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Web Software Updates
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Category Archives: Moodle
When it comes to keeping websites secure, keeping the software on them up to date is one of the basic measures that needs to be taken. We know that web hosts are aware of this because they will often tell people when their websites have been hacked that it was due to outdated software (since this usually isn’t based on any actually evidence, it often is wrong). Unfortunately we continue to find that web hosts don’t bother to make sure that they are not distributing outdated software to their customers.
Recently while doing some work on a web site hosted with InMotion Hosting, we noticed that in the website’s cPanel control panel that the option to install Joomla 2.5 was being prominently displayed:
That should not be happening since support for Joomla 2.5 ended back on December 31. Not only does that put websites at risk if a security issues is found in Joomla 2.5, but it can cause unnecessary trouble down the road because upgrading from Joomla 2.5 to 3.x is not always the one-click upgrade it is a promoted as.
On the installation page they do provide the option to install the currently supported version of Joomla, 3.4.1, as well. But you would have to select that version from a drop down box:
The problems don’t stop there. On the main page for their software installing service the ninth slot is Moodle 2.0:
Support for Moodle 2.0 ended nearly three years ago, in June 2012.
As with Joomla, they do also offer supported versions, but you would have to select those from a dropdown where 2.0 is the default:
Installing this version now will lead to otherwise unnecessary work down the road because Moodle will have to be upgraded to version 2.2 before it can be upgraded to a version 2.3 of higher.
When it comes to the security of websites, keeping the software running them up to date is an important. While web hosts make a point of emphasizing the need to keep the user added software up to date, up to point of often incorrectly jumping to the conclusion that a website must have been hacked due to outdated software, they often fail to their part by keeping the software running the server up to date. In the case of DreamHost, this now not only means that their servers are not properly secured, but also that recent software can’t be used.
The latest version of Moodle, 2.7, requires at least version 5.5.31 of MySQL. This shouldn’t be a problem as MySQL 5.5 is currently the oldest series supported and version 5.5.31 was released 16 months ago. Unfortunately, while we preparing to do a Moodle upgrade for a client hosted with DreamHost we found that they are still on version 5.1.56. Our client contacted them about this and didn’t get any movement on getting this updated. They were not first, as the issue was brought up in May on a thread on DreamHost forum requesting that MySQL be updated. A DreamHost representative replied in the thread before and after that so they should have be aware that it was mentioned.
While the inability to use the latest version of Moodle is of concern, the larger issue is just how out of date DreamHost leaves the software running on their servers. Support for MySQL 5.1 ended at the end of last year, so they have been running an unsupported version for eight months. If they needed to stick to MySQL 5.1 for some reason, then you would expect that would be running the last version of 5.1, but there not. Instead they are running a version that is over three years out of date (5.1.57 was released in May of 2011) and they didn’t update after either of two subsequent releases with security updates were put out (5.1.62 and 5.1.63).
When the makers of web software talk about security they always emphasize the importance of keeping software updated. One of the developers of WordPress said it this way “The only thing that I can promise will keep your blog secure today and in the future is upgrading.” Keeping software updated is good advice, but isn’t advice that the software makers, including WordPress, always follow themselves.
We recently mentioned a pretty egregious example of this from OpenX. Their blog, where they recently said it is critical to keep software up to date, is running a version of WordPress that is over three years out of date. Also, the main portion of their website appears to be running a version of Drupal that is over a year out of date.
MediaWiki, the software the powers the Wikipedia, is run on portions of many web software websites so we decided that it would be a good choice to see if software makers are keeping other people’s software running on their website up to date. There are several ways to check what version of MediaWiki is running and the easiest way to check for outdated MediaWiki installations is to use our Meta Generator Version Check web browser extension, available for Firefox and Chrome. The extension will show a warning icon when a web page has a meta generator tag from an outdated version of web software.
For those not familiar with MediaWiki they currently provide security updates for the two most recent releases 1.17.x and 1.18.x. The most recent version of those releases 1.17.2 and 1.18.1, both of which were released on January 11. We update our web browser extension a month after a new version is released, so until then it will check for MediaiWiki versions below 1.17.1.
Before mentioning the websites running outdated versions it is worth noting that one website we checked was actually up to date. TYPO3’s TYPO3Wiki is running 1.18.1.
The WordPress Codex is the most out of date as it is running 1.15.5, which is two supported releases out of date. Support for 1.15.x ended in December of 2010.
The Zen Cart Wiki is one supported release out of date and running a version, 1.16.2, that that is three minor updates out of date. Support for 1.16.x ended in late November of last year.
Joomla! Documentation is one supported release out of date and running a version, 1.16.4, that that is one minor update out of date.
The phpBB Development Wiki is at least running the most recent version of 1.16.x, 1.16.5, but that release is no longer supported.
MoodleDocs is at least running a supported release, 1.17.x, but the version, 1.17.0, is two minor updates out of date.