PHP

Authorizing User Access

Writing PHP scripts to manage the authentication process allows for flexible authorization logic to be applied when processing a request. Authenticating a user successfully against a list or table of known users doesn't automatically authorize that user to access an application. For example, an application might apply restrictions based on group membership: a user belonging to the DIRECTORS group gets to see the reports from the budget database, while others can't. The number of schemes for restricting access is limited only by a developer's imagination or more often by that of the marketing department. A user of a subscription-based service might supply a correct username and password, but be denied access when a fee is 14 days overdue. Access might be denied on Thursday evenings when system maintenance is performed. Implementing such authorization schemes requires designing the appropriate user table or tables.

There are several HTTP status codes that are appropriate to use when denying access to a user. Earlier, we used the response code of 401 Unauthorized to control HTTP authentication. The response status code of 403 Forbidden is appropriate if an explanation as to why access has been denied is required. Example 9-5 uses the code of 403 Forbidden. The HTTP/1.1 standard describes 17 4xx status codes that have various meanings. The infamous 404 Not Found is returned by Apache if the requested resource doesn't exist, and a PHP script can return this code if the exact reason for the refusal needs to be hidden. The code 402 Payment Required has been included, but the HTTP standard has not provided an interpretation of how it should be used.

Limits placed on IP addresses

A PHP script can access the IP address from which a request was sent by inspecting the server variable $REMOTE_ADDR. This remote address can restrict access. A simple example allows access only from a specific IP address. This can be used to implement administration scripts that allow access only from a specific computer. A variation, shown in Example 9-5, is to allow access to users on a particular network subnet. Example 9-5 limits access to the main content of the script to requests sent from clients with a range of IP addresses that begin with 141.190.17.

Example 9-5. PHP script that forbids access from browsers outside an IP subnet
<?php
if(strncmp("141.190.17", $REMOTE_ADDR, 10) != 0)
{
    header("HTTP/1.0 403 Forbidden");
  ?>
  <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC
      "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN"
      "http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/loose.dtd" >
  <html>
    <head><title>Marketing Department</title></head>
    <body>
      <h2>403 Forbidden</h2>
      <p>You cannot access this page from outside
         the Marketing Department.
    </body>
  </html>
  <?
  exit;
}
?>
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC
    "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN"
    "http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/loose.dtd" >
<html>
  <head><title>Marketing Department</title></head>
  <body>
    <h2>Marketing secrets!</h2>
    <p>Need new development team - the old one
      says <em>No</em> far too often.
  </body>
</html>

Another limit that can be applied using the IP address is to help prevent session hijacking-a problem discussed later in this chapter.

by BrainBellupdated
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