introduction to web programming cgi security Okay, so security looms over every webmaster shoulder like...like...like a big scary looming thing.

As we saw in the pre-requisite article "Introduction to Web Programming 101", there is no such thing as a full-proof CGI script or a safe web server.

The minute you give the world access to your inner world is the minute that you introduce security holes. There is no program web-based or not, that does not introduce a security risk.

However, since most webmasters find it essential to expand their services to include CGI, most webmasters are ready to take an intelligent risk with their CGI scripts.

In other words, though you can never be totally safe, you can certainly make yourself as safe as it gets!

In most cases, that means that though a CGI might get hacked, the hacker could not do much damage.

The first rule of CGI security is to use one of the standard safe libraries for reading and parsing form input. These include cgi-lib.pl for Perl 4 and 5 or cgi.pm for Perl 5.

These libraries have been around for years and have been tested millions of ties by users in every imaginable environment. They have gone through many revisions from learned experience and take precautions for all sorts of little buggers that you may not think about if you started writing a form handler yourself.

However, once you have read and parsed form data, you must also pay attention to how that data is used and make sure that you do not create a security hole in the data handling.

There are two primary considerations for writing safe CGI scripts as discussed by Lincoln Stein in his SafeCGI presentation available at http://www-genome.wi.mit.edu/~lstein/. These are checking user input and restricting system calls.

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