PHP Bug Crashes Servers

Lyla Katz
CYBERSPACE — A new bug in certain versions of the PHP scripting language could crash servers when the software tries to convert a large floating point number, leaving the glitch susceptible to hackers.

The bug will cause the PHP processing software to enter an infinite loop when it tries to convert the series of digits "2.2250738585072011e-308" from the string format into the floating point format, according to

The bug only seems to affect version 5.2 and 5.3 of the language, and only when they are run on Intel 32-bit CPUs that use the x87 instruction set.

To fix the problem, users can download patches for those versions or recompile PHP with additional flags for handling floating point digits.

Computer scientists say that this particular number is troublesome because it is the "largest subnormal double-precision floating-point number."

In general, they say, floating point digits are a challenge for developers to handle correctly, given the complex and differing techniques compilers and hardware instruction sets render such numbers.