Posts in Software Development

Finding the longest or shortest item in a list

Python is a powerful language to quickly and efficiently do work with data, but it requires a more in-depth knowledge of the language to write more elegant and readable code. For many new Python programmers, this is a catch-22 as they’re still learning all the details and it takes time. Let’s take a simple example about finding the longest string in a list and simplify some code. Secondly making the code faster as we will use built-in functions at machine speed instead of interpreting Python code.

The example is a for-loop over a list and checks if the new item is longer than the current longest item before it stores it as the longest. Afterward, it prints the result which will be longest in this case.

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PHP 7.3 and forbidden functions

Last month PHP 7.3.0 was released and with that a lot of functions or aliases were deprecated that may lead to issues down the road. While Xdebug still needs to be released for PHP 7.3 an automated test with GitLab isn’t possible yet as the build phase of Xdebug fails. Luckily I’m using PHP CodeSniffer and extending phpcs.xml.dist with the lines below make the build already fail if any of the forbidden functions are being used in the code.

Hopefully PHP Code Sniffer will be extended to check on deprecated constants as well, but for now all code running on PHP 7.2 can be checked to run smoothly on PHP 7.3 and later.

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Monitoring GitHub for new releases

Big sites like GitHub or GitLab are hosting a lot of projects and have numerous of releases a day. And while you as a person can watch a repository on GitHub, you can’t filter out new releases easily. At least not easily findable in the interfaces and checking all the repositories manually because they aren’t part of a build process is too much hassle and will fail in the end. So also for me with highlight.js as it has been updated from version 9.11.0 to 9.12.0 months ago.

Looking at some solutions people were writing about on StackOverflow for example was to parse the HTML and use that as a basis for actions to be executed. A quick check and grep of the output shown that we only have links to releases, but no structured data we can easily parse.

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Using GitLab to build LaTeX

Generating documents in PDF form is becoming the standard nowadays, but how to generate them easily when they’re mostly free format? One of the goals of the Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) Certification is writing a report based on the evidence you find. This is where LaTeX comes into the picture as you can easily have multiple files with data and one or more TeX-files combining this into a proper document. The question then also comes “How to optimize this pipeline?”

The first step is to see every report as a git repository where you can store and version all data. And running rubber locally solves the problem to quickly create a PDF from your sources, but wouldn’t it be nice if this part also could be automated? Who didn’t make the last moment change and forgot to run rubber if the document would still compile into a PDF? GitLab CI can luckily also compile LaTeX into a PDF and the notification if your update broke the build process comes for free.

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Subresource Integrity for JavaScript

Including JavaScript files from a CDN can be beneficial in many ways as you don’t have to ship the code with your code and caching can be done by the browser of a proxy server. It also allows for injecting untrusted code into a web page as someone else is hosting the code you rely on. But Firefox, Chrome, and Opera already support Subresource Integrity checking script and link tags. Hopefully, both Safari and Edge (or Internet Explorer) will support it soon.

But how does it work? First, let’s calculate the SHA256 hash of JQuery version 3.2.1 hosted by Cloudflare. Also, keep in mind to verify this number with the official version offered by JQuery. In this example, we download the minimized version of JQuery with curl and run it twice through OpenSSL to generate the checksum and encode the result in base64 format.

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Starting to stop SQL injections, part 2

In a previous posting, I gave an example of how to make database queries safer by using parameter binding and basically stopping SQL injections. The next step is to make the code more readable and maintainable. This doesn’t sound like a priority for secure software development, but readable code is also code that can be verified and maintained by other people. It gives you the edge to debug problems quickly and invites others to supply patches. So let’s take the example where the previous posting ended.

For one or two parameters this may work, but when queries become bigger you need to start counting, and counting beyond three is a bad idea in most cases. Let’s change the question mark with a named variable called ‘:username’ in this example. One could then use the function bindParam() to specify which named variable needs to be replaced and has additional features, but in this example, we use the standard binding during in execute phase.

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Starting to stop SQL injections

In a lot of examples about PHP, strings are concatenated before a database query is executed as below. Some examples advise to use PHP-functions mysql_real_escape_string() and/or addslashes() to make database query safe against SQL-injections. But this isn’t really a solution as when using addslashes() also requires the use of stripslashes() after retrieving data from a database. Some sites show the lack of proper implementation and show the famous ' string on a website.

Like in Perl with DBI, also PHP has PDO that allows for variables to be parameterized while executing a query as in the example below. This removes the need for homemade solutions that don’t cover all use-cases and allows for a way to provide a stable and more secure interface for your applications when communicating with databases.

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Cleaning input enough?

Input validation is a known issue, but writing some PHP code today let me write the following and I’m wondering if I forgot something. It is only to make sure no cleansed variable will enter a switch statement for example.

For now, I need to check the code that no $_POST variable is entering the code unchecked before I put the code online. This also includes variables for SQL statements to eliminate SQL injections.

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