Making a difference, One Drupal security patch at a time

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Advisory by the Drupal security team

Recently, the References module started receiving some attention (read here, here and here). The reason for this is that the Drupal security team posted an advisory to migrate away from the References module for Drupal 7 and move to the entity_reference module. At the time of writing (20 April), 121.091 sites are actively reporting to Drupal.org that they are using this module. That makes for a lot of unhappy developers.

Things kicked off after a security vulnerability was discovered in the References module. The security team tried to contact the existing maintainers of that module, but there was no response. The security team had no choice but to mark the module as abandoned and send out the following advisory explaining that the details would be made public in a month and that everyone should upgrade, as there was no fix available.

Migrate efficiently

At Dropsolid, we noticed that for many of our older Drupal 7 installs we were still using this module extensively. Migrating all of the affected sites would have meant a very lengthy undertaking, so I was curious to find a way to spend less time and effort while still fixing the problem. We immediately contacted one of the people who reported the security issue and tried to get more information other than what was publicly available. That person stayed true to the rules and did not disclose any information about the issue.

We didn’t give up, but made an official request to the security team offering to help and requesting access to the security vulnerability issue. The Drupal security team reviewed the request and granted me access. In the Drupal Security issue queue there was some historical information about this vulnerability, some answers and a proposed patch. The patch had not been tested, but this is where Dropsolid chimed in. After extensively testing the patch on all the different scenarios on an actual site that was vulnerable, we marked the issue as Reviewed and Tested by the Community (RTBC) and stepped up to maintain the References module for future security issues.

It pays off to step in

I’d like to thank Niels Aers, one of my colleagues, as his involvement was critical in this journey and he is now the current maintainer of this module. He jumped straight in without hesitation. In the end, we spent less time fixing the actual issue compared to the potential effort for changing all our sites to use a different module. So remember: you can also make a similar impact to the Drupal community by stepping up when something like this happens. Do not freak out, but think how you can help your clients, company and career by fixing something for more than just you or your company.

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