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windows – How to safely prevent uploaded file from being run via PHP on any server?

Posted by: admin July 12, 2020 Leave a comment


I noticed that it’s possible to run a file via PHP even if its extension wasn’t .php, for example file test.xyz.php.whatever.zyx can be still run with PHP even when the extension isn’t .php! It just happens to have .php. in the filename, and that’s enough for my Apache to run the PHP script.

I tried (as someone suggested) to put this in a .htaccess file on that folder:

php_flag engine off

But it didn’t work on my machine.

The only solutions I know for now are:

  • Rename to known file extension, which is not run via PHP, such as .txt.
  • Remove all dots from the filename, thus making it extensionless.

But I’m still not sure how these solutions would work on other servers than my Windows server (with Apache).

Is there any other solutions which doesn’t need the filenames to be renamed in any way?

How to&Answers:

for uploading by users I suggest that you upload a folder in a layer above the root path
in this case Only You Have Access To upload folder( In direct addressing)
and an attacker have not access to any files in this folder
Thus you disable an attacker action to run malicious file


To be completely secure, you’ll need to do a couple of things:

Set your upload directory above your “public” folder, making it inaccessible from a browser. This setting is in php.ini (php config file). You’ll need to restart Apache for this to take effect. On most Redhat / Fedora / CentOS web servers, this can be:

upload_tmp_dir = "/var/tmp/"

OR, on my local Windows 7 WAMP install, it is set to:

upload_tmp_dir = "c:/wamp/tmp"

Disable scripts from running on that directory (c:/wamp/tmp), in .htaccess:

RemoveHandler .php .phtml .php3
RemoveType .php .phtml .php3
php_flag engine off

In your PHP script, get the uploaded file, filter it based on mimetype (not filetype extension), change the filename, and put it into a secured publicly accessible folder. In more detail:

Preferably use an MVC framework, such as Zend Framework, which includes filetype filtering.

If you do all of that, you should be secure. Obviously you’ll never be 100% safe, since there are countless obscure exploits targeting PHP, MySQL, the command line, etc, particularly on older systems. On larger company webservers (what I work on), they disable everything, and selectively enable only what is required for the project. With a system such as WAMP, they enable everything, to ease local development.

Good practice for working on a professional project is to get a cloud server account with Rackspace or Amazon, and learn how to configure php.ini, and httpd.conf settings, as well as PHP security best practices. In general, do not trust the users input, expect it to be corrupt / malicious / malformed, and in the end you’ll be secure.


First of all you need to understand what happens here:


Such a file on a webserver on it’s own would do nothing. Only added configuration does tell Apache to execute PHP on that file.

So if you remove that added configuration, Apache won’t care to find .php in there – be it at the very end or part of a stacked file-extension.

Check which handler you have set for php in your server configuration. Remove it for the upload directory. This then won’t resolve any other configuration issues you might have with uploaded files, however PHP files aren’t executed by PHP any longer then – which is what you want if I understood you right.

If you’ve got a problem to find out what this is about, you need to post your PHP configuration in your httpd.conf file and associated Apache HTTPD configuration files for your system.

The directive somebody told you for .htaccess:

php_flag engine off

does only work if you’re running PHP as an apache SAPI module.


Instead of php_flag engine off you could remove the handler for PHP files using an .htaccess file for a single directory.

In the directory you are disabling PHP in, your .htaccess should include:

RemoveHandler .php .phtml .php3 .php4 .php5
RemoveType .php .phtml .php3 .php4 .php5

You can likely get away with the below however, depending on which AddHandler types you have configured in your default Apache configuration, which, on windows, should be in C:\Program Files\Apache<version>\conf\httpd.conf

RemoveHandler .php 
RemoveType .php 

You will also need to ensure that in your main apache configuration file, that the directory containing the .htaccess file is in, is covered by a Directory statement which has AllowOverride FileInfo set. You may wish to consider AllowOverride All if you will be using .htaccess files for other purposes – see the Apache documentation for AllowOverride for an explanation of the differences.


On Apache you could disable all dynamic handlers for the directory that contains the untrusted files.

SetHandler default-handler


this is not really good answer but hope useful in some special cases …

you can use mod_rewrite in .htaccess file like this :

RewriteRule ^(.+).xyz.php.whatever.zyx$ index.php?openfile=$1 [NC,L]

and inside your index.php file :

$file = secure_this_string($_GET['openfile']);
include($file.'.xyz.php.whatever.zyx');  # or some other files

remember to see this answer for security reasons StackOverFlow

and in test.xyz.php.whatever.zyx file :

<?php echo 'hello';

now if client requests /test.xyz.php.whatever.zyx file , out put should be ‘hello’


A simple regex would do the job

$a = strtolower($_FILES["file"]["name"]);
$replace = array(".php", ".phtml", ".php3", ".php4", ".php5");
$_FILES["file"]["name"] = str_replace($replace, "", $a);

This works fine on any server


The following .htaccess-code could work and deny access to files containing “php“:

<FilesMatch "php">
    Deny from all


I could reproduce your issue quite easily on our server. There is a way to fix this, you need to edit /etc/mime.types and comment out lines

#application/x-httpd-php                                phtml pht php
#application/x-httpd-php-source                 phps
#application/x-httpd-php3                       php3
#application/x-httpd-php3-preprocessed          php3p
#application/x-httpd-php4                       php4
#application/x-httpd-php5                       php5

These lines cause anything with .php in name to be processed.
Once you comment out the entries in mime.types, mod_php config in /etc/apache2/mods-enabled/php5.conf has this entry which correctly only processes files ENDING with .php

<FilesMatch "\.ph(p3?|tml)$">
    SetHandler application/x-httpd-php

What is REALLY SCARY is that this is a default config (Ubuntu 10.04 in our case).


On Windows the mime.types file should be in apache_home/conf/mime.types


Personally, this is the main reason I no longer upload files to the web server under any circumstances. Instead, I use S3 / Amazon SDK to move the uploaded temp file directly to a bucket on S3 with Private permissions (I use S3, any other CDN will work just as well). If the file needs to be viewed or viewed by a web client, I use a “getter” function of sorts that integrates with the SDK to get the file and display it.

There are just so many uncontrollable variables that come into play whenever you allow any kind of file upload to a web server, it can be difficult to manage permissions, filtering, and even just space. With S3 (or any other CDN), that is all very easy to manage, and all files are effectively quarantined from the server by default.