Welcome!

PHP Authors: Liz McMillan, Carmen Gonzalez, Hovhannes Avoyan, Lori MacVittie, Trevor Parsons

Related Topics: PHP, Cloud Security

PHP: Article

Using PHP to Enhance Password Security

Converting a phrase to a seemingly random password using PHP

When dictating password policies to users, it is common for such policies to require that users generate passwords that contain a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and special characters. Moreover, it is well established that the strengths of such passwords are further enhanced if the passwords do not in any way resemble dictionary words, since minor substitutions of dictionary words and names are often included in the dictionaries used in dictionary-based attacks and in some rainbow table variants. Thus "D3veloper" would be a less than ideal password since potentially it's an easily guessed variant of the word "developer."

A common recommendation for dealing with this issue is to suggest the use of randomly generated passwords such as "0Y=/S?tV". However, such passwords often pose great difficulty for many users to remember, which can lead to passwords being written down and hence result in a decrease rather than an increase in security. To resolve this issue, a technique has recently been suggested whereby the user turns an easily remembered phrase into a seemingly random password by taking the first letter of each word in the phrase and then performing character substitutions in order to introduce other character types such as numbers and special characters.

Thus, the user would take a phrase such as "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" and turn it into the character string "Tqbfjotld." They could then pick a character and replace it with an easily remembered number and then pick a second character and replace it with an easily remembered special character. Thus if the person's "b"irthday was on the 5th, perhaps they would associate "b" with number "5," and if they liked the J# programming language, perhaps they would associate "j" with "#."  Thus "b" and "j" could be replaced with their associated characters to make the password "Tq5f#otld"; a seemingly random password that can be recalled by the user using easy to remember mnemonic tricks.

This article demonstrates a small PHP5 script that can be used to convert user supplied phrases into such a seemingly random password. Before the PHP code itself is executed, however, an HTML form is initially used to allow the user to supply the phrase they are interested in, via text box, and specify their choice in character substitutions, via drop down boxes. The HTML code can be found in Listing 1 and a screenshot of the HTML form found in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The HTML interface used to accept user inputs

It is important to note that the HTML script uses the post action to submit the various HTML control values to the PHP script as follows. The text box element is named "Text" and is used to allow the user to enter his phrase of choice. Four drop down boxes are also used, where the drop down box "NumLet" allows the user to specify the letter that the user wants to replace with the number found in the drop down box "Num." Likewise, the "SpecLet" drop down box allows the user to specify the letter that the user wants to replace with the special character found in the drop down box "Spec."

Upon Execution, the PHP script accepts the values of these HTML controls and assigns them to like named variables as follows:

$passwd="";
$Phrase=$_POST['Text'];
$NumLet=$_POST['NumLet'];
$Num=$_POST['Num'];
$SpecLet=$_POST['SpecLet'];
$Spec=$_POST['Spec'];

Next, the PHP script uses the explode function to split the $Phrase string into an array of individual words (substrings), by using a space as the delimiter.  A for loop is then used to loop through all of the substrings and a regular expression, which makes use of the predefined "\w" subpattern used to identify the first letter of each substring.  The identified letter is then appended to the string stored in the variable $passwd to produce a string the consists of the first letter found in each substring as demonstrated below:

$words=explode(" ", $Phrase);
foreach($words as $word){
preg_match('/\w/', $word, $matches);
$passwd=$passwd . $matches[0];
}

Two additional regular expressions are then utilized to perform a match and replace operation, whereby the two user-specified letters are replaced with the respective user-selected number and special character, as shown below:

$passwd=preg_replace("/($NumLet)/i", "$Num", $passwd);
$passwd=preg_replace("/($SpecLet)/i", "$Spec", $passwd);

The password is then printed to the screen and to yield output like the representative one shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: The seemingly random password that results from the information specified in Figure 1.

All in all, this article demonstrates a PHP5 script that can be used to automate the conversion of any user-specified phrase into a seemingly random password. Both the HTML code and the PHP5 code (see Listing 2 for complete code) can be easily modified to enhance compliance with organizational policies and as such can provide a useful tool for enhancing password policy compliance and password security throughout any organization. A version of the software is also being hosted at http://www.insilicobiotechnologies.com/PasswdMkr/PhrasetoPassIn.html for anyone who wishes to make use of the application in the format specified here.

