Currently in PHP (in the file /var/www/website.com/public_html/functions.php). I am connecting to the database like this:

function connect(){
    $config = parse_ini_file('/var/www/website.com/db.ini');
    $con = mysqli_connect("localhost",$config['username'],$config['password'],$config['db']);
        die("Failed to connect to Database"); 
    return $con;

Where the /var/www/website.com/db.ini is


with permissions:

-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 84 /var/www/website.com/db.ini

The PHP will be run by either www-data or root.

The root of website.com is /var/www/website.com/public_html/.

Is this the best way to connect to a database using PHP from a security point of view? I am also making this code open source.

  • 1
    It is difficult to understand what "secure" means in this context. Secure in what way? To store passwords in an .ini file? What threats are you worried about?
    – schroeder
    Feb 28, 2017 at 14:27
  • 2
    As an aside, I would definitely recommend against running the php code as root. I would also think you could probably get by with a -r--r--r-- (444) permission as opposed to -rw-r--r-- (644).
    Feb 28, 2017 at 15:00
  • 1
    You can chgrp the credentials file to www-data and chmod it to 640 or 440.
    – Oskar Skog
    Feb 28, 2017 at 15:21
  • 1
    If you run it using www-data, permissions are not right for the db config file. Any specific reason to run it as root? Feb 28, 2017 at 15:24
  • Since presumably they'll only be reading the config, they can do so as www-data. The problem is that any other user can as well. Feb 28, 2017 at 15:38

2 Answers 2


Your approach looks good.

  • You are storing the credentials in a separate configuration file instead of having them written inline in the source code. This makes it safe when sharing the code with others and protects the credentials in case a misconfiguration lets the plain PHP code be printed out (which happens quite often).

  • The config file is outside the public document root, therefore it cannot be directly accessed by a user of the web application, unless there is another vulnerability (e.g. a directory traversal flaw).

  • In any case you should avoid running the server as root. Otherwise the permission model is worthless, since root can read and write to any file.

Note that you don't have to deal with parsing the credentials in your code at all - you can instead specify them as PHP runtime settings in the server configuration, as explained here.

Also see:

  • 5
    The file does not have minimal permissions. It could be chgrp'ed to www-data and chmod'ed 640.
    – Oskar Skog
    Feb 28, 2017 at 15:19
  • I would go further than saying "you should avoid". You should never run a web server as root. It should run as its own user, and this is the default for most (if not all) package-based installations.
    – Polynomial
    Jul 21, 2019 at 15:04

I am skeptical of this -rw-r--r-- 1 root root approach. The secure way to do it would be

  1. Make the file -r-------- 1 root root i.e. readable only by user root
  2. Start your app as root, read the credentials and connect then immediately setuid() to www-data. So anyone who compromises the app cannot read the file, even via a directory traversal attack, unless of course they find another means of obtaining root in which case it's game over anyway. This should be possible in PHP.

This is the same mechanism web servers use to bind to port 80, which is a privileged port.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.