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Secure Website     JavaScript     Cookies     Frames

Why PHP?      MySQL Database

Note:  The information in this section is provided to assist you in making an educated choice for guarding the security of your computer system and your privacy. Information contained here has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. We do not guarantee its accuracy or completeness and neither NOVALynx nor the authors of this website shall be responsible for any errors, omissions or damages arising out of the use of this information.
Secure Website Information      Top of this page

When you are entering a secure site you are attempting to make a secure connection to the website. NOVALynx can provide secure communications and the connection will have a valid certificate.

Secure communication means that information you provide, such as your name or credit-card number, is encrypted so that it cannot be read or intercepted by other people. The certificate is a statement guaranteeing the security of the website. A certificate contains information that a specific website is authentic. This ensures that no other site can assume the identity of the original site.
When you enter a secure website, the browser can display a dialog box and a lock icon in a locked position somewhere on the screen. When you leave the secure website, the browser may display a dialog box to notify you and the padlock icon will open or disappear.

JavaScript Information     Top of this page
JavaScript is a scripting language now supported by all major browsers. This programming language was originally developed by Netscape Communications. It is used to make interesting and useful things happen on your browser by loading programming directly into your browser.
On our site there are no operations that rely on the use of JavaScript or any other kinds of scripts. At one point we used JavaScript for fun things like changing buttons and images when the mouse was over them and even for navigating between screens. We have discovered that many people have scripts (programming put onto your browser to do things) turned off. Some do this for security reasons. Some users just ended up having their browsers set that way when they were installed or when someone else used it and changed the settings.
Many users have scripts (which would include JavaScript) disabled because there is the possibility of destructive programming getting into your computer or onto your network from hostile websites.
Cautionary note: Our banks will not let us do transactions if scripts (programming) and cookies are disabled. You may need to turn them on temporarily to carry on your banking activities.

"The Computer Security Office of Stanford University does not recommend using JavaScript in Stanford Web pages." However, there are alternative scripting and programming languages that are secure and provide as much, if not more functionality than JavaScript The safe alternatives include PERL, PHP and Java. (PHP is the scripting language used to manage the NOVALynx site.)

Notes from David Brumley, Stanford Security Office:

"The Computer Security office does not recommend using JavaScript in Stanford Web pages because it presents a clear danger to our users. If a user enables JavaScript to browse the Stanford sites they will leave it on when browsing possible hostile sites.

The Dangers

JavaScript can easily be programmed for:

  • Data theft -- I can steal any file on your hard disk, including grant proposals, passwords, credit card numbers, and private encryption keys.
  • Invasion of privacy -- I can monitor which websites you visit in real time.
  • Infection of viruses and other damaging programs -- I can send you a malicious e-mail that auto-executes via JavaScript

These dangers exist in anything JavaScript enabled including e-mail and news readers.

... JavaScript is traditionally used for one of two things:
      a. Web Page Style
   b. Form Manipulation

Both of these objectives can be accomplished by using a more secure programming or scripting language. Secure alternatives to JavaScript include:

  • PERL -- can and should be used for form manipulation and validation
  • PHP3 -- enables Web page designers to do everything JavaScript does plus more like easy database connectivity and on-the-fly GIF creation
  • JAVA -- offers all the benefits of a full feature programming language for both web page content and CGI processing."
You can get more information on JavaScript danger by going to the Google search engine at www.google.com and typing in "javascript dangers".

Cookie Information     Top of this page
Why do cookies exist? To display a page in your browser, the browser must request information from a web server. Once the web server delivers the page to your browser, no connection is maintained. Each request is individual with no regard to what came before. If you move to a new page there may be a need to know that you are the same person. There are several ways of keeping track of you and one of them is through the use of cookies. These are small text files placed on your computer by the Web server to identify you as the same person.
Cookies are not active software programs that can do any programming tasks. Each cookie is simply passive text (a text file similar to text supplied in a plain text e-mail) that can be read only by the site that created and placed it on your hard drive. They cannot cause or carry viruses.
Many users object to cookies because the placement and retrieval of cookie information is too often used to track you behaviour on the Web. Some companies have formed alliances across the Net that allow tracking of surfers' personal data and shopping habits.
Cautionary note: Our banks will not allow us to do transactions if cookies and scripts are disabled. You may need to turn them on to carry on your banking activities. As you move from page to page viewing your private information, the bank will need to know that it is the same person.
If you set your browser to accept no third party cookies and to delete the cookies after you leave a particular Website, then cookies cannot track you as you move around the Web.

Frames in Browsers     Top of this page

Jakob Nielsen - from: Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity, New Riders Publishing

For more information on Jakob Nielsen go to our LINKS page

“My main recommendation to frames is

     Frames:  Just Say No

People who really know what they are doing can sometimes use frames to good effect, although even experienced designers are advised to use frames as sparingly as possible.

Navigation doesn't work with frames because the unit of navigation is different from the unit of view. If users create a bookmark in their browser, they may not get the same view back when they follow the bookmark at a later date, because the bookmark doesn't include a representation of the state of frames on the page.

Even worse, URLs stop working. The addressing information shown at the top of the browser no longer constitutes a complete specification of the information shown in the window.”

Why PHP?*      Top of this page
PHP is a computer scripting language that resides on the web server. Unlike JavaScript and VBScript, the PHP programming is never placed on your computer. When you visit a web page that has php programming in it, it creates HTML and sends that to your browser to create the web page that you see.
PHP was created in 1994 by one man, Rasmus Lerdorf and has now gone through three major rewrites to bring users of the web the mature, broad product we have today. As of July 2002 it was in use on over 9 million web sites and this number is growing rapidly. This is an increase from the January 2001 PHP usage of just over 5 million websites.
PHP is very efficient and millions of hits per day can be served using a single inexpensive server.
PHP has native connections available to many database systems including direct connections to MySQL, PostgreSQL, mSQL, Oracle, dbm, filePro, Hyperwave, Informix, InterBase, and Sybase among others.
What new resources does an Internet user need to be able to use PHP programs and the databases associated with them? NONE! but what she probably already has: an Internet connected browser on a Windows, UNIX, Linux or Mac computer.
MySQL Database     Top of this page
A database allows you to efficiently store, retrieve, sort and search data. MySQL (pronounce My-Ess-Kew-Ell) is a relational database management system (RDBMS) that is very robust and fast.
Many users can work concurrently with fast access to the data and it ensures that only authorized users can obtain access.
It uses SQL (Structured Query Language), the standard database query language worldwide.
MySQL has been publicly available since 1996, but has a development history going back to 1979.