Is Headless CMS a secure CMS? A Comprehensive Analysis

By Arso and Ilona
Read time 6 min
Posted on August 18, 2022
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CMS security

No matter the type of CMS being used, website security is critical for a successful online presence.

Did you know that the United States experiences the most data breaches of any country? In 2021, over 212.4 million users were affected!

Every business owner should care about website security; if they don't, it's the job of every website developer to emphasize it. A hacked website can lead to data loss, income loss, credibility, and potential lawsuits.

Also, that means countless hours of debugging and repair for you, dear developers, which is why it's so important to choose a collaborative headless CMS that offers free support and migration like BCMS. In this article, we'll dive into the details of headless CMS security and how it can help protect your website.

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How does hacking usually happen?

So, why are we talking about hacking in the first place? Believe it or not, not a day goes by without a compromised site, and some data says there are over 30,000 small business website hacks a day.

There are two main ways that websites get hacked: 1) through login screens and 2) through outdated websites.

Password strength plays a vital role

Login screens are the first stop for malicious hackers and bots seeking unauthorized access. Honestly, if you're trying to get into someone's account, wouldn't that be the first thing you would try (even if you're not a hacker)?

Password strength also plays a vital role. We can't emphasize enough that passwords like "12345678" or "password" are not secure. In fact, a recent study revealed that 99.9% of accounts get hacked because of weak passwords and not using multi-factor authentication. Remember, websites and accounts should be fortresses, unreachable to anyone unknown.

Security fortress

Outdated websites offer easy access to unauthorized users

Besides logins, outdated websites are an easy target for hacking. Using an obsolete version of your CMS means the security system still needs to be updated; therefore, it's not protecting that much.

According to a recent report on website security by ZDNet, most website hacks are related to vulnerabilities in plugins and themes, misconfiguration issues, and a lack of maintenance by web admins who forgot to update their content management system (CMS).

Additionally, traditional CMSs like WordPress and Joomla, and Drupal are popular targets for hackers for two simple reasons: their popularity and open-source code. Also, they tend to be used by less technical users, making them an easy target.


What is the best way to protect sensitive data?

There is only one proper way to protect sensitive data, and that's with the appropriate encryption. For transferring secure data, web applications can use the secure version of HTTP protocol - HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) protocol which uses SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) to protect messages transmitted via the network.

Secure Data should be written in an encrypted form and remain during transmission to ensure integrity and confidentiality. But securing the data slightly differs with headless CMS versus traditional.

How headless CMS security differs from traditional CMS?

To understand the security difference between these a headless CMS and a traditional CMS, we first have to know how they work. Similar to WordPress, the interface of a traditional CMS allows content creators and non-tech users to create and publish styled templates. The content created is stored within a database and displayed to the end-user or reader based on this pre-defined template.

In more technical words, the raw data for a blog post is pulled from the MySQL database by Wordpress's PHP application and pushed to the theme. The theme then converts the content into HTML and styles based on its CSS to let the reader consume it. It's clear now how everything in the traditional CMS is packaged together. The front end and the back end are codependent.

Getting all that critical functionality translates to a ton of code and many files. Which also means lots and lots of potential vulnerabilities to be exploited.

A headless CMS is a bit different. Under the pure headless CMS architecture, content is typically delivered through a content distribution network (CDN) and not through a database, as is the case under older CMS versions. Having the front and back ends separated keeps the focus on content creation and storage, with little to no control over the front-end rendition.

Unlike a traditional CMS consisting of backend storage and front-end presentation layer tightly coupled, headless CMS parts are not codependent; in other words, they are decoupled.

Furthermore, the API publishes headless content as read-only. It can also be placed behind one or more layers of code — perhaps an application layer and a security layer — making it even less vulnerable to attack as security is tighter, which decreases the risk of attacks.

The security benefits of a Headless CMS

Ask any headless CMS user or developer who knows about it, and all will say the same - a headless CMS is way more secure than traditional CMS in every way possible.

