Intruder alert

PHP is often derided as insecure. Most frequently however, weakness is not down to the language itself but poor programming techniques by amateur coders who are unfamiliar with the myriad security practices that should be employed in a defensive programming approach.

The Internet is a hive of nefarious activities by individuals looking to cause mischief or hijack websites for criminal purposes. Attack vectors are constantly evolving and can be so convoluted in their complexity that mere mortals would struggle to understand them.

Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody else stayed on top of things and could take the responsibility of scanning user input off your hands?

Enter PHPIDS — PHP-Intrusion Detection System. This security layer is very fast and simple to use. A set of tested and approved filter rules are applied to detect a potential attack and a numerical severity rating is returned that allows you to react accordingly.

New filters are released every now and again in response to newly discovered attack methods, so keeping PHPIDS up-to-date can involve a bit of manual effort. Again, wouldn’t be nice if someone could keep an eye on this for you as well?

Stick my shell script into a daily cronjob and automatically prepend PHPIDS and you’re all set.

Global travel and technology

During preparation for my impending travels a few snippets caught my eye.

Airports are obviously a huge exercise in logistics. Getting through security can sometimes be time consuming but terahertz radiation scanners1 are one way of speeding things up. Obviously some people will be concerned at the thought of such intimate searches. At Heathrow’s shiny new terminal, if you’re not at the security gates 35 minutes before your flight is due to leave then you’re shit outta luck and will need to book yourself on to a new flight. It all may seem obvious but Wired have produced a guide to (not my pun) flying through security.

There is the argument that we’re all being encouraged to get through security checks early so we have to spend more time in the shops on the other side. Likewise with the fluid restrictions and not being able to bring your own drinks through – we are forced to buy them instead. People may argue that this is an obvious preventative measure to take but if it was such an immediate threat, why did Australia announce that they would be implementing similar plans three months ahead of actually doing so? I’m not the only one to have issues with these “security measures” Tim Bray has problems with his toothpaste. I’m kind of glad that I don’t have a MacBook Air to confuse matters even more.

Heathrow is home to the UK’s largest WLAN and is also forging ahead with technology in order to try and improve performance in all areas. Having trialled RFID baggage tagging last September a larger six-month trial is now underway. Speaking as a victim of luggage loss myself, this is welcome news.

Something that I’d never thought of before is the whole boarding process. This can make a huge difference in turnaround times. An older boarding process blew the trumpet of free-for-all unordered boarding that is popular for the budget airlines but now an astrophysicist has had another idea on how to improve things even further. If vast inroads are made in this area then the need for new airport terminals can be reduced.

1 If you can remember the giant x-ray security scanner in Total Recall then you’re not too far from having seen this in practice already.