PHP allow template to use HTML only

I have a place where i have to include a HTML template. The HTML is written by employees only but i dont wanna be an idiot and include it without masking|checks :)

It should allow HTML tags only without any attributes.

So no <a href... links and no <div style=... divs or w/e.

My test script:

$string = ' <p> <strong>Foo</strong> </p> <p>Bar</p> <p> <strong>Baz</strong>&nbsp;Mmmpf </p> <ul> <li>someting</li> <li>someting more</li> <li>even more</li> </ul> <p> <strong>Foo</strong> </p> <i>Foo <u>Bar</u></i>Baz <!-- xss --> <script>alert(1)</script> <p onmouseover="alert(1)"></p> <!-- ... --> ';$htmlWhitelist = [
'u',
'i',
'p',
'strong',
'ul',
'li',
];
// replace allowed tags with placeholders
// that not get changed by htmlspecialchars()
foreach ($htmlWhitelist as$tag) {
$string = str_replace( ["<{$tag}>", "</{$tag}>"], ["{OPEN}{$tag}{OPEN}", "{CLOSE}{$tag}{CLOSE}"],$string
);
}
// htmlspecialchars() on everything
$string = htmlspecialchars($string);
// put back the allowed tags
foreach ($htmlWhitelist as$tag) {
$string = str_replace( ["{OPEN}{$tag}{OPEN}", "{CLOSE}{$tag}{CLOSE}"], ["<{$tag}>", "</{$tag}>"],$string
);
}


I cannot imagine anything could go wrong with this but would like to ask you guys if i missed someting.

• Could you include the code that uses $string? I'd like to see how the output is used – dustytrash Aug 15 at