Michal Čihař - phpMyAdmin security issues

phpMyAdmin security issues

You might wonder why there is so high number of phpMyAdmin security announcements this year. This situations has two main reasons and I will comment a bit on those.

First of all we've got quite a lot of attention of people doing security reviews this year. It has all started with Mozilla SOS Fund funded audit. It has discovered few minor issues which were fixed in the 4.6.2 release. However this was really just the beginning of the story and the announcement has attracted quite some attention to us. In upcoming weeks the security@phpmyadmin.net mailbox was full of reports and we really struggled to handle such amount. Handling that amount actually lead to creating more formalized approach to handling them as we clearly were no longer able to deal with them based on email only. Anyway most work here was done by Emanuel Bronshtein, who is really looking at every piece of our code and giving useful tips to harden our code base and infrastructure.

Second thing which got changed is that we release security announcements for security hardening even when there might not be any practical attack possible. Typical example here might be PMASA-2016-61, where using hash_equals is definitely safer, but even if the timing attack would be doable here, the practical result of figuring out admin configured allow/deny rules is usually not critical. Many of the issues also cover quite rare setups (or server misconfigurations, which we've silently fixed in past) like PMASA-2016-54 being possibly caused by server executing shell scripts shipped together with phpMyAdmin.

Overall phpMyAdmin indeed got safer this year. I don't think that there was any bug that would be really critical, on the other side we've made quite a lot of hardenings and we use current best practices when dealing with sensitive data. On the other side, I'm pretty sure our code was not in worse shape than any similarly sized projects with 18 years of history, we just become more visible thanks to security audit and people looked deeper into our code base.

Besides security announcements this all lead to generic hardening of our code and infrastructure, what might be not that visible, but are important as well:

  • All our websites are server by https only
  • All our releases are PGP signed
  • We actively encourage users to verify the downloaded files
  • All new Git tags are PGP signed as well

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