PHP is one of the most sophisticated and easy programming languages in the world. It’s very easy to build custom applications and websites with it, which is why it’s so used around the world.
But many developers have criticized PHP for its inability to secure applications. In fact, there are a lot of PHP based software and applications out there with rampant security problems.
However, security specialists argue that any language can be secured if you’re proficient enough. Sometimes it’s the developer’s fault for not following the security standards or not taking care of basic issues while writing code. The best course of action you can take is to hire an experienced PHP development professional to ensure that you don’t face such problems while developing your application.
Aside from that, you should know that there are a few common mistakes that novice developers make while writing code that can lead to bigger issues. In this article, we’ll cover a few of those issues and how you can prevent them by making simple changes to your development strategy.
1.Server management task problems
Developers often underestimate the amount of server management tasks that a PHP server needs to run. In many cases, the server’s security itself is weak, creating multiple complications in the system. Efficient server management can help minimize downtime and create a secure environment. It also allows your business to run without interruptions.
To avoid server management task problems, you need to follow basic server security tips. Your website should follow FTPS for file transfer. You can install an IDS too. You should also perform a file and service audit to check for security flaws. Login attempts onto the server need to be monitored.
You should always back up your server and ensure that the backup server is accessible at all times. The best thing you can do to enhance server security is separating your servers through multi-server isolation techniques. If multi-server isolation isn’t possible, you can also go for virtual machines.
2. Traversal through URL
A hacker may try to access files present in the root directory of your website folder by manipulating the URL address. This technique is called URL traversal. It requires some guesswork, but if it works, the hacker may get access to your root directories. They can access all sorts of sensitive data, system-critical files, server information, and more. They can also crash the system by changing information in those system-critical files and saving it in the root folder.
To avoid this problem, you should rewrite your URL addresses to not directly lead to your critical files through guesswork. Also, you should avoid passing variables in the URL address to stop them from passing important information. Furthermore, avoid storing system-critical files in the root directory. Your website should hide server information.
3. SQL injection
SQL injection is one of the most common attacks on PHP applications. This is typically done on database-driven websites. To get access to information in the databases associated with PHP, hackers send null queries to the database. This allows hackers to see the system logins and passwords, and other information in the database.
The hackers create queries in such a way so that they bypass the security standards of the PHP application, and the system thinks of them as just another user trying to get information from the database. These SQL queries can also modify and corrupt data. They may even try to crash the system by deleting the database.
To protect your system, you should validate all queries before the system processes them. You can also put limiters on the number of results. For example, if a query returns more than 20 results, the database should not return any information at all.
To ensure that your passwords are protected, you can use a hashing function. Also, make sure that your pop up messages don’t reveal any information when processing any unknown query.
4. Session hijack
Session hijacking is when hackers hijack individual user sessions and use them for their own purposes. This doesn’t affect the application or your database’s internal components, but it does affect personal accounts. The hacker captures the session key issued for a legitimate user and uses it for their purposes.
A session might contain information that the individual user has entered at that time, for example, login id and password. It may also have additional and sensitive data if the hijacked session was for a form. If an admin session is hijacked, that is particularly disastrous to the application and overall business.
To prevent this problem, you should regenerate your session-id every time the user logs in. If that session gets logged off due to a timing issue or something else, the website should generate a new session for that user. You can use encryption for sending sensitive information (password, credit card number, DOB) so that even if the session is hijacked, hackers would still have to crack your encryption. SSL can be used for securely transferring sensitive data.
5. Cross-Site scripting
In this attack, hackers put malicious code onto the target website. The script gets downloaded automatically on the victim’s computer through the browser and is auto executed. Using this, the hackers can steal cookies, hijack sessions, and change how the website functions for that user. They can also redirect the user to a new website or track the user’s keypad movements (keylogging).
You can also use HTML special characters to post your output directly in the form of HTML entities. Many MVC frameworks have escaping built into them to avoid problems like this.
Security is a serious concern for PHP developers. Many experts around the world are researching security case studies to prevent hackers from attacking systems. These attacks are dangerous and can create complications for your company.
However, security is an ongoing battle. The best thing you can do is to take a well-balanced approach as per your requirements. The trick is to understand and research the actual issue and develop techniques that your infrastructure can support. By doing that, you’ll be able to fend off attacks and ensure that your business is safe.