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Friday October 9th 2015

Michal Čihař: Secure your phpMyAdmin

phpMyAdmin is quite popular software (to give some numbers let’s mention 10000 downloads daily on or 122685 reports in Debian’s popcon) and as such is quite attractive target for various scripted attacks. If you run phpMyAdmin installation somewhere you should really make sure it is enough secured, so that these script kiddies don’t get through.

In past month I’ve looked at what kind of attacks are these guys trying and in all cases these are pretty old vulnerabilities, some of them fixed years ago. So the first thing you should do is to update. It is always good to run latest stable version, but in case you can not for whatever reason, try at least taking the most important fixes and using them.

In ideal world your distribution would do this job for you, but in case it did not, you can for example take patches from Debian, which is pretty good at taking our patches (surprisingly it is not much related to my involvement there). To check which patches they have applied you can use excellent patch-tracker tool, which exposes patches from all released packages.

To give you overview of which issues are mostly being attempted to exploit by script kiddies right now, here is the list:

  • PMASA-2010-3 – yes, more than two years old, but still unpatched in some places
  • PMASA-2011-5 – “only” half year old
  • PMASA-2011-6 – only useful together with wrongly configured PHP

If you have fixed these, you should be pretty safe for now, but follow our security announcements for possible future issues (you can use RSS feed or subscribe to news mailing list, where all security issues are announced as well).

However there are more things you can do to keep you safer:

  • remove setup directory from phpMyAdmin, you will probably not use it after initial setup
  • prevent access to libraries directory from browser, as it is not needed, supplied .htaccess file does this
  • properly choose authentication method – cookie is probably the best choice for shared hosting
  • in case you don’t want all MySQL users to be able to access phpMyAdmin, you can use AllowDeny rules to limit them
  • consider hiding phpMyAdmin behind authentication proxy, so that MySQL credenticals are not all users need to login

So these are the basic steps which will help you against possible compromise, I might return to some of these in more details in future posts.

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