Ultimate Drupal Security Checklist

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Firas Ghunaim

Why Drupal Security Should Be Your Top Priority

Security is a paramount concern for any Drupal website owner. With the increasing number of cyber threats and vulnerabilities, ensuring the safety of your website and its data has never been more challenging. This comprehensive checklist serves as a one-stop guide to help you fortify your Drupal website against potential security risks.

Follow these expert-recommended steps to safeguard your digital assets and maintain the trust of your users.


Data Protection and Encryption

1. Remove SQL Dumps

Use a cron job or automated script to remove SQL dumps after database backup operations. Never leave SQL dumps on the production server. They contain sensitive data and are a prime target for attackers.

2. Data Encryption

Use the Drupal "Encrypt" module to encrypt sensitive data before storing it in the database. Always use strong encryption algorithms like AES-256. Store encryption keys securely, separate from the Drupal installation.

3. Secure File Uploads

Limit file uploads to certain types and sizes. Use the Drupal "File Entity" module to manage file entities and settings. Always scan uploaded files for malware using server-side scanning tools.

4. Database Security

Use database prefixes and restrict database user permissions. Only grant the permissions that are absolutely necessary for the Drupal installation. Regularly review database permissions and revoke any that are no longer needed.


Drupal Installation Security

1. File Permissions

Set the correct permissions for directories and files. Directories should be 755 and files should be 644. Use commands like chmod to set permissions. Follow Drupal's official documentation for setting file and directory permissions. The sites/default/files directory should be writable by the web server but not publicly accessible.

2. Private Folder Setup

Configure Drupal's private file system path via admin/config/media/file-system. Make sure it's outside the web root or properly protected by .htaccess rules. Use the private folder to store sensitive files and ensure that it's not accessible via direct URL.

3. Secure Configuration Files

Set the .htaccess and settings.php files to be read-only. Use the command chmod 444 settings.php. The settings.php file contains sensitive configuration data. Make it read-only to prevent unauthorized modifications.

4. Trusted Host Settings

Technical Details: Configure trusted host settings in settings.php to prevent HTTP Host Header attacks. Expert Tip: Explicitly list the domains that are allowed to serve the Drupal site in the settings.php file.


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User Access and Permissions

1. Disable User Registration

Navigate to Configuration > Account settings and set "Who can register accounts?" to "Administrators only." If your site doesn't require user-generated content, disable user registration to prevent unauthorized access.

2. Strong Administrator Password and Username

Use a strong password and username for the administrator account. Drupal recommends a password length of at least 12 characters. Use a combination of upper-case letters, numbers, and special characters for both the admin username and password. Avoid common usernames like "admin."

3. Role-Based Access Control

Create user roles with specific permissions under People > Permissions. Limit the capabilities of each role based on the principle of least privilege. Regularly review and update roles and permissions. Remove any roles or permissions that are no longer needed.

4. Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Use the "Two-factor Authentication (TFA)" Drupal module to add an extra layer of security. Encourage all users, especially administrators, to enable 2FA for added account security.

5. Session Timeout

Use the "Automated Logout" module to set session timeouts for different roles. Shorter session timeouts are generally more secure but can affect user experience. Find a balance that works for your site.


Additional Security Measures

1. Captcha

Install and configure the "Captcha" or "reCaptcha" modules to add captcha challenges to public-facing forms. Captchas are effective in reducing the risk of automated attacks on forms. Make sure to add them to login, registration, and contact forms.

2. SSL Configuration

Install an SSL certificate and configure your web server to redirect all HTTP traffic to HTTPS. Use Let's Encrypt for a free SSL certificate or purchase one from a reputable provider. Always force HTTPS to secure data in transit.

3. HTTP HOST Header Protection

Add conditions in your web server configuration to validate the HTTP HOST header. This prevents Host Header Injection attacks. Make sure your web server only responds to requests with valid HOST headers.

4. Security Headers

Use the "Security Kit" Drupal module to set security-related HTTP headers like Content Security Policy, X-Content-Type-Options, and Referrer-Policy. Properly configured security headers can protect your site against various types of attacks like clickjacking.

5. Non-Blocking Issues from DBlog

Monitor the Drupal logs for non-blocking issues and log them in your project management tool for future review. Use a dedicated project management tool to track non-blocking issues and address them in future sprints.

6. Disable Development Modules and Settings

Disable all development-related modules like "Devel" and settings like TWIG auto-reload in your production environment. Development modules and settings can expose sensitive information and should never be enabled on a production site.

7. Logging Strategy

Use the "Syslog" module for logging instead of "DBlog" to prevent database overload. Syslog is more efficient and secure for logging. Make sure to also back up logs and review them regularly for any suspicious activity.


Monitoring and Auditing

1. Regular Security Audits

Use tools like Drupal's "Security Review" module to perform regular security audits. Schedule automated security audits and review the reports to identify and fix vulnerabilities.

2. Module Updates

Regularly update Drupal modules, especially those with security fixes. Use the "Update Manager" module to check for available updates. Always test module updates on a staging environment before applying them to the production site.

3. Drupal Core Updates

Keep the Drupal Core up-to-date to patch known vulnerabilities. Use drush up drupal for updating. Similar to module updates, always test core updates in a staging environment first.

4. Log Monitoring

Use log monitoring tools to keep an eye on system logs. Set up alerts for suspicious activities. Tools like Splunk or ELK Stack can help you centralize and analyze logs for any security-related incidents.

