Tips for securing your Liferay installation

There’s few security related things that I see people constantly doing wrong. The very first thing is assuming Liferay bundle with it’s default settings is secure for production. It is far from secure. Don’t get me wrong this doesn’t mean that Liferay isn’t secure it just means that shouldn’t deploy Liferay with it’s default settings and assume it’s secure. So let’s go over some things you should consider.

Default admin user

Everyone knows the default admin user test@liferay.com and some attacks have taken advantage knowing this user and even it’s userid which is predictable. What I would suggest is not only to change the email address and screenname of this user but actually create a completely new admin user and remove this user.

Portal instance web id

The default company web id is liferay.com and it goes without saying you should change it unless you are actually deploying liferay.com. You can do this simply by setting company.default.web.id property in your portal-ext.properties. This must be done before you start your portal and let it generate the database.

Encryption algorithm

By default Liferay is configured to use 56bit DES encryption algorithm. I believe this legacy is due to US encryption export laws. The problem with 56bit DES is that it was cracked back in the 90s and is not considered secure encryption anymore. Liferay encrypts certaing things with this like your password in Remember Me cookie. If someone get’s a hold of that cookie they can crack your password. I would recommend using at least 128bit AES. To do that you’ll just need to set following properties before starting your portal against a clean database.

company.encryption.algorithm=AES
company.encryption.key.size=128

Password hashing

Recently there has been a lot of sites that have their passwords being compromised because they weren’t using salt with their password hash. Liferay by default uses SHA-1 to hash your password. That hash is a one way algorithm that doesn’t allow reversing the password from the hash but if someone gets a hold of your password hash it’s still possible to crack with brute force or by using rainbow tables. Rainbow tables are precalculated hashes that allow very easily and fast find unsalted passwords. Salt is something we add to the password before hashing it and it’s preferrable unique of each password so that even if two users have the same password their hash is different. Liferay comes with SSHA algorithm that salts the password before calculating the SHA-1 hash from it. You can enable it by setting following in your portal-ext.properties

password.encryption.algorithm=SSHA

Unused SSO hooks

The default Liferay bundle comes with all SSO hooks included even thought they are not all enabled it’s a good idea to remove any hooks your are not using. There’s a property called auto.login.hooks and you should remove all hooks your are not using. Also remember to disable their associated filters.

Unused Remote APIs

Liferay has several different remote APIs such as JSON, JSONWS, Web service, Atom, WebDAV, Sharepoint etc. You should go through them and disable everything your site is not using. Please note that some Liferay builtin portlets rely on some of these APIs. All the APIs are accessible under /api URL.

Mixed HTTP and HTTPS

Everyone should by now know about Firesheep a firefox extension that allows an attacker to sniff a wifi network they are connected to and hijack a users authenticated session. This attack can compromise any website that doesn’t use all authenticated traffic over https. If you use https for just part of the site and your users can access rest of the site as authenticated user over http then your are vulnerable to Firesheep attack. This is especially bad with Liferay if you are using the default encryption and you use Remember me functionality because then the attacker could even compromise your password and use it login to any system where you use the same password. I’m sad to say that even Liferay.com is vulnerable to this attack.

Shared Secrets

Don’t forget to change any shared secrets. The auth.token.shared.secret has a default value that you want to change so that no-one can try to exploit it. This tip came from Jelmer who has found many vulnerabilities in Liferay.  Another one you don’t want to overlook is auth.mac.shared.key which has default value of blank. That one is relevant if you auth.mac.allowset to true.

This is not an exhaustive list but this should make your Liferay installation much more secure than it is by default. For more tips on what to configure before going to production check out Liferay whitepapers. You should especially read the deployment checklist. If you can think of any other things that should be on this list comment them or tweet them to me @koivimik

Update: Added shared secret tip from Jelmer