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
SYS-CON Events announced today that Golden Gate University will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Since 1901, non-profit Golden Gate University (GGU) has been helping adults achieve their professional goals by providing high quality, practice-based undergraduate and graduate educational programs in law, taxation, business and related professions. Many of its courses are taug...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DXWorldExpo has been named “Global Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. Digital Transformation is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics ...
21st International Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Me...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
There is only one world-class Cloud event on earth, and that is Cloud Expo – which returns to Silicon Valley for the 21st Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center, October 31 - November 2, 2017. Every Global 2000 enterprise in the world is now integrating cloud computing in some form into its IT development and operations. Midsize and small businesses are also migrating to the cloud in increasing numbers. Companies are each developing their unique mix of cloud technologies and service...
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, will introduce two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Secure Channels, a cybersecurity firm, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Secure Channels, Inc. offers several products and solutions to its many clients, helping them protect critical data from being compromised and access to computer networks from the unauthorized. The company develops comprehensive data encryption security strategie...
Recently, WebRTC has a lot of eyes from market. The use cases of WebRTC are expanding - video chat, online education, online health care etc. Not only for human-to-human communication, but also IoT use cases such as machine to human use cases can be seen recently. One of the typical use-case is remote camera monitoring. With WebRTC, people can have interoperability and flexibility for deploying monitoring service. However, the benefit of WebRTC for IoT is not only its convenience and interopera...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
SYS-CON Events announced today that App2Cloud will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. App2Cloud is an online Platform, specializing in migrating legacy applications to any Cloud Providers (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud).
IoT is at the core or many Digital Transformation initiatives with the goal of re-inventing a company's business model. We all agree that collecting relevant IoT data will result in massive amounts of data needing to be stored. However, with the rapid development of IoT devices and ongoing business model transformation, we are not able to predict the volume and growth of IoT data. And with the lack of IoT history, traditional methods of IT and infrastructure planning based on the past do not app...
Internet-of-Things discussions can end up either going down the consumer gadget rabbit hole or focused on the sort of data logging that industrial manufacturers have been doing forever. However, in fact, companies today are already using IoT data both to optimize their operational technology and to improve the experience of customer interactions in novel ways. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Gordon Haff, Red Hat Technology Evangelist, shared examples from a wide range of industries – including en...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. Jack Norris reviews best practices to show how companies develop, deploy, and dynamically update these applications and how this data-first...
Intelligent Automation is now one of the key business imperatives for CIOs and CISOs impacting all areas of business today. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Boeggeman, VP Alliances & Partnerships at Ayehu, will talk about how business value is created and delivered through intelligent automation to today’s enterprises. The open ecosystem platform approach toward Intelligent Automation that Ayehu delivers to the market is core to enabling the creation of the self-driving enterprise.
Consumers increasingly expect their electronic "things" to be connected to smart phones, tablets and the Internet. When that thing happens to be a medical device, the risks and benefits of connectivity must be carefully weighed. Once the decision is made that connecting the device is beneficial, medical device manufacturers must design their products to maintain patient safety and prevent compromised personal health information in the face of cybersecurity threats. In his session at @ThingsExpo...
"We're a cybersecurity firm that specializes in engineering security solutions both at the software and hardware level. Security cannot be an after-the-fact afterthought, which is what it's become," stated Richard Blech, Chief Executive Officer at Secure Channels, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Grape Up will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company specializing in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market across the U.S. and Europe, Grape Up works with a variety of customers from emergi...
Detecting internal user threats in the Big Data eco-system is challenging and cumbersome. Many organizations monitor internal usage of the Big Data eco-system using a set of alerts. This is not a scalable process given the increase in the number of alerts with the accelerating growth in data volume and user base. Organizations are increasingly leveraging machine learning to monitor only those data elements that are sensitive and critical, autonomously establish monitoring policies, and to detect...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Massive Networks mission is simple. To help your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions. Improve your customer's experience with outstanding connections to your cloud.