5. Backup and Restore Strategy

Implement a robust backup and restore strategy. Use modules like "Backup and Migrate" for automated backups. Store backups in a secure, off-site location. Test your restore procedures regularly to ensure they work as expected.


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Regulatory Compliance

1. GDPR Compliance

Use the "GDPR Compliance" module to help your website meet GDPR requirements, such as cookie consent and data portability. Conduct a GDPR audit to identify areas where your website may be non-compliant and address them promptly.

2. PCI DSS Compliance

If your website handles credit card transactions, ensure it is PCI DSS compliant. Use secure and compliant payment gateways. Regularly update and patch all software components to meet PCI DSS requirements for secure data handling.

3. Accessibility Compliance

Use the "Accessibility Checker" Drupal module to ensure your website meets WCAG 2.0 standards. Accessibility is not just good practice; it's often a legal requirement. Make sure your site is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.

4. Local and Industry-Specific Regulations

Be aware of any local or industry-specific regulations that may apply to your website and ensure compliance. Consult with legal experts to understand any specific compliance requirements for your industry or region.

5. Audit Trails

Maintain detailed logs and audit trails for compliance purposes. Use modules like "Audit Log" to capture important events. Regularly review audit logs and keep them secure. They are often required for compliance audits and can be crucial in incident investigations.


Incident Response and Recovery

1. Incident Response Plan

Develop a comprehensive incident response plan that outlines the steps to take in case of a security breach. Regularly update and test the incident response plan. Make sure all team members are familiar with it.

2. Data Breach Protocols

Have protocols in place for notifying affected users and authorities in case of a data breach. Time is of the essence in a data breach. Have templates for communication and a list of contacts ready.

3. Forensic Analysis

In the event of a security incident, perform a forensic analysis to understand the attack vectors and affected components. Preserve logs and other evidence for the forensic analysis. This can also be crucial for legal reasons.

4. Recovery Procedures

Document the steps for recovering from different types of incidents, including restoring from backups and patching vulnerabilities. Test recovery procedures regularly to ensure they are effective and up-to-date.

5. Post-Incident Review

After resolving an incident, conduct a post-incident review to identify lessons learned and update the incident response plan accordingly. Use the post-incident review as an opportunity to improve your security posture and prevent similar incidents in the future.


Secure Your Data: Download our Incident Response Plan Template


API Security

1. API Authentication

Use OAuth or JWT for secure API authentication. Avoid using API keys in URLs. OAuth 2.0 is generally considered more secure and flexible for API authentication. Implement it whenever possible.

2. Rate Limiting

Implement rate limiting on your API endpoints to prevent abuse. Use Drupal's "Flood Control" module or a dedicated API gateway for sophisticated rate limiting based on user behavior.

3. Data Validation

Always validate data on both client and server sides before processing API requests. Use Drupal's built-in validation functions or custom validation logic to ensure only valid data is processed.

4. Secure Transmissions

Always use HTTPS for API communications to ensure data is encrypted in transit. Use strong encryption algorithms and keep your SSL/TLS certificates up-to-date.

5. API Monitoring

Continuously monitor API usage and set up alerts for suspicious activities. Use API monitoring tools that can detect anomalies in real-time and trigger alerts or blocks.


Performance and Security

1. Server Response Time

Optimize server response time by using caching mechanisms like Redis or Memcache. A faster server response time not only improves user experience but also makes it more difficult for attackers to exploit time-based vulnerabilities.

2. Image Optimization

Use modern image formats like WebP and AVIF for better compression and faster load times. Optimized images reduce server load and bandwidth usage, indirectly contributing to better security.

3. SEO and Security

Ensure that the Sitemap and Meta Tag modules are properly configured. Check and update the Robots.txt file. A well-optimized site for SEO is generally more secure as search engines penalize insecure or compromised websites.

4. Resource Minification

Minify CSS, JS, and HTML resources to reduce load times. Minification not only improves performance but also makes it slightly more difficult for attackers to read and manipulate your code.

5. Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Use a CDN to distribute traffic, absorb DDoS attacks, and improve site performance. Choose a CDN provider that offers built-in security features like DDoS protection and Web Application Firewall (WAF).


Secure Your Data: Download our Incident Report Form template



Periodic Review and Updates

1. Regular Security Audits

Schedule regular security audits using tools like Drupal's "Security Review" module and third-party services. Make security audits a part of your development cycle, especially after major updates or feature releases.

2. Update and Patch Management

Keep a schedule for checking and applying updates to Drupal Core, modules, and other components. Use automated tools to notify you of new updates, but always test them in a staging environment first. Learn more about the latest release of Drupal 10.

3. User Access Review

Periodically review user roles and permissions to ensure only authorized personnel have access to sensitive areas. Implement a "least privilege" policy, granting users only the permissions they need to perform their tasks.

4. Backup Verification

Regularly test your backups to ensure they can be successfully restored. Keep multiple backup copies in different secure locations, and automate the backup verification process if possible.

5. Security Training and Awareness

Conduct regular security training sessions for your team to keep them updated on the latest security threats and best practices. Make security awareness a part of your company culture. Educated team members are your first line of defense against security threats.


Securing a Drupal website is an ongoing process that requires meticulous attention to detail and expertise. While this checklist provides a robust framework for Drupal security, the ever-changing nature of cyber threats necessitates professional oversight. If you're looking for certified Drupal security services that you can rely on, don't hesitate to contact iSpectra.

Our team of experts is committed to ensuring that your Drupal website remains impenetrable against evolving security threats.