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Date: Mon, 01 Jan 2007 17:37:05 -0500
From: Dana Hudes <>
Subject: Re: PHP as a secure language? PHP worms? [was: Re: new linux malware]

While I agree that it is poor coding habits on the part of many 
developers that are responsible for most PHP application security flaws, 
nonetheless there are features in PHP4 which encourage these habits by 
choosing insecure defaults. "Magic quotes" was one example.

One of the powerful aspects of PHP, and of Perl, is the string-oriented 
"typeless" approach where things magically become the appropriate type 
(as compared to e.g. C, where you can blithely stuff an integer value 
into a float and thereby corrupt the value if not cause a crash of the 
runtime library when you feed this garbage to it -- no type conversion. 
Strict typing requiring explicit conversion (with validation) improves 
security by eliminating certain types of vulnerability. Java held some 
promise in this regard but the associated libraries have many  bugs 
(e.g. one I just hit in JDK 1.507 for http proxy. a bug that wasn't 
there in 1.4.2).  Of course, the large number of available library code 
is part of the attraction of Perl, Java and PHP; ML, for example, while 
I have seen CGI code written in it lacks the broad developer community 
(there is one, its just small compared to the more popular languages).

Jim Harrison wrote:
> <Peeve type="pet">
> "They" (developers) and "it" (the secure language) are both moving
> targets.
> There is no "genetic memory" with the human race; any more than there is
> an "inherently secure" language.  For every developer that learns how to
> write "secure code", at least one more starts cutting his/her teeth in
> the same language; possibly for the same reasons.  Anyone who insists
> that there either exists a "secure language" or that the problem of
> "secure code" can be "completely solved" is IMHO, severely deluded.
> Neither will ever be even remotely true.
> </Peeve type="pet">
> If you have issue with someone's code habits, address it with them
> first.  This is part & parcel to the "education" process.  If this fails
> because of their unwillingness or inability to adjust, then you've done
> what you can.  If this unresolved problem presents a public disservice,
> then you report it.  Public opinion is a powerful motivator.
> Jim 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Tino Wildenhain [] 
> Sent: Monday, January 01, 2007 1:00 PM
> To: Bill Nash
> Cc: Kevin Waterson;
> Subject: Re: PHP as a secure language? PHP worms? [was: Re: new linux
> malware]
> Bill Nash schrieb:
> ...
>> 	*ANY* language implemented for *ANY* purpose is as secure as the
>> programmer makes it. The way the original post is written, 
>> s/PHP/(Perl|ASP|C|bash|BASIC|four little buddhist monks fighting over 
>> an abacus)/ is applicable. The vulnerabilities that we see, that Gadi 
>> refers to, aren't widespread because PHP is widespread, but because 
>> insecure applications written in PHP are. A better use of energy would
>> be focusing on the most vulnerable platforms and educating the
> developers.
> But aparently they aren't educatable - hence they stick to this
> language. (Because of the many bad examples they can cut&paste code
> from)
> T.
> All mail to and from this domain is GFI-scanned.

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