Sanitizing user input

The most obvious, and frequently ignored, danger of web application security is unsanitized user input. Whether URL parameter strings or form submission data, any input coming from outside of your own programming should never be trusted.

Manifesto includes a robust sanitization library called Cleantext that performs some default sanitization routines (checking for script tags, null characters, etc), and allows for advanced scrubbing of text based on a variety of data types.

Given a variable holding user input, e.g. $_POST[‘first_name’] we pass the variable to the Cleantext library for scrubbing:

or the shortcut function

And this prevents a malicious user from entering something like <script>foo</script> as their first name in an attempt to execute unauthorized javascript.

In fact, Manifesto uses the Cleantext library to catch common XSS or SQL injection attacks automatically. For example, since Manifesto allows users to request data with GET queries, like:

We automatically run “foo” and “123” through the Cleantext library, and if the original input does not match the output, we can reasonably assume that someone is trying to inject malicious code:

if ($_POST['first_name'] != cleantext($_POST['first_name'])) {
    // Send a 404, or even a 400 HTTP code to prevent the request from being fulfilled

Manifesto executes this default behavior for the most common request parameters: module, function, id, and category. So if someone requests<script>foo</script>&id=123’

their request will be immediately rejected as a hacking attempt.

Cleantext options

As mentioned above, Cleantext can be invoked with a second parameter, indicating a particular format that is expected, e.g.:

Cleantext::clean($_POST['id'],'integer'); // Allow only integers
cleantext($_POST['web_address','url'); // All only valid URLs

A comprehensive list of available options is below.

Option string Description
text/html Allow full HTML*
text/x-html Allow a subset of HTML**
passthrough Only essential scrubbing
shortname Conforms to Manifesto shortname format
int/integer Integers only
float Floats only
alpha Only a-zA-z characters
alphanumeric Only a-zA-z0-9 characters
ltr a-zA-z, but only 1 character
datetime YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS format
year YYYY format
month M, 0M or MM format
datenum D, 0D, or DD format
date YYYY-MM-DD or DD-MM-YYYY format
time HH:MM:SS
yearmonth YYYY-MM format
cc Credit card format (16 numbers + dashes or spaces)
phone Phone number with optional extension
email Cleans email address
email-check Returns email address if valid, or false
url Returns scrubbed URL
dateobj Returns Manifesto Date object if valid
array Checks for match against provided 3rd parameter***

* “Allow full HTML” always removed any style or head blocks, and removes HTML comments and script tags based on the global “Permissive content” settings.

** “X-HTML” allows address, a, b, strong, blockquote, i, em, span, img, u, ol, ul, li, br, p, h1-6

*** “array” option takes a third parameter, specifying the array whose elements are checked for a match, e.g.:

Cleantext::clean($_POST['selection'],'array', array('Blue','Red','White'));

This will return an empty string if the user ‘selection’ variable does not match one of ‘Blue’,’Red’, or ‘White’.