More Stories By Christopher Frenz

Christopher Frenz is the author of "Visual Basic and Visual Basic .NET for Scientists and Engineers" (Apress) and "Pro Perl Parsing" (Apress). He is a faculty member in the Department of Computer Engineering at the New York City College of Technology (CUNY), where he performs computational biology and machine learning research.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
The explosion of new web/cloud/IoT-based applications and the data they generate are transforming our world right before our eyes. In this rush to adopt these new technologies, organizations are often ignoring fundamental questions concerning who owns the data and failing to ask for permission to conduct invasive surveillance of their customers. Organizations that are not transparent about how their systems gather data telemetry without offering shared data ownership risk product rejection, regu...
TechTarget storage websites are the best online information resource for news, tips and expert advice for the storage, backup and disaster recovery markets. By creating abundant, high-quality editorial content across more than 140 highly targeted technology-specific websites, TechTarget attracts and nurtures communities of technology buyers researching their companies' information technology needs. By understanding these buyers' content consumption behaviors, TechTarget creates the purchase inte...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
Almost two-thirds of companies either have or soon will have IoT as the backbone of their business. Though, IoT is far more complex than most firms expected with a majority of IoT projects having failed. How can you not get trapped in the pitfalls? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, Chief IoTologist at Wipro, will introduce a holistic method of IoTification, which is the process of IoTifying the existing technology portfolios and business models to adopt and leverage IoT. He will delve in...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
Who are you? How do you introduce yourself? Do you use a name, or do you greet a friend by the last four digits of his social security number? Assuming you don’t, why are we content to associate our identity with 10 random digits assigned by our phone company? Identity is an issue that affects everyone, but as individuals we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ben Klang, Founder & President of Mojo Lingo, discussed the impact of technology on identity. Sho...
There are 66 million network cameras capturing terabytes of data. How did factories in Japan improve physical security at the facilities and improve employee productivity? Edge Computing reduces possible kilobytes of data collected per second to only a few kilobytes of data transmitted to the public cloud every day. Data is aggregated and analyzed close to sensors so only intelligent results need to be transmitted to the cloud. Non-essential data is recycled to optimize storage.
SYS-CON Events announced today that SD Times | BZ Media has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6–8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. BZ Media LLC is a high-tech media company that produces technical conferences and expositions, and publishes a magazine, newsletters and websites in the software development, SharePoint, mobile development and commercial UAV markets.
“We're a global managed hosting provider. Our core customer set is a U.S.-based customer that is looking to go global,” explained Adam Rogers, Managing Director at ANEXIA, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
In today's uber-connected, consumer-centric, cloud-enabled, insights-driven, multi-device, global world, the focus of solutions has shifted from the product that is sold to the person who is buying the product or service. Enterprises have rebranded their business around the consumers of their products. The buyer is the person and the focus is not on the offering. The person is connected through multiple devices, wearables, at home, on the road, and in multiple locations, sometimes simultaneously...
China Unicom exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which took place at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, in November 2016. China United Network Communications Group Co. Ltd ("China Unicom") was officially established in 2009 on the basis of the merger of former China Netcom and former China Unicom. China Unicom mainly operates a full range of telecommunications services including mobile broadband (GSM, WCDMA, LTE FDD, TD-LTE), fixed-line broadband, ICT, data communica...
As businesses adopt functionalities in cloud computing, it’s imperative that IT operations consistently ensure cloud systems work correctly – all of the time, and to their best capabilities. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Bernd Harzog, CEO and founder of OpsDataStore, will present an industry answer to the common question, “Are you running IT operations as efficiently and as cost effectively as you need to?” He will expound on the industry issues he frequently came up against as an analyst, and...
WebRTC is about the data channel as much as about video and audio conferencing. However, basically all commercial WebRTC applications have been built with a focus on audio and video. The handling of “data” has been limited to text chat and file download – all other data sharing seems to end with screensharing. What is holding back a more intensive use of peer-to-peer data? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, WebRTC Applications Team Lead at National ICT Australia, looked at differ...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
IoT offers a value of almost $4 trillion to the manufacturing industry through platforms that can improve margins, optimize operations & drive high performance work teams. By using IoT technologies as a foundation, manufacturing customers are integrating worker safety with manufacturing systems, driving deep collaboration and utilizing analytics to exponentially increased per-unit margins. However, as Benoit Lheureux, the VP for Research at Gartner points out, “IoT project implementers often un...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Technologic Systems Inc., an embedded systems solutions company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Technologic Systems is an embedded systems company with headquarters in Fountain Hills, Arizona. They have been in business for 32 years, helping more than 8,000 OEM customers and building over a hundred COTS products that have never been discontinued. Technologic Systems’ pr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IoT Now has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6–8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IoT Now explores the evolving opportunities and challenges facing CSPs, and it passes on some lessons learned from those who have taken the first steps in next-gen IoT services.
SYS-CON Events announced today that WineSOFT will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Based in Seoul and Irvine, WineSOFT is an innovative software house focusing on internet infrastructure solutions. The venture started as a bootstrap start-up in 2010 by focusing on making the internet faster and more powerful. WineSOFT’s knowledge is based on the expertise of TCP/IP, VPN, SSL, peer-to-peer, mob...
SYS-CON Events announced today that delaPlex will exhibit at SYS-CON's @CloudExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. delaPlex pioneered Software Development as a Service (SDaaS), which provides scalable resources to build, test, and deploy software. It’s a fast and more reliable way to develop a new product or expand your in-house team.
The Internet of Things can drive efficiency for airlines and airports. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Sudip Majumder, senior director of development at Oracle, discussed the technical details of the connected airline baggage and related social media solutions. These IoT applications will enhance travelers' journey experience and drive efficiency for the airlines and the airports.