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How To Secure PHP Web Apps And Prevent Attacks

This post will show you how to secure PHP web apps and prevent attacks. Also, I will reveal 7 PHP app security tips to save web apps from attacks.

PHP is a fast and nimble backend programming language. It drives over 80% of all worldwide online applications, making it one of the most widely used programming languages in the world of web application development.

Its popularity and widespread use are due to simple PHP code structure and developer-friendly functionalities. That is the reason why business owners are choosing to rely on PHP developers India wide for their web app functionality and security.

There are several content management systems and frameworks developed on top of PHP, and the community is regularly visited by thousands of well-known developers from all over the world. WordPress is an excellent example of that.

When PHP applications are launched on live servers, they may encounter numerous hacking and web attack attempts, leaving their site’s data particularly exposed to theft. It is one of the most contentious issues in the community, how to design truly secure web applications while still meeting all of the project’s primary objectives.

Despite their best efforts, developers are constantly on the lookout for hidden flaws that go undiscovered during the development process. These flaws might jeopardize the security of critical site data on any web hosting provider for PHP MySQL applications, making them open to hacker efforts.

Thus, this post will discuss several essential PHP security recommendations that you may use in your applications. By following these simple guidelines, you can ensure that your application is always ranked highly.

1. How Secure Is PHP?

How Secure Is PHP

PHP is just as secure as any other popular server-side programming language. With the introduction of new PHP frameworks and tools over the last several years, managing top-notch security is now easier than ever.

When we make a comparison PHP’s security is distributed equitably. Rails, Java, Javascript, and other programming languages have all had their flaws throughout the years compared to PHP scripts. If you can find a language that has never had a vulnerability of some kind, you can create completely secure code in PHP saving from cross-site request forgery attacks.

1.1 Security Issues in PHP CMS

Security Issues in PHP CMS

Popular content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress, Joomla, Magento, and Drupal are built on PHP, and according to Sucuri, the majority of PHP CMS vulnerabilities were discovered in 2017:

  • WordPress security vulnerabilities increased from 74% in 2016 Q3 to 83% in 2017.
  • Joomla security concerns decreased from 17% in the third quarter of 2016 to 13.1% in 2017.
  • Magento security incidents increased slightly from 6% in Q3 2016 to 6.5% in 2017.
  • Drupal security incidents decreased significantly from 2% in Q3 2016 to 1.6 % in 2017.

The current state is unsatisfactory, but owing to open source contributors who are working diligently to resolve issues, it’s been seen some dramatic advances in PHP recently. PHP 7.x was released last year with a number of enhancements and bug fixes. The finest feature of PHP 7.x is the security enhancements, which completely redesigned the language’s security protocol.

2. Tips To Secure PHP Web Apps

2.1 Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) is one of the most hazardous external assaults since it is carried out by inserting malicious code or scripts into a web server. It can have a detrimental effect on the basic functionality of your programme since the hacker can inject any form of code into your application without your knowledge. This type of XSS attack is most prevalent on websites that accept and submit user data.

In an XSS attack, the injected code replaces the original code of your website yet acts as if it were true code, causing site performance to suffer and frequently stealing data. The hackers circumvent your application’s access restriction, gaining access to your cookies, sessions, history, and other critical services.

You may defend against this attack by including HTML special characters and ENT QUOTES into your application’s source code. By removing single and double quote choices from ENT QUOTES, you can eliminate any risk of a cross-site scripting attack.

2.2 Update your PHP version regularly

PHP 7.4.8 is the stable release as of July 9, 2020. It is critical to update your PHP version on a regular basis since newer versions frequently include patches for known security vulnerabilities. If you do not upgrade to the current stable edition of PHP, hackers will be able to exploit known security hacks in previous releases.

Additionally, PHP allows you to test a preview release. This release is currently 8.0.0 Beta 2. Security advisers, on the other hand, warn businesses against testing preview versions since they may still include unforeseen security problems.

2.3 Hide Files from the Browser

If you’ve worked with PHP micro-frameworks, you’re probably familiar with the unique directory structure that assures optimal file placement. Frameworks permit the inclusion of various files such as controllers, models, and configuration files (.yaml) in that directory, but the browser does not always process all of the files, even though they are visible in the browser. To remedy this issue, you must move your files out of the root directory and into a public folder, where they will be inaccessible to the browser at all times.

2.4 Use prepared SQL statements

Use prepared SQL statements

A typical error is to enter user input straight into a SQL query. This opens the door to SQL injection attacks, in which the user may circumvent the intended SQL query and perform any query.

$users = mysql_query(“SELECT * FROM `users` WHERE `id`=’$_GET[id]'”);

The above code uses unsanitized user input directly into the SQL query.

This provides a hacker with the opportunity to circumvent the statement and inquire for further information, such as all users’ data. With a prepared statement, the data entered are escaped, effectively eliminating the possibility of a SQL injection attack.

Consider the following example, which makes use of a prepared statement.

$stmt = $conn->

prepare(“INSERT INTO users (firstname, lastname) VALUES (?, ?)”);

$stmt->bind_param(“ss”, $firstname, $lastname);

Take note of the bind param function’s first parameter. This indicates to the SQL query the type of data that you are passing. The firstname and lastname inputs are both of type String in this case. This is an additional security precaution that verifies the input’s data type.

2.5 Always Use SSL Certificates

Always Use SSL Certificates

Always utilize SSL certificates in your applications to ensure end-to-end data transfer over the internet. It is a widely recognized standard protocol called Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) that is used to securely send data between servers. By utilizing an SSL certificate, your application gains access to a secure data transfer method, thereby eliminating the possibility of hackers infiltrating your servers.

All major online browsers, including Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Opera, advocate using an SSL certificate since it enables the transmission, receipt, and decryption of data over the internet.

2.6 Deploy PHP Apps on Clouds

Hosting is the final and most critical phase in developing an online application since you always start with local PHP servers and migrate to live servers that offer shared, cloud, or dedicated hosting. The results constantly advocate cloud hosting services such as DigitalOcean, Linode, and AWS. They are quick, secure, and suitable for any type of website or application. They always offer a secure layer to protect online applications from DDOS, brute force and phishing assaults.

To deploy PHP applications on cloud servers, you must have strong Linux knowledge in order to develop robust web stacks such as LAMP or LEMP, which frequently requires additional time and money for Linux specialists.

Rather than that, Cloudways’ managed PHP and MySQL hosting platform enables you to easily install Thunderstack servers on the aforementioned cloud providers with a few clicks. Thunderstack protects your PHP application against a variety of harmful threats and ensures optimal performance.

2.7 Session Hijacking

Session Hijacking

The term “session hijacking” refers to an attack in which the hacker takes your session ID in order to get access to the targeted account. The hacker can confirm your session using that session ID by sending a request to the server, where a $_SESSION array verifies its uptime without your awareness. It can be carried either via an XSS attack or by gaining access to the data that contains the session data.

Always connect your sessions to your actual IP address to avoid session hijacking. This approach enables you to invalidate sessions in the event of an unknown violation, alerting you quickly that someone is attempting to circumvent your session in order to get access control of the application. Additionally, never disclose your ID under any circumstances, as this may jeopardize your identity in the future through another assault.

3. Conclusion

To be sure, PHP security best practices is a large subject. Developers from all around the world frequently create unique use cases for secure online applications. While several firms conduct various bounty programs in order to identify security flaws and vulnerabilities in their apps and to compensate security professionals who identify major flaws in the applications. 

This post discusses fundamental PHP security concerns in order to help you learn how to protect your PHP projects from various harmful assaults. Feel free to share your ideas and security procedures in the discussion below.


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Gina Lynch

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