Headless CMSs have many security benefits compared to their traditional counterparts. Let's talk about some of the most important ones:

It is less susceptible to DDoS attacks.

Headless CMS consists of a backend layer and connects to different front ends using APIs, thus removing the "head."

A lack of a database reduces the potential security threat

Security, flexibility, and ease of integration and maintenance are key benefits of the creator's environment. With no CMS code to worry about, creators can experience less anxiety and more productivity.

Fewer updates

There is no need for updating code every time there's a new release of the headless CMS (provided the API is backward compatible), so there is no situation where a slight change in one component may impact the entire system's security and performance.

Web continuity

People often forget to keep website plugins and themes updated, which unethical hackers seek to exploit. Any breach often means compromised continuity of the web page. With decoupled CMS, all temporary issues can usually be resolved in the background with the web working without affecting web performance.


Ultimately, the more secure your CMS is, the smoother your adaptation to future demands will be. For example, adding personal user data like emails or other data-sensitive content is more accessible when the headless CMS is secure. It's clear that there are so many advantages to using a headless CMS over a traditional CMS.

Are all Headless CMS systems secure?

It is important to note that you should always be careful with the headless CMS system you choose. It's essential that IT teams only shortlist and select headless CMSs with solid track records and security technologies and protocols that protect against cyber attacks.

For instance, you should check if the platform provides authentication and authorization features and throttling features to prevent DDoS attacks. Since headless CMS is API-first CMS, they're likely implementing API security best practices by default, but it's a good idea to inquire about these features.

Additionally, think about server security (for example, requiring HTTPS for network communication). For headless CMS to be genuinely more secure than traditional one, API should follow industry standards, and IT teams should ensure the infrastructure uses security best practices. Sometimes, same as with the traditional CMS, the vulnerability appears because of the individual implementation or oversight, not necessarily the chosen software.

Wrapping it up: Security is imperative no matter the choice

In my opinion, losing your online presence is the worst-case scenario for any digital business owner out there. It is not uncommon for an organization to have a situation in which one moment, everything is fine, sales are going crazy, and the very next moment, your website is unavailable. Poof, gone. Usually, business websites are the target of attacks.

In some cases, the attackers take visitors' personal information, causing a crisis. Sometimes they use DDoS attacks to flood a website server with a large amount of traffic and cause it to crash.

Although web security is more vital than ever for today's businesses, it's a challenging task. It involves a fair amount of planning and executing a complete strategy beyond simply securing a single or even a dozen websites, plus APIs and development, staging, and production servers.

Both business owners and content creators must find experienced developers to make your web or app safer and make your digital experience less stressful. Thankfully, this can be achieved when you give headless cms a chance. With the ability to separate the front end and back end, you'll be able to ensure that CMS database hackers cannot access your content because they have nothing to exploit. Ready to learn more? Book a demo today.


Is WordPress the most hacked CMS?

According to Sucuri's annual hacked website report, WordPress is the most commonly-hacked CMS. Over 95.6% of infections occur on WordPress-powered websites.

Is headless WordPress more secure?

By switching to headless WordPress, hackers can no longer access the backend. Due to headless technology's decoupling, a WordPress site is significantly more secure since the backend is hidden from the public.

What are the 3 benefits of using a headless CMS?

Developing a headless CMS is faster, more flexible, and more secure. A headless CMS lets you pick your programming language and build your "head" (presentation layer/front-end) from scratch.

Why should you go headless?

By implementing headless, you make flexibility an integral part of your website infrastructure. Thus, your platform can cope with any future developments, trends, or integrations you may encounter.

Is headless CMS serverless?

Serverless CMSs run inside serverless environments. Therefore, it is possible to have one without the other. Moreover, a serverless CMS can also be a headless CMS. CMSs that are serverless are those that are hosted by a third party but do not also manage the front end of the website. This system is solely responsible for the administration of content.

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