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TIPS, INSIGHTS AND THE LATEST FROM THE EXPERTS BEHIND CAKEPHP

Marius Wilms - The CakePHP Media Plugin

If Marius had more than an hour to talk about the Media Plugin, he most certainly would have taken it. To go over the features and functionality of the entire plugin would have been many hours as there is a lot there. A brief touch on the features provided by the plugin was discussed, with some examples.

Requirements are in the high end, but considering the state of PHP and the upcoming version of CakePHP, developers should be moving forward in terms of their PHP version and library support anyway. The Media plugin requires CakePHP 1.2.x.x and PHP 5.2.0+. It enables the transfer, manipulation and embedding of files in many varied ways.

You can find the media plugin at: http://github.com/davidpersson/media

Marius' focus was on doing media manipulation and embedding "properly", and identified that while there are lots of user contributions floating around the net, none of them were meeting his needs and were flexible enough. One of the main points he made here was that if done incorrectly, potential security risks arise due to command line interaction and file saving. Validation was one particular section of the code that made this a tricky plugin to develop, but allowed tests to be implemented to ensure security.

Some common points that we hear all the time came through, and they make sense for CakePHP as well as any web application for security reasons:

 

  1. Don't trust users supplied filenames
  2. Don't store files in an accessible webroot, rather have them accessible to scripts.
  3. Make the upload location (and local filenames) unguessable (like referencing files by UUIDs)
The media plugin contains about 8 new rules for file validation purposes to ensure that submitted data meets the application needs. Beyond validation, it handles all kinds of uploads, HTTP Post, Remote HTTP and local file inclusion.
A console is included to initialize the default directory structure, and as such, could be included as part of a deployment script with the CakePHP console.examples.

To ensure flexibility of use, a behavior is included to allow attachment to any number of models, and generioc storage and linking provided to ease integration into existing apps.

Marius concluded his talk with a plea for feedback. There are plenty of people using the plugin, but more feedback is required to ensure its the best it can be, and that all bugs  (if any) are squashed. Checkout the code at: http://github.com/davidpersson/media
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Responsive Websites vs. Native Apps

Do you know what the difference is between responsive websites vs. native apps? With users more and more likely to be browsing your website on their mobiles, have you considered how they see and experience it across devices? A bad mobile experience may be likely to turn potential customers away, so it’s vital to ensuring that all touchpoints match your brand experience and draw customers in. But how do you go about that - what is the best solution for you - responsive website or a native app? Below we look at the differences between the two, however, the best solution for you will be highly dependent on your website and business/consumer needs, be sure to speak with your development team to get the best fit for you! Responsive vs native Responsive Web Design is the methodology that recommends the design and implementation of a website that responds to user behavior and environment based on the screen size, orientation and operating system of their device. While a native/mobile app, once the app has been downloaded, it’s stored directly on their device, so they will be able to access it in every context. Native apps can be used both online and offline. These two mobile solutions do not answer the same needs. In today’s world, all websites should be responsive to mobile devices, but not everyone needs a mobile app. Mobile or native app’s are expensive and time consuming to produce, they also can irritate users who do not see value in downloading them. However, should your product work well or need an app to work well in, you should investigate it. Generally the development time and cost of a native app can make this look like a poor option, however, if your product or need is one of the following, an app is definitely the way to go.

  • interactivity /Gaming is required: an App is the best choice if you require an immersive and interactive user experience.
  • Regular usage and personalization: Are you planning that your users use the app on a regular basis?
  • Complex calculations or reporting: Think banking or financial calculators.
  • Offline accessibility: Is your concept something that you want users to be able to use offline?
A key point to take into consideration when deciding what is the best fit for your business concept, is to keep your goals in  mind. If your goal is purely from a marketing and content distribution consideration, to ensure usability on mobile platforms, then a responsive website is what you need. However, if you are requiring a more immersive brand experience, a native app is required.

Importance of backing up data for small businesses - tips and tricks for you

Data is essential to any business - regardless of the size. And with the recent ransomware attacks, it is important to keep backups regularly. A loss of your business’s data, from a down server or a ransomware attack, can cost a company a lot of money. Types of backups You can either back up online to an out of network cloud server, to a physical storage location or to an offline drive. Either should have you secured from a network attack and will enable you to be up and running after-the-fact. Having a backup strategy cannot be stressed enough, here are some strategies that you could follow:

  1. Cloud backups - keeping data offsite is helpful should you experience a natural disaster.
  2. Encryption of data in transit.
  3. Multiple backups offsite - ensuring 2 or 3 backups are kept.
  4. Testing of backups - ensuring that all backups taken are viable for use should the need arise.
Regular backups can be a life saver - ransomware attacks, natural disasters, corrupt hardware can strike at any moment. Being prepared can save your business money in the long run. Some other tips that you can consider following include
  • Having a file organization standard. Develop a standard way of organizing your files so that you or your users will always know where data belongs.
  • Determine critical files or data. Organize and sort through the files to ensure critical data or files are kept secure and regularly backed-up.
  • Create a local backup solution.
  • Create an offsite backup.
  • Automate your backup procedures.
How do you get started? Its key to create a backup routine, which includes the following information
  • A checklist for the file or data that you need to backup;
  • A backup schedule for times that your backup system will run;
  • Verify the backup to ensure the data is intact.
Also remember, for your website and hosted applications, to check with your local hosting provider as they usually offer backups. For local development work, always use a repository for code and documents, like git, while for binaries, use cloud storage so all you lose, if your hard drive was to crash, is the work of the current day.

With the latest ransomware attack, here’s what you need to know

With the latest attack, Petya, fresh in our minds, we thought it would be a good time to discuss what exactly a ransomware attack is and how you, as a business, can protect yourselves from such. These cybersecurity attacks not only attack individuals and small to medium sized business, but also large multinational enterprises from around the world. What is clear is that the attack from the past week, Petya/GoldenEye while similar, is a lot more serious than the attack of the previous month - the WannaCry worm attack that struck hundreds of thousands of computers.   Have we gotten your attention? Good! The first real way to protect yourself, and your business, is to know what the attacks are and what they look like. And then to move onto how to set yourself up so that you are secured against such an attack. With the latest ransomware worm, the ransomware infects computers and locks down their hard drives. Then demanding $300 ransom in digital currency Bitcoin.
The email account associated with the ransomware will have been blocked, so even if victims pay, they won't get their files back. Many experts are calling for people to not pay the ransom. The virus or worm is spread by infecting multiple computers on a network, and is initially contracted via an outside source, commonly an email. Many companies were hit severely this time round, as they did not update their Microsoft packages, leaving them vulnerable to the attack.  Am I at risk you may be asking yourself? Well potentially. The great news is that if you have a Windows machine, and it is up to date with security updates, then you are fine. The bad news is that if you are on a network with a machine that is not up to date, then this will cause a problem for you should they get the virus. Top tips for keeping you and your network secure:

  1. Keep all servers and network connections up to date with the latest security updates;
  2. Be sure to backup your computer regularly and keeping a recent backup copy off-site.
  3. Brief all network users on what phishing emails look like, the importance of not on links;
  4. Make sure your antivirus software is up to date.

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