As the internet has evolved over the years, the underlying programming that keeps websites up and running has grown dramatically more complex. This means that most website owners and operators rely on a software interpreter, like a Content Management System or CMS to organize and update their sites. While this puts robust web design tools in the hands of lots of people, it can create gaping security holes when the user opts for an open source CMS.
Why Open Source Is A Double-Edged Sword
Like all open source software, an open CMS is often developed by a vast community of programmers and users. The fruits of their labors are available free of charge and the sheer breadth of the user base produces a vibrant and varied range of possible features. This is why most of the web's most popular CMSs (such as Wordpress, Drupal, and Joomla) are open source.
The problem is that the very popularity and openness of these development communities also makes them vulnerable to malicious intrusion. Hackers eagerly search for and pounce on known vulnerabilities in popular open source Content Management Systems. Because the underlying code is in the public domain, no one is responsible for patching security holes. Thanks to the large user-base, most open CMSs receive security fixes in a fairly timely manner but how much damage is done before a good samaritan closes the latest hole?
Besides the security flaws inherent in the open source model, these types of Content Management Systems also foster more security risks. Because they are designed for less technically-savvy users, they often suffer from the sort of innocent mistakes that can open the door to malicious hackers. A prime example would be the use of weak passwords. Many open source users choose administrative passwords that can easily be broken with brute force hacking techniques.
Most websites tend to cluster on servers that are dedicated to running the same CMS. In the case of open source systems, this can be very bad news. One weak website compromises the entire server. Even a smart site owner who is careful to use the best security features may suffer if another owner on the same server leaves the door open.