Security Review 2019

Recent assignments that focus my efforts on securing web applications have motivated me to review the security of my personal websites. PHP code that I implemented 15 years ago is still used by my websites today. With the experience I gained over the years, and my current effort to acquire deep familiarization with security practices, I was able to quickly identify and address potential security risks.

I learned a lot from performing a security review on my own web applications. My past dependency on security through obscurity is cringeworthy. Also, my code for unexpected cases had depended on PHP extension module functions throwing exceptions, which possibly are not thrown with specially crafted inputs. I just recently updated my PHP code to proactively validate used $_GET, $_POST, or $_SERVER values. Values are now tested against explicitly specified acceptable values. I am more confident in the security of my personal websites. My recent updates bring my personal web application code closer to being secure by default.

David Sklansky’s fundamental theorem of poker applies when implementing secure software or performing a security review. The theorem states:

Every time you play a hand differently from the way you would have played it if you could see all your opponents’ cards, they gain; and every time you play your hand the same way you would have played it if you could see their cards, they lose. Conversely, every time opponents play their hands differently from the way they would have if they could see all your cards, you gain; and every time they play their hands the same way they would have played if they could see all your cards, you lose.

If there is discomfort with code when knowing that malicious actors can potentially see it, then the code is not secure and changes need implementing to increase security and peace of mind.

Questions, comments, and responses are welcomed and appreciated.

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