How to Secure your PHP Website from being Hacked?

How to Secure your PHP Website from being Hacked?

In an already volatile IT world, it could all change in a moment, particularly when it comes to cybersecurity. And since PHP is the most powerful server-side language and the backbone for almost every website, it demands the adoption of best security practices. Therefore, PHP security shouldn’t be neglected at any cost.

To prevent your PHP website from such attacks and vulnerabilities, we’ve compiled the top seven tips to help keep your website safe and secure online.

Let’s have a look!

1. Keep Your Software Updated

Keeping your software updated is a foundational practice of keeping your site safe and secure. It applies to both the server operating system and any software that you may be running on websites such as CMS or forums. Unfortunately, hackers can quickly attempt to abuse any vulnerabilities found in website security.

If you are using third-party software on your websites, such as a CMS or forum, you should quickly apply any security patches. Most vendors have a mailing list or RSS feed detailing website security issues. In addition, there are many other CMSes such as WordPress and Umbraco that notify you of available system updates when you log in.

Many developers use Composer, npm, and RubyGems to evaluate their software dependencies and security vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, if you do not pay enough attention to this area, your PHP website can be easily caught out by hackers.

Ensure to keep your dependencies up to date and use tools like Gemnasium to get automatic notifications when there is a vulnerability in one of your components.

2. Beware of Error Messages

Most importantly, you must know how much information you should give regarding error messages. You only need to provide only minimal errors to your users. This way, you can ensure that they don’t leak any sensitive information on your server, such as database passwords, API keys, etc. Also, pay attention not to provide full exception details so as not to invite complex attacks like SQL injection. You should keep all the detailed errors in your server logs and show your users only the information they need.

3. Check Your Passwords

Many web admins often fail to use strong passwords despite this practice being considered an essential security requirement. Here, we’ve compiled a list of some effective password practices to prevent security breaches:

  • The passwords can be more protected by storing the same encrypted values. The quality hashing algorithms can be used for this.
  • The standard practice is to use at least eight-character passwords, including a number and a blend of uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • If the password is still being accessed or guessed, you can use hashed passwords as they can’t be decrypted.

4. Protect Against XSS Attacks

Do you know that XSS (Cross-site scripting) is one of the most common methods of hacking a website? It is done by injecting malicious JavaScript code into the web pages, which can permanently harm the website. In general, programs can run on the browsers used by the users and interfere with the user experience.

XSS mainly happens through malicious program links posted through comments and other kinds of user-generated content. Using frameworks like AngularJS and EmberJS equipped with protection from cross-site scripting is a great way to prevent such attacks. In addition, it would help prevent the mixing of client-side and server-side rendering, reducing malicious JavaScript injections.

There is another effective way to prevent XSS attacks; CSP (Content Security Policy) works like a server-side header to direct the browser about the JavaScript execution on any given page. In addition, it can be a potent tool to prevent cross-site scripting attacks.

5. Get Website Security Tools

It’s time to test your website security when you think you have done all you can. The most effective way of doing this is using some website security tools, often referred to as penetration tests or pen-testing.

There are several commercial and free products to assist you with this. They work on a similar basis to script hackers. In this, they test all known exploits and attempts to compromise your site using SQL Injection.

Check Out Some Free Tools Which are Worth Looking Into

  • Xenotix XSS Exploit Framework: It is a tool based on OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project), which includes many XSS attack examples. This can be run to quickly confirm whether the site’s inputs are vulnerable in Chrome, Firefox, and IE.
  • This free online check tool allows free security and configuration checks for your website.
  • OpenVas: It’s a free and open-source security testing tool with many advanced features. This tool is claimed to be the most advanced open source security scanner. It is suitable for testing known vulnerabilities and recently scanned over 25,000.
  • Netsparker: This tool is available in both free and trial versions. It is ideal for testing XSS attacks as well as SQL injection.

6. Use HTTPS

This is a protocol that is used to provide security over the Internet. HTTPS ensures what users expect in terms of security and that nobody else can change the content they see in transit.

If users want anything private, it’s highly advisable to use only HTTPS to deliver it. For example, the credit card and other login pages have login forms. A login form often sets a cookie, which is sent with every other request to the website that a logged-in user makes. And it is used to authenticate those requests. An attacker might steal this sensitive information and take over the user’s login session.

You only need to use HTTPS for your entire site to prevent attacks. It is now no longer as expensive as it was earlier. Let’s Encrypt offers free and automated certificates, which you’ll need to enable HTTPS. Also, there are existing community tools available for a wide range of common platforms and frameworks, which are automatically set up.

Moreover, according to the report, Google will enhance those websites in search engine rankings that are equipped with HTTPS. This way, SEO benefits will also be provided to them.

If you are already using HTTPS, then go further and set up HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS), an easy header that you can add to your server responses to disable insecure HTTP for your entire domain.

7. Input Validation

Gazillions of PHP websites still depend on client-side programs for validating inputs. The client-side programs mean JavaScript-based input validation programs, which can easily be bypassed. You can also use rather server-side input validation programs.

Final Thoughts

When security threats have become more sophisticated than ever before, it’s not a good idea to depend on outdated security practices. Now you have excellent and comprehensive security strategies to prevent your PHP website from hacking. Furthermore, hiring mobile app developers for professional and advanced support is highly advisable.

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