PHP Web Application Security – How to protect your WordPress website | #macos | #macsecurity | #education | #technology | #infosec



History of PHP:

  • PHP was developed in 1995 however was rewritten and released as PHP2.0 with a new passer engine during the year of 1997.
  • The release of the PHP2 turned this language into what it’s now known as – a server-side scripting language used by many developers all around the world, despite their level of knowledge or expertise.
  • During the year of 1998, PHP 3 was released and this allowed for additional support for Open Database Connectivity (ODBC).
  • Today, PHP 8.1 has been released with new and improved features as part of it.

What is PHP?

  • PHP is an open source scripting language that is known to be one of the most popular languages when it comes to web applications.
  • Originally, PHP was the acronym for “personal home page”.
  • To put this simply, PHP is a type of scripting language (that is server-side) immersed within HTML.
  • PHP gives freedom to web developers to design, generate and produce content that is creative and dynamic, also allowing the opportunity for them to interact with various databases.
  • PHP is compatible with practically all Apache and IIS servers making it extremely desirable for developers.
  • PHP is free for anyone to download, and can be done so from its official website.
  • PHP’s popularity comes from its simple use, it’s great speed and flexibility, making it very user friendly and a pleasure to work with.
  • PHP is very simple in terms of use when it is compared with other types of scripting languages, and it is also quicker than most of the others. Additionally, PHP has error reporting constants which means it will alert the user when there is an error and give them some sort of warning.
  • Out of all the known websites, more than 79% of them utilize PHP. In fact, some of the biggest platforms that we know of including Facebook, Wikipedia, WordPress and Zoom, all use PHP.
  • PHP is a tool that can be used for multiple purposes, for example, it can be used to connect to the database in order to retrieve data or to pass on information to web servers that will then be displayed in HTML. 
  • Additionally, PHP can be used to control user access, encrypt data, send or receive cookies as well as collect form data.

Why is PHP so popular/widely-used by developers?

  1. PHP is very easy in terms of using it and for beginners, it’s a simple first step for them to take. It is not necessary to have vast knowledge or be some sort of web development expert in order to use PHP. In fact, most people would be able to use PHP to establish a web page, in a very short period of time. Both the syntax and the functions of PHP are easy to use and are very easy to catch onto.
  2. It’s an open source – this means that it is free. Developers are able to make use of PHP with no cost at all, making it extremely accessible and great to use. Whilst using PHP, there is a vast range of frameworks, making PHP desirable for companies, especially those who are in early-stage establishment.
  3. There is a strong support system for using PHP. There is some type of loyal community who are happy to help developers when they’re getting started or might need to ask questions, or get some help. Additionally, there are lots of videos and tutorials online, making it easier for developers to learn and grow with this scripting program.
  4. PHP is extremely versatile, this means it can adapt to any sort of device, regardless if it is a Mac OS, Windows, or Linux. It can be deployed to various platforms and systems and gives support to most of the major web servers.
  5. PHP is fast in running time and is a secure language. This is desirable to organizations as well as individuals as it is appealing when something runs quickly and information/data is kept private and secure. When using the newer versions, PHP runs at an even faster rate. Although it is not necessary more secure than other programming languages, the advantage of PHP is that it’s widely used by many individuals all around the world, meaning there are a vast range of tools and practices to notice any weaknesses, fix them and help protect and prevent any sort of cybercrimes.
  6. PHP is connected with databases. What this allows for is that developers have extra freedom when they need to decide which database, they are wanting to use for any application that they wish to build
  7. PHP is old… meaning it’s been used by many and thus tested by many. It has been put to the test in various different environments. Any of the main bugs have been noticed and fixed in order to ensure security and efficiency. PHP is a stable scripting language for developers to use and thus becomes one’s preference.

Who uses PHP?

  1. Facebook uses PHP in order to run its site and was primarily developed utilizing PHP. Facebook during its establishment in 2004, wreaked the benefits of PHP’s ability to create dynamic and unique content in a very short time frame. Both Zuckerberg and Moskowitz both utilized PHP when they wrote the code for the Facebook application.
  2. Wikipedia is also built with PHP coding language. This is a big “customer” for PHP as Wikipedia is the biggest information source in the world.
  3. Slack, which is a communication app (used by many organizations today) was developed in 2009, and it was also coded with PHP in their backend. PHP allowed for a quick run time and ensured that this app would remain efficient as well as effective.
  4. Content Management Systems (CMS) are often built in PHP, for example the well-known WordPress.
  5. Web hosting platforms for example Bluehost and Site ground both use PHP in order to run their servers as well.

How does PHP compare to other languages?

