Major PHP Security Flaws Patched

Jeff Berg
CYBERSPACE — Several major security flaws in the PHP scripting language were successfully patched this week, plugging up holes that could have allowed attackers to gain control of a server that used the server-side language.

“All users of PHP are strongly encouraged to upgrade to one of these releases as soon as possible,” the PHP Group, a community of software developers who put out official releases of the scripting language, said on its website.

PHP: Hypertext Preprocessing, which allows web pages to generate dynamic content and interact with databases, is often used by bloggers and content management applications.

The new patched versions of PHP, 4.3.10 and 5.0.3, available on the PHP Group’s website address a list of six bugs, including several serious security flaws, which was announced last week by the Hardened-PHP team.

Among the problems mentioned in the group’s list were two errors with the language’s variable unserializer that allowed attackers to execute arbitrary code and to craft strings that could pass execution to shellcode contained within the string itself.

“It is strongly recommended to upgrade to the new PHP releases as soon as possible,” said Hardened-PHP. “A lot of PHP applications expose the easy to exploit unserialize() vulnerability to remote attackers.”

Some of the vulnerable applications built using the scripting languages and identified as vulnerable by the Hardened-PHP group include phpBB2, Invision Board, vBulletin, Woltlab Burning Board 2.x, Serendipity Weblog, phpAds and others.

Bulletin board software phpBB is also currently under attack by the Santy.a worm because of bugs contained within its code that effectively allows SQL injection exploits.

In addition to releasing the vulnerabilities to the PHP-using community, Hardened-PHP also offers its own security-harden version of the language.

Patches for the PHP vulnerabilities are available here.