Securing Sensitive Data Between a PHP Script and the Compiled C Program that Authenticates the Token

20070513: The AuthEngine product from CryptoCard is easiest to use from a compiled C program.  If this is done, the token key and challenge (both sensitive) must be passed from the PHP script to the compiled C program; and the updated challenge (also sensitive) must be passed back to the PHP script.

I made a newsgroup post inquiring about the most secure way to pass information back and forth between a PHP script and a compiled C program, and received several helpful replies.

To summarize my thoughts and the replies to the newsgroup post, the mechanisms under consideration were:

Unix pipes seem to me to be the best overall approach.  It was pointed out in the newsgroup replies that pipes exchanges can be monitored by processes with the same UID/GID; but this is a universal security concern not unique to pipes.

The appropriate functions to use from PHP are the proc_open() and related functions.  Using this approach, the compiled program can simply read from stdin and write to stdout.  Additionally, this makes the compiled program straightforward to test—the input and output can be provided/accepted from/to the console, or redirected from/to files.

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