstraction layer helps protect against such injections.
  • Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF): Here, a malicious actor typically lures a verified user into clicking on a specially crafted link or visiting a malicious website, which then sends a request to the target web application on behalf of the trusted user.
  • Out-of-Date Themes and Modules: One of the most straightforward paths to vulnerability is through outdated components. Keeping themes and modules updated is crucial, as these updates often include security patches.

Drupal Security Best Practices

Ensuring your Drupal site remains secure isn’t a one-and-done deal. It demands regular attention and assessment to stay ahead of potential threats. This dynamic nature of security underscores the importance of adopting a proactive stance and continuously evaluating and enhancing security measures to safeguard your online presence effectively. Here’s how:

Regular Updates and Patches

Your Drupal site’s security hinges on promptly applying updates and patches. These updates frequently address vulnerabilities that malicious actors could exploit. Neglecting them exposes your site to potential attacks. 

With Pantheon’s Autopilot feature, this critical process is streamlined as it automatically updates your site, guaranteeing that you consistently operate on the latest and most secure version.

User Account Security

Robust user account security starts with enforcing strong password policies. Drupal’s built-in password strength indicators can help guide users in choosing secure passwords. Additionally, setting proper user permissions and roles is crucial to ensuring that users have only the access they need.

Pantheon enhances this aspect with Role-Based Access, allowing for fine-tuned access control over user permissions, and supports SAML/SSO for even stronger security measures.

Security Modules

The Drupal community has developed thousands of security modules, each designed to address specific security concerns. Here are a few key ones:

  • CAPTCHA and reCAPTCHAThese contributed modules help protect your site from spam and abuse by ensuring that actions are performed by humans, not bots.
  • Security KitThis module provides a set of security-hardening features, helping protect against a range of common web vulnerabilities.
  • Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)2FA adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide two forms of identification when logging in.
  • Password PolicyEnforces rules for password strength and expiration to help ensure users create secure passwords.
  • Automated LogoutAutomatically logs users out after a period of inactivity, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.

Database Security

Secure database management, including regular backups and encryption for sensitive data, is essential. Pantheon’s automated backups ensure that your data is securely stored and easily recoverable, providing peace of mind and safeguarding against data loss.


Securing user connections and data transfer with HTTPS is non-negotiable in today's web environment. Pantheon automatically provides HTTPS certificates, ensuring that all data transmitted to and from your site is encrypted and secure.

Security Audits and Regular Monitoring

Conducting regular security audits is a key practice in identifying potential vulnerabilities. Pantheon’s Automated Site Monitoring provides an additional layer of security, keeping a vigilant eye on your site’s status and health.

Firewall and DDoS Protection

A robust firewall and DDoS protection defend your site against malicious attacks. Pantheon provides comprehensive Web Application Firewall (WAF) and DDoS protections, helping shield your site from a wide array of threats.

Drupal Security Hardening With Pantheon's Tools

Pantheon elevates Drupal security to new heights with a suite of advanced tools designed to fortify your web presence against sophisticated threats. 


Pantheon WebOps Platform

Among these, Pantheon’s Advanced Global Content Delivery Network (CDN) and Web Application Firewall (WAF) offer exceptional security benefits:

  • Geolocation Detection and Blocking: Allows or blocks access based on geographic location, providing an effective tool against region-specific threats.
  • IP Allow/Blocklisting: Enables you to control access to your site more granularly by specifying which IP addresses are allowed or blocked.
  • Edge Logging: Offers real-time insights into your traffic, enabling quick identification and response to any suspicious activities.
  • Custom Rules and Redirects: Tailor security measures to fit your specific needs, offering flexibility and enhanced protection against a variety of attack vectors.

Pantheon’s Best Practices For Maintenance and Updates Across Your Sites

Pantheon significantly enhances web performance at scale by automating tasks and streamlining workflows. Here are some of the top features:

  • Centralized Management: Pantheon’s dashboard streamlines the management of your digital portfolio, making it easier to maintain and update multiple sites. This centralized management tool simplifies the workflow, saving time and reducing the potential for errors.
  • Testing and Quality Assurance: With Pantheon’s Dev, Test, Live environments, you can rigorously test updates in a controlled setting before making them live. This ensures any changes, including security updates, are fully vetted and won’t negatively impact your site’s performance or user experience.
  • Automated Workflows for Updates: Autopilot automates the update process, keeping your site’s core, themes and plugins up to date with minimal oversight. As Christopher Whyte, Director of Technology at Health Resources in Action (HRiA), notes, “Autopilot not only saves time but also ensures that updates are reliably applied, enhancing site security and performance”.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Pantheon continuously scans for vulnerabilities, providing timely security alerts and recommendations. This proactive monitoring ensures that potential threats are identified and addressed promptly, maintaining the integrity of your site.
  • Automated Backups and One-Click Updates: These features simplify the process of keeping your site secure and functional, ensuring that you have recent backups and can quickly apply updates as they become available.
  • Immutable Code: To further secure your site, Pantheon implements immutable code in the Test and Live environments, which means that code is write-protected. This prevents unauthorized changes, ensuring that only approved updates are implemented, thus safeguarding your site against unauthorized modifications.

Pantheon in Action: Adaptive

Adaptive, a UK-based Drupal agency, dramatically reduced its security management workload by nearly 96% after switching to Pantheon's Advanced Global CDN (AGCDN). Previously challenged by managing multiple configurations across 30 sites with Cloudflare and AWS WAF, Adaptive found relief in AGCDN's streamlined, efficient security solutions. 


Adaptive web page

This move simplified infrastructure management, allowing their team to focus on core business activities and improved site performance and security, providing a one-stop solution with minimal maintenance requirements. As Dan Frost, Managing Director at Adaptive said, “AGCDN is not just about cost savings. It’s the hearts and minds of our team having the surety to deliver on our service.” This strategic shift underscores the benefits of integrated WebOps platforms for scalable, secure digital management.

Take Your Drupal Security to the Next Level With Pantheon

Drupal's robust platform, coupled with proactive security practices, offers a strong foundation for building secure websites. However, the dynamic nature of cybersecurity threats means that vigilance and ongoing maintenance are crucial.

Regular updates and patches, the deployment of security modules and the necessity of secure logins play a pivotal role in safeguarding your Drupal site. By emphasizing these practices, we aim to empower you, the reader, with the knowledge and tools to ensure your site remains as secure as possible.

Pantheon, the fastest Drupal host on the planet, dramatically simplifies the process, making the implementation of these security best practices more straightforward and enhancing your site's overall security and performance. From automated updates with Autopilot to Advanced Global CDN features and rigorous monitoring, Pantheon provides an invaluable layer of protection and efficiency. This unique combination of speed, security and convenience positions Pantheon as an essential partner in your website’s success.

Don't let the complexities of web security overwhelm you. Reach out to a Pantheon expert today and discover how we can elevate your Drupal site's security to the highest standard!