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There are various reasons that you might want to force a website to use SSL. In general, if you have an SSL cert setup for your website, you should probably force all users to https even if the page doesn’t contain sensitive data. In an ideal world, you would do this on the server side of things. Write some rules with the conf file that will force all traffic over https. If you are in a position where you can’t use the server then it is also easy to force SSL with PHP. It is also very easy to do it with pretty much any programming language, but for this example I will use PHP.

And there you have it. It is that simple. If you are using something like Cloudflare it can get a little tricky sometimes depending on how you have cloudflare configured to handle the SSL. For a standard site, this will be a simple way to force the use of SSL.

It is also worth mentioning that you must have an SSL cert configured on your server in order to make this work. If you do not have a site that supports HTTPS then you cannot make this work.

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This setting is up there as one of the most dangerous settings you can have enabled on a web server. It will allow someone to potentially inject a tiny piece of code into your system that could in turn completely compromise your entire server. If you have some bad programming practices in place it could even mean someone could compromise your system without even having to inject code. If you are unsure whether you need this to be enabled the answer is likely NO! Disable it immediately.

What Does Allow URL Include Do?

When you are writing PHP scripts, it is possible to include another script by means of the include or require actions. A super simple example of this would be a crude web page.

This is a fairly common way to use the include and require commands. When you have allow url include enabled it allows you to use a URL as the string inside of the require or include commands. This will make PHP include a remote file directly into the executing script. If you have a script that does something incredibly stupid such as using a dynamic variable from user input as the value for an include, you are opening the door to a world of pain. Even if you are careful, this can still be crazy dangerous, simply because it is not something that any scanning tools would consider dangerous.

Lets just say someone hacks your WordPress website. They pick some random script in the WordPress core and add an include that will include a remote script that some hacker has placed on another location. On your server, it will be a tiny piece of code that doesn’t look scary at all. The script being included is where the damage is done.

Allow URL include is one of those things that has very few uses. When its needed its powerful, but 99% of the time, you could easily work around the need for it. It is highly recommended you disable this directive on your web server.

How To Disable Allow URL Include

You can disable this directive from within the php.ini file on your web server. Open this file and search for a line that contains “allow_url_include". Create or edit this line to read as follows. Make sure there is not a hash character (#) in front of this line or it will not apply. 

 

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When it comes to dangerous PHP functions, allow_url_fopen is one that can be incredibly dangerous, but it is also something that is very useful and in most cases will need to remain enabled if you have written some advanced scripts. A common use for this setting would be with a REST based API. For example, if you want to get an item information from a REST URL, you could use something like the following.

Normally the file_get_contents function is used to get files from the local file system. When allow_url_fopen is enabled, you can use a URL with this function in order to get a remote file as if it were stored on the local web server.

Why Is it Dangerous?

The general answer is, it isn’t all that dangerous. Like any function, it can be dangerous if the code is written carelessly, but in general it shouldnt be a problem. The following example will show how this could become dangerous if used carelessly. Lets say you have a form field that accepts a file path. You then read the contents of this file when the form is submitted. What happens if a URL is entered instead of a file path. This will mean that the URL will be queries and this could open some dangerous doors.

If you do not need this function then I would suggest you disable it immediately. Otherwise, it isn’t too much of a risk to keep it open, just be very very careful how and where it is used. Always validate data when passing the values to powerful functions.

 

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The register_globals is a setting that should always be disabled. The method has been deprecated for some time and as of PHP 5.4 it no longer even exists. If you are running an older version of PHP it should be disabled if you are not using it. The big question here is, how can you tell if you are using it? What does register_globals do?

The register_globals is a directive that will make PHP convert all global variables into actual variables. For example, if you have a html form with a field called “firstname”, when you click submit this will become a global variable. You will be able to acess this variable using $_POST[“firstname”]. IF you have register_globals enabled, PHP will automatically create a variable called $firstname and populate it with the value from the POST. This means you do not need to actually use the global variables, since it’s already been added to a variable.

This is a pretty messy way to write code, so I don’t really see any scenario where anyone will need to use this. It is very simple to work around and its good practice not use it On the security side of things, it could be possible for someone to inject code into your script by adding code to an input field on a form. PHP will then add this code to a variable and could cause all sorts of chaos.

How To Disable Register Globals

The official documentation for this states the following This feature has been DEPRECATED as of PHP 5.3.0 and REMOVED as of PHP 5.4.0.

If you are using PHP 5.4.0 or above, then you can ignore this. Your system does not have the option to even enable this, you can be happy that you are safe. http://php.net/manual/en/security.globals.php

If you are using an older version of PHP you can disable the setting by adding or editing the following line in your php.ini file.

 

 

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When looking to buckle down your webserver, expose_php is often something that people suggest you disable. What does expose PHP do and why should it even be disabled? Well it doesn’t really do much, and on its own it really doesn’t do any harm to your server, but it does expose information that a hacker could take advantage of. When expose_php is enabled your server will generate a header called “X-Powered-By”. This header will reveal information about the version of PHP that you are running on your server.

As you can guess, it’s not a setting that gives a hacker access to your system, but if they know what version of PHP you are using, it may be possible for someone to find a vulnerability in your system and gain access. There is no real reason to let the public know this information, so it is best to leave this disabled.

How To Disable Expose PHP

It is very easy to disable this setting. Open up your php.ini file using some text editor. Search the file for “expose_php”, if it exists edit it and if not , add the following line to your ini file.

Save the ini file and restart apache. The setting will now be disabled.