9 PHP Development Mistakes to Avoid

Michael Harvey
August 2, 2022
 Mins Read

PHP is the most preferred open source language to develop web apps and dynamic web pages, due to its robustness and multi-platform support. Yet, PHP developers, even stalwarts, can misunderstand some basic issues and make mistakes while coding. These errors do not hinder the functioning of the code as intended and hence are easily overlooked. However, they can cause serious logical or semantic errors, and even introduce security loopholes into the app.

While an expert in providing, Custom Software Application Development Outsourcing Services can provide you with the expertise in ensuring that these mistakes are avoided, it is always good to have knowledge of these mistakes.

9 PHP Development Mistakes to Avoid

PHP may be very robust but here are some interesting pitfalls that developers tend to make. Avoiding these will surely improve the quality and efficiency of your PHP development projects.

1. Incorrect Use of Operators:

This is a common mistake where a programmer uses assignment ‘=’ instead of comparison ‘==’. This can change the value of the variable and cause the data to go haywire!

2. Forgetting to Rewrite URLs:

It is important to mention clean URLs as given in various framework guides (Symphony, Zend, Laravel, etc.), not ones that have a lot of variables, making them illegible. This is not acceptable in modern practice.

3. Using MySQL Extension:

This is outdated in a way, is insecure, unreliable, and does not support SSL. Deprecation notices appear on top of the app, which can be accessed anywhere simply by Google and shall expose all the sites to a misuser. Instead, one should use MySQL which is more up-to-date, reliable, and faster.

4. Not Using PDO:

PHP Data Objects allows the use of object-oriented syntax, and this would align the code for databases such as MS SQL and PostgreSQL as well. A time-saving feature enables the injection of fetched data directly into objects and also uses named parameters for ease.

5. Forgetting To Use Database Caching:

Cache helps improve the performance of the app and the database, and enhances the user experience.  Me cached, query cache, Radis, and Varnish can be used for this purpose.

6. Suppressing Errors:

Errors are available in a system that tells the programmer that something is wrong. Suppressing errors is a bad way to let the app run with potential bugs. At the same time, popping up incoherent errors on the web is highly irritating. A good practice can be to redirect them to an error log, using the php.ini file. On the other hand, frequent logging may slow down the website drastically, especially during heavy traffic. Hence an alternative can be to change the default error handler with another customized one e.g. that could end the application if a grave error occurs. PHP add-ons such as Paper-train allow the errors to be sent to the backend instead of popping up on a screen so that they can be searched, grouped, and fixed later.

7. Configuration Loopholes:

An accidentally or carelessly left development system configuration and perhaps sensitive data can expose the setup to unwarranted hacking. It is simple to remove app_dev.php which allows access to the development version of the app from the actually deployed servers. Similarly, the php.ini file contains configuration data. If the website is hosted on a shared server, this file can be is a sitting duck for the malicious audience.

Keeping the local PHP settings specific to the hosting account of the programmer ensures that a restricted and more secure environment is available for the app. Creating a page that calls the phpinfo() function to list the specific values of the php.ini variables, and keeping this page in a secure private area not accessible to the public is a good practice.

8. Invalidated User Input/ Cross-Site Script:

Badly intended user inputs may creep in as arguments in URL strings or as data from forms, which can allow a user to see the local details and files of the website. It is therefore very useful to validate the data as per expected values/ranges before allowing it to be passed into the system for further use/processing. A hacker can embed a client-side script in data to be displayed on the webpage, such as in comments, which eventually gets executed on the server to steal some sensitive information via the back-end and let everything appear normally on the server.

Exploiting a database query allows a user to inject query strings that can fetch sensitive records from the database for the user is a common SQL injection technique engaged by hackers. Validating user-entered data is very important to avoid all of these.

9. Remote Code Execution:

Dynamic calls to remote functions such as filesystem calls are open invitations for hackers to remotely execute code on the local server. Hence calls such as include(), fopen(), fsockopen(), eval(), etc. must be avoided as far as possible or if made, they should follow a proper validation of the user inputs.

Being aware of these development mistakes can ensure that each of these can be well addressed. Thus, a programmer can consciously use the latest and smooth features of PHP to make a smart and secure web app.

Article by
Michael Harvey

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