Python:

  • Python is one of the oldest languages on the block and is used by many all around the world since it is very simple to use and very flexible.
  • In terms of data science as well as AI, Python is first choice for many developers, however when we speak in terms of web develop, it is nowhere as useful as the scripting language PHP.
  • It is important to note that Python’s community (those who utilize this language) are very fast growing, thus making this program extremely flexible.
  • Its downside is that the level of database connectivity and support is not as good as the one PHP provides, making it slightly less desirable.
  • PHP in fact has access to more than 20 different databases.

Key differences between Python and PHP:

  1. In terms of PHP and Python for web development, Python is more concise and straight forward when it comes to the syntax, whilst PHP has a much larger range of naming conventions as well as syntax.
  2. The second difference is in terms with how many frameworks each program has. PHP has many frameworks (20+), whilst Python only has a few frameworks.
  3. The third difference has to do with the key features of each of the respective languages. Pythons’ key features include its elegant code, dynamic typing as well as its rapid development whilst PHP’s key features are its simple deployment, continous improvements and its open source (the fact that it is free to all!).

Ruby:

  • Ruby is another language that has been around for a long time.
  • Ruby is known for its fancy syntax and robustness in terms of performance, differing from PHP in terms of how much more complex it is the learn and the lack of community support.
  • This means less people use Ruby and there are less tutorials or videos available for beginners to utilize.

JavaScript:

  • This is still today the most popular programming language used by many and in terms of age, it has been around for nearly as long as PHP has been around.
  • JavaScript differs to PHP as it the language is client-side and therefore it cannot be compared with PHP directly.
  • In recent years, Node.js as well as other additional frameworks has allowed for developers to write server-side scripts with JavaScript but still it is quite complicated to simply compare the two languages.
  • Both JavaScript and PHP are utilized by many developers and both flourish in its flexibility with the difference of JavaScript allowing for full-stack development (frontend and backend) where PHP does not.

Key differences between JavaScript and PHP:

  1. Firstly, these two languages differ in terms of which side they support in scripting, whether it’s server-side or client-side. PHP is server-side, simply put, this means that PHP runs on the web server. This sort of programming is beneficial as it includes dynamic and creative content for example welcome greetings when one will log into the website. On the other hand, JavaScript is client-side scripting, meaning it runs on people’s devices (whether it’s their phones, iPads or laptops).
  2. Secondly, JavaScript and PHP differ in terms of where they run – frontend or backend. PHP is backend, this is the parts of a website that will not be visible to us visitors. JavaScript on the other hand runs in the frontend of a website, this switched when Node.js was launched during 2009. This makes JavaScript now a full-stack language meaning it runs in both frontend and backend.
  3. Thirdly, in terms of the way these languages combine with other languages differs too. PHP is a backend language which means it’s part of the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP). PHP and HTML are able to mix together. However, merging PHP with different backend coding languages is much more difficult and very challenging when it comes to maintaining it. On the other hand, JavaScript can be more easily used with a variety of languages, including HTML and XML. This allows for more ease as well as more freedom for developers who utilize JavaScript in their work.
  4. The fourth difference is in terms of the syntax for JavaScript and for PHP. Syntax is the rules that determine the language. PHP and JavaScript both have the double forward slash syntax when it comes to single-line code however, PHP has a different form as well. If you were to try, use this syntax in JavaScript, an error would occur.

The differences between these two coding languages go on but this was just to name a few.

PHP and WordPress:

  • As we already know, PHP is a type of server-side scripting language used to establish and generate websites that are creative, dynamic and interactive.
  • WordPress is generated through the use of scripting PHP and both WordPress and PHP are an open source.

What is WordPress?

  • Before delving into the relationship between WordPress and PHP, it is vital to understand what WordPress actually is.
  • WordPress is an easy-to-use software that allows all people, despite their level of knowledge when it comes to web development, to generate and create websites be it for their business or personal use (blog, portfolio) in a unique and sophisticated manner.
  • WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that will allow anyone to build websites.
  • The benefit of using WordPress it that it runs off a template system, meaning you get help when it comes to lay out and design.
  • Anyone can then go on to customize their website to suit the image they are wishing to acquire for their business, store, portfolio or personal blog.
  • WordPress gains its popularity though it’s easy-to-use structure, making it efficient and worthwhile for those beginners. There are various guides available for anyone who wishes to utilize this platform.

