Top 7 Ultimate Practices to Secure Your PHP Web Application

When it comes to businesses with a web presence, security is an essential factor for a safe run in the market. Over the years, cybercriminals have invented innovative ways to bypass every little feature on PHP sites and apps. Due to these advancements, the risks of attacks have increased to 42% for any enterprise on the digital platform. The web apps have become so fragile that even a coding error or a minor bug can make your software vulnerable.

We understand that you put so much effort into building a reliable application. This is why protecting it with rock-solid PHP security tips becomes a must. We have assorted some of the proven security challenges and their solutions by industry experts. 

How about we dive right into it? 

PHP Security : A Threat 

PHP is a super popular language used for web development. However, it is highly criticized in terms of security. A major chunk of experts believes that PHP lacks features to secure web applications. This can be partially true since PHP is one of the oldest languages in history. But despite being traditional, we haven’t seen any significant upgrades regarding security after PHP 5.6. 

Apart from this, there are several more issues that need to be addressed. Let’s take a glance.

Security Challenges in PHP CMS: 

Popular CMS platforms such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and Magento are developed in PHP. According to research conducted by Sucuri, PHP has been declared the second most vulnerable language on a global level. It was found that all the PHP CMS platforms share similar problems.

  • WordPress security issues rose to 83% in 2020. 
  • Joomla dropped its primary security protocol back in 2019. 
  • Magento’s safety challenges marginally increased to 6.5% in 2020. 
  • Drupal has shown some significant improvement dropping its vulnerability to 1.6% from 2% in the previous year. 

The current situation does not seem any better. However, the open-source contributors are trying their best to overcome these threats and bring drastic changes to the language. Keeping this in mind, PHP 8 was launched with various fixes and updates. This brings the hope that the protocols can be managed in the upcoming versions of the PHP programming language. 

Since we are talking about PHP security issues, below are some of the common challenges faced by enterprises. 

PHP Security Problems and Their Possible Solutions: 

  1. Updating PHP Regularly

Currently, the most stable version of PHP is PHP 8.0.6. It is highly recommended to update your PHP application to the recent version. If you are using the previous versions of PHP, there are chances that you may face deprecation while upgrading. 

You are also required to make changes to your code and functional logics, such as password hashing. If you need any technical assistance, you can hire a PHP programmer or take help from the tools available online for migrating. Some of the tools are Phan, PHP compatibility checker etc. 

Also, if you are using PHPstorm, you can use PHP7 compatibility inspection to check which code causes issues. 

  1.  Cross-site scripting:

This is one complex malicious web attack in which your external script gets injected into the website’s output. The hacker can send the changed code to the end-user while your browser will still not be able to identify it as a trusted script. 

The hacker can also access sensitive information, cookies and sessions on the browser. These kinds of breaches occur where the user has permission to input and submit data. 

You can identify the XSS attacks by using the command htmlspecialchars. 

You can also avoid single and double quotes by using ENT_QUOTES.

  1. SQL Injection attacks:

This is another standard attack in PHP scripting. Your single query can compromise the entire application here. In an SQL attack, the hacker tries to make changes in the data you are passing via queries. 

For Instance, If you are directly commanding user data in SQL queries, a hacker simultaneously inserts different characters to bypass it. This can damage your database or, even worse, delete the entire file in the blink of an eye. 

So, how do we overcome this issue?

You can use parameterized queries. The PDO queries effectively prevent any chance of SQL injection in your code. This methodology not only secures your code but also structures them for easy processing. 

  1. Session Hijacking 

Session Hijacking happens when the hacker takes your session credentials to gain access to the desired account. Using this ID, he can validate your session by sending requests to the server. Further, the $_SESSION array validates that uptime without your permission. This can be performed by the XSS attack or by gaining access to your stored session data. 

 To avoid such a case, make sure that you bind your sessions to the actual IP Address. This will invalidate your session whenever any violation takes place. Moreover, you are immediately informed when someone tries to bypass your session. 

Another hack is to never expose your ID under any circumstance that can compromise your identity. 

  1. Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) 

CSRF gives out complete control to the hackers to carry out any unintended actions. Even without complete control, they can transfer infected code to your website, make functional modifications, or perform data theft. 

The previous CSRF attacks resulted in deleting the entire database, transferring funds, destructing conventional requests etc., without any information. 

Now, these attacks only occur when you click through the link given by the hacker. To avoid this, use GET requests in the URL and confirm that the NON-GET requests are only sent from the client-side. 

  1. SSL certificates: 

This practice is going to help you in the long run. While you promote end-to-end secure data transmission on the internet, use SSL certificates in your applications. It is a globally recognized standard practice also known as HTTP ( Hypertext Transfer Protocol) to interchange data between the servers. 

This will help build a secure pathway for your data transmission, which can be tough to intrude. Every significant browser like Google Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Safari facilitates using SSL certificates to receive, transfer or decrypt data on the web. 

  1. Hidden Files From the Browser:

In micro PHP frameworks, this unique directory structure protects the storage of essential framework files like configuration files, models, and controllers.  

Browsers do not process these framework files most of the time, yet they keep appearing on the web, building a security breach for your application. This is a vital sign of another malicious attack. So what do we do? 

Always ensure to store your files in a public folder. Business managers are most likely to keep the files in the root directory, which is why they are easily accessible to cybercriminals. The public folder hides all the possible functionalities of the framework files from a potential hacker, keeping them safe from the browser. 

Final Thoughts

PHP applications are usually vulnerable to external breaches and attacks. However, you can protect your business applications by using the PHP security tips mentioned above. When you have an online business, the responsibility to safeguard the data becomes the number one priority. 
Besides these challenges, you might also face several other issues that can be solved by an expert. In order to do so, seek a top PHP developer for hire. Moreover, security is a dynamic factor that changes with time, so what’s important is to keep up with the latest development trends and maintain your PHP application. 

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