General Guidelines

The recommendations in this chapter apply for all roles: system administrators, TYPO3 integrators, editors and strictly speaking even for (frontend) users.

Secure Passwords

It is critical that every user is using secure passwords to authenticate themselfs at systems like TYPO3. Below are rules that should be implemented in a password policy:

  1. Ensure that the passwords you use have a minimum length of 9 or more characters.
  2. Passwords should have a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters.
  3. Passwords should not be made up of personal information such as names, nick names, pet’s names, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
  4. Passwords should not be made out of common words that can be found in dictionaries.
  5. Do not store passwords on Post-it notes, under your desk cover, in your wallet, unencrypted on USB sticks or somewhere else.
  6. Always use a different password for different logins! Never use the same password for your e-mail account, the TYPO3 backend, an online forum and so on.
  7. Change your passwords in regular intervals but not too often (this would make remembering the correct password too difficult) and avoid to re-use the last 10 passwords.
  8. Do not use the “stay logged in” feature on websites and do not store passwords in applications like FTP clients. Enter the password manually every time you log in.

A good rule for a secure password would be that a search engine such as Google should deliver no results if you would search for it. Please note: do not determine your passwords by this idea – this is an example only how cryptic a password should be.

Another rule is that you should not choose a password that is too strong either. This sounds self-contradictory but most people will write down a password that is too difficult to remember – and this is against the rules listed above.

In a perfect world you should use “trusted” computers, only. Public computers in libraries, internet cafés, and sometimes even computers of work colleagues and friends can be manipulated (with or without the knowledge of the owner) and log your keyboard input.

Operating System and Browser Version

Make sure that you are using up-to-date software versions of your browser and that you have installed the latest updates for your operating system (such as Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X or Linux). Check for software updates regularly and install security patches immediately or at least as soon as possible.

It is also recommended to use appropriate tools for detecting viruses, Trojans, keyloggers, rootkits and other “malware”.

Communication

A good communication between several roles is essential to clarify responsibilities and to coordinate the next steps when updates are required, an attacked site needs to be restored or other security- related actions need to be done as soon as possible.

A central point of contact, for example a person or a team responsible for coordinating these actions, is generally a good idea. This also lets others (e.g. integrators, editors, end-users) know, to whom they can report issues.

React Quickly

TYPO3 is open source software as well as all TYPO3 extensions published in the TYPO3 Extension Repository (TER). This means, everyone can download and investigate the code base. From a security perspective, this usually improves the software, simply because more people review the code, not only a few core developers. Currently, there are hundreds of developers actively involved in the TYPO3 community and if someone discovers and reports a security issue, he/she will be honored by being credited in the appropriate security bulletin.

The open source concept also implies that everyone can compare the old version with the new version of the software after a vulnerability became public. This may give an insight to anyone who has programming knowledge, how to exploit the vulnerability and therefore it is understandable how important it is, to react quickly and fix the issue before someone else compromises it. In other words, it is not enough to receive and read the security bulletins, it is also essential to react as soon as possible and to update the software or deinstall the affected component.

The security bulletins may also include specific advice such as configuration changes or similar. Check your individual TYPO3 instance and follow these recommendations.

Keep the TYPO3 Core up-to-date

As described in TYPO3 versions chapter, a new version of TYPO3 can either be a major update (e.g. from version 7.x.x to version 8.x.x), a minor update (e.g. from version 8.4.x to version 8.5.x) or a maintenance/bugfix/security release (e.g. from version 8.7.11 to 8.7.12).

In most cases, a maintenance/bugfix/security update is a no-brainer, see TYPO3 Installation and Upgrade Guide for further details.

When you extract the archive file of new TYPO3 sources into the existing install directory (e.g. the web root of your web server) and update the symbolic links, pointing to the directory of the new version, do not forget to delete the old and possibly insecure TYPO3 core version. Failing doing this creates the risk of leaving the source code of the previous TYPO3 version on the system and as a consequence, the insecure code may still be accessible and a security vulnerability possibly exploitable.

Another option is to store the extracted TYPO3 sources outside of the web root directory (so they are not accessible via web requests) as a general rule and use symbolic links inside the web root to point to the correct and secure TYPO3 version.

Keep TYPO3 Extensions Up-to-date

Do not rely on publicly released security announcements only. Reading the official security bulletins and updating TYPO3 extensions which are listed in the bulletins is an essential task but not sufficient to have a “secure” system.

Extension developers sometimes fix security issues in their extensions without notifying the Security Team (and maybe without mentioning it in the ChangeLog or in the upload comments). This is not the recommended way, but possible. Therefore updating extensions whenever a new version is published is a good idea in general – at least investigating/reviewing the changes and assessing if an update is required.

Also keep in mind that attackers often scan for system components that contain known security vulnerabilities to detect points of attack. These “components” can be specific software packages on a system level, scripts running on the web server but also specific TYPO3 versions or TYPO3 extensions.

The recommended way to update TYPO3 extensions is to use TYPO3’s internal Extension Manager (EM). The EM takes care of the download of the extension source code, extracts the archive and stores the files in the correct place, overwriting an existing old version by default. This ensures, the source code containing a possible security vulnerability will be removed from server when a new version of an extension is installed.

When a system administrator decides to create a copy of the directory of an existing insecure extension, before installing the new version, he/she often introduces the risk of leaving the (insecure) copy on the web server. For example:

typo3conf/ext/insecure_extension.bak
typo3conf/ext/insecure_extension.delete_me
typo3conf/ext/insecure_extension-1.2.3
...

The risk of exploiting a vulnerability is minimal, because the source code of the extension is not loaded by TYPO3, but it depends on the type of vulnerability of course.

The advice is to move the directory of the old version outside of the web root directory, so the insecure extension code is not accessible.

Use Staging Servers for Developments and Tests

During the development phase of a project and also after the launch of a TYPO3 site as ongoing maintenance work, it is often required to test if new or updated extensions, PHP, TypoScript or other code meets the requirements.

A website that is already “live” and publicly accessible should not be used for these purposes. New developments and tests should be done on so called “staging servers” which are used as a temporary stage and could be messed up without an impact on the “live” site. Only relevant/required, tested and reviewed clean code should then be implemented on the production site.

This is not security-related on the first view but “tests” are often grossly negligent implemented, without security aspects in mind. Staging servers also help keeping the production sites slim and clean and reduce maintenance work (e.g. updating extensions which are not in use).