Connection between WordPress and PHP:

  • So now that we understand what PHP is, how it runs, as well as understanding simply WordPress software, we can start to explore how WordPress utilized PHP.
  • Simply put, PHP allows WordPress to exist, as it utilizes the code from PHP. WordPress websites once they are built, store the data in a MySQL database.
  • This information includes everything and anything on the website, including the name, content as well as profile information.
  • Now PHP will work to get specific information from this database and put it all together into a HTML web page.
  • When opening up a WordPress zip file, it can be noted that almost all of the files in there and in fact PHP files.
  • Anyone who wishes to use WordPress should ensure that they are using the latest and most up to date version of PHP, as this will help ensure that data remains completely private and secure as well as ensuring that the website runs at optimal speed.
  • The best part of this all is anyone utilizing WordPress does not need to have any sort of knowledge on PHP (you do not need to be an expert!!), they do not need to learn it or operate it on their WordPress websites as WordPress has the PHP files already inside its software. Simply put, WordPress can be utilized with zero knowledge of PHP coding skills or capabilities.

How does PHP actually work?

  • PHP is a server-side scripting language. Simply put, when someone wishes to visit your website that you developed utilizing WordPress, WordPress then will need to gain access into PHP files in order to retrieve database information in order to present it to someone visiting your website.
  • The difficulty arises when we look at how web browsers read language, they don’t read PHP, they read HTML. HTML is a client-side scripting language that it used to create websites.
  • In simple words, certain browsers for example, Firefox or chrome are considered the “clients”. This means that these browsers “convert” HTML code into what is portrayed on a browser window.

So now the question arises of how one’s clients and customers are going to be able to see your website if WordPress is created with PHP and not HTML.

There are a few steps in this process:

  1. Someone will type in your web address/ click on a link
  2. This then sends a request to the web hosting server
  3. This step is what differs for WordPress – the server will need to run PHP code in order to generate a page of HTML before it sends it to the original browser
  4. Next the sever will send HTML code back the browser
  5. And lastly, the browser will then take that HTML code and translate it into a web page for customers to view.

How to protect PHP websites from Hackers?

Those developing websites using PHP need to be aware of the various attacks they might endure and what protocols they can take in order to protect themselves from running into various problems. There are a few methods/protocols developers can use in order to do so.

  1. Be protected against SQL Injection:

One of the most common hacking attacks is done via SQL Injection and majority of websites online are not able to protect themselves against this. Developers will need to use a protective code in order to protect themselves from such injections and in order to protect their PHP developed websites

  1. Ensure you are using up to date software:

In order to protect your PHP website, it is vital to ensure that you are using updated software, and all the newest forms of operating systems. Old software is vulnerable and can easily be hacked into by cyber criminals.

  1. Ensure that you are using .php as an extension:

When a developer is creating a website using PHP code, it is necessary to use .php extension with all the files. This will protect the authorized user from unwanted access.

  1. Input Validation:

PHP websites mostly rely on client-side programs in order to validate various inputs. JavaScript is an example of a client-side program and these input validation programs are easy for hackers to bypass. It is necessary to instead use server-side input validation programs as these are way less likely to be bypassed by cybercriminals.

How to protect your WordPress developed website?

  1. Use the latest version of PHP

Since WordPress mainly relies on PHP coding and therefore ensuing that the newest and latest version of PHP is being utilized is imperative. By utilizing the newer versions, you can be surer that bugs and security issues that has arisen have been fixed, thus guaranteeing you to run into less problems in the future. Your code is less vulnerable to break ins and therefore you can feel more secure.

  1. Ensure that you are using smart passwords and usernames

Usually, people tend to use commonly used sequences for their passports, or they use passwords related to them (family name, school name) or people might tend to use the same login details for all logins. This makes it very simple for a hacker to gain access into your website and if you are someone who uses the same one each time, once a hacker has gained access into one website, he can then go onto accessing all your details (bank accounts, social media etc.). Luckily for you, when developing a website using WordPress it is mandatory for us to choose complex and difficult passwords, WordPress will not allow for anything else. Additionally, one should never use the default username WordPress supplies you with and rather should be renamed by the user.

  1. Ensure that you invest in secure WordPress Hosting:

Web-server-level security is what protects your website and your WordPress host is responsible for this. It is vital to choose a host that is trusted and will not compromise your business. On the other hand, one might be hosting WordPress on their personal VPS and thus will need to ensure they equip themselves with the necessary technical knowledge in order to protect themselves. Additionally, before installing WordPress, it is important to install sever-level firewalls in order to detect breakage. This sever must be configured to utilize safe networking and safely transfer encrypting protocols in order to protect private information from potential hackers.

At Cyber72, we are using modern tools to protect any and every website. We are continuously educating ourselves, ensuring that we remain up to date with any new vulnerabilities and weaknesses that might have been discovered and are working to the best of our ability to protect every individual and every business from them. At Cyber72, we have developed our in-house applications that allows us to safeguard any website and ensure that unauthorized access does not occur.

The post PHP Web Application Security – How to protect your WordPress website appeared first on Cyber 72.

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Cyber 72 authored by saka. Read the original post at: https://www.cyber72.com/how-to-protect-your-wordpress-developed-website/



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