End of Life (EOL) for PHP v5 is 31 Dec 2018. What does this mean for you?

November 23, 2018

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Official security support – also known as EOL (End of Life) – ends for all 5.x versions (5.0, 5.1, 5.2, etc.) on 31 Dec 2018.

According to Wikipedia, “PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor (or simply PHP) is a server-side scripting language designed for Web development, and also used as a general-purpose programming language. It was originally created by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994; the PHP reference implementation is now produced by The PHP Group. PHP originally stood for Personal Home Page, but it now stands for the recursive initialism PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor.

PHP is by far the most popular coding language that powers some of the biggest brands on the web, including Facebook, Wikipedia, Pinterest, Yahoo, and Flickr.

CMS (Content Management Systems) and E-Commerce sites built with PHP include WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Magento, OpenCart… and Itomic’s very own home-grown Nucleus CMS.

According to W3Techs (Nov 2018), “PHP is used by 78.9% of all the websites whose server-side programming language we know.

Launch dates:

  • PHP 3 – June 1998
  • PHP 4 – May 2000
  • PHP 5 – July 2004
  • PHP 6 – didn’t happen, long story
  • PHP 7 – Dec 2015

Q. How can I tell which version of PHP my site is running?

A. Hmmm, it’s kind of technical. This is not information your website readily coughs up. Exposing this information would make it easier for hackers to target vulnerable older sites. If you’re technically minded, by all means Google search for various methods. For everyone else – ask your trusted website developer or website hosting provider.

Q. What does this mean for all those sites currently running a version of PHP less than 7?

Answers:

  1. DON’T PANIC!
  2. No, your site won’t stop working at the stroke of midnight on 31 Dec 2018. PHP 5 has been officially patched for years. Even if/when security vulnerabilities are discovered after 31 Dec 2018, they could be very minor, very hard to exploit, i.e. only if/when a specific set of technical criteria are met.
  3. Minor or major, new security vulnerabilities may not be exploitable on your site. Other technologies might be at play that offer additional protection. For example, your website’s firewall or operating system might still protect you. Itomic’s preferred operating system for website hosting is CloudLinux. One of the many great features of CloudLinux is HardenedPHP. This secures old, unsupported versions of  PHP right back to 4.4.9.
  4. Your existing software (e.g. WordPress or Drupal) might already support PHP 7.x. WordPress v.4 and Drupal v.7 with little or no modification required. Speak with your web developer about this. If it’s going to take a lot of work, remember, it’s not your developer’s fault! In extreme cases, the amount of work required to support PHP 7.x might be so huge that it’s actually cheaper to rebuild your software, or to at least migrate your data (if that’s possible) from an older version to a newer version.

Q. Is security the only reason why I should upgrade my software to run on PHP 7.x?

A. Definitely not. Like it or not, technology marches on. Web browsers, operating systems, physical devices (smartphones, tablets), etc. all get upgraded over time. With each upgrade, minor or major, the chance of your software becoming incompatible, partially or completely, increases. Like King Canute and the tide, technology – driven by competitive innovation – refuses to be held back. The longer your software fails to keep pace, the more disruptions, and associated costs (direct and indirect) you are likely to face.

We mentioned Itomic’s own Nucleus CMS earlier on in this article. With the rise of WordPress and Drupal (both of which we fully support), we stopped officially developing/progressing this CMS around 2012/13. It runs happily on PHP v.5.x, but will not run on version PHP 7, at least not without a large amount of work. This is why we’re poised to reach out to our valued remaining Nucleus CMS clients (20+) with special offers to rebuild – and improve – their sites using WordPress. Farewell Nucleus! You’ve been great 🙂

For all your website, web app, and mobile app needs – contact Itomic today! We’ve got your back.

Ross Ross Gerring
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