PHP is one of the most used programming languages in the world, powering almost 80% of the global web applications. It has a simple and easy-to-understand coding structure, that is why developers prefer it over other programming languages. The language also powers several CMS solutions and frameworks, that facilitate the developers to build advanced applications within minutes.
During the process of developing PHP apps, developers always remain concerned about the security of the applications. Many loopholes go unnoticed while developing an application, opening ways for hackers to carry out malicious operations. That is where you need to learn useful PHP security tips to safeguard the code of your application(s) from external web attacks.
This article highlights some of the common security practices you can use on any web hosting for PHP applications. Using these tips, you can cover potential loopholes of your applications and can protect your vital site data from being affected by various hacking attempts.
So, here are some useful PHP security checks your application might need today:
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Top Five PHP Security Tips for Your Application
Cross-site scripting is one of the most dangerous hacking attacks that can affect the cores of your web application. It is a vulnerability that enables hackers to inject malicious code or script into an application, resulting in disruption of site performance, sudden failures or theft of confidential site data. The maliciously injected code replaces the original site code but acts as an actual code with the same attributes and structure.
Using cross-site scripting also known as an XSS attack, hackers can bypass access control of applications. This gives them access to important site data and the assets of the application. Moreover, it gives them access to the browser, enabling them to peek into the site cookies, session, history, and more attributes.
To counter this attack preemptively, you can use HTML special chars or ENT_QUOTES to monitor any potential XSS attack. Using ENT_QUOTES especially, you can escape single and double quotes, that effectively rules out any possibility of a cross-site scripting attack. It’s a simple yet very strong practice to secure all the functional cores of your PHP website.
CSRF (Cross-Site Request Forgery)
Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) is quite different from the cross-site scripting attack, yet equally malicious and destructive. This attack hands complete application control to the hackers, without keeping in your knowledge. With complete control, hackers can perform all the illegal operations including manipulating the data, deleting the database, etc. Ecommerce applications are routinely targeted by CSRF attacks, as hackers perform theft via deflected money transfers through the official store owner’s account.
The CSRF attack initiates with the clicking of an external link, sent intentionally by the hacker. This means you can safeguard your application if you are smart enough in opening and clicking the malicious links. Moreover, you can take two measures to protect your website from CSRF attack i.e. using the GET requests that have no side-effects and ensuring the non-GET requests to be only generated from your client-side code.
Monitor SQL Injection
The database is one of the key components of any web application. All the important project data reside inside this hub, that is why it is quite important to safeguard its each attribute from any malicious attack.
SQL Injection is a type of web attack that affects your application’s database. The attacker uses a particular URL parameter or sometimes web form fields to gain access to your database. After getting that access, the hacker can manipulate all the project data to disrupt site performance.
If your application is using standard Transact SQL, it is very likely to get hit by potential SQL attacks. So, it is highly recommended to not use standard Transact SQL queries in your application, as it makes your site extremely vulnerable to hackers. You can also use parameterized queries to prevent SQL attacks, as they allow you to make queries more structured and secured.
Don’t Expose Your Error Messages
Error messages are used to keep the end-users notified about the latest site problems. But sometimes, these error messages allow hackers to track your site vulnerabilities.
If your site error messages are displaying too much information or detailed explanation, then this might invite hackers to know the cores of your application. Showing detailed error messages can leak confidential information, such as database passwords, API keys and more.
Therefore, it is always advised to keep the error messages as little as possible and in standard numeric format. Don’t ever provide full error details in the URL display, as it makes your site more prone to SQL injection and other attacks.
Always Use SSL Certificates
To provide your data transmission end-to-end security, you must always use SSL certificates in your web applications. Hypertext transfer protocol (HTTPS) provides your application secure data transfer pathway and makes almost impossible for hackers to interrupt the transmission or steal the data. All the major web browsers including Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari and others support SSL certificates.
With an SSL certificate in place, your application data gets encrypted with the fortified security protocol, giving hackers no possible way to access it. Yet, even if someone bypasses the protocol, he/she will never be able to decrypt it, as it is still protected with strong hashing algorithms.
This brings us to the end of this article which highlighted some of the most common security practices used for PHP applications. Being a developer, you should always know how to protect your applications from external web attacks, as it is your primary responsibility to manage and secure your client’s data from getting compromised. Using the above-mentioned tips, you can ensure that your applications aren’t prone to malicious attacks and are built smart enough to protect the privacy of important site data.
If you still have more questions regarding this article or want to contribute your thoughts on the best security practices, please feel free to write down your suggestions in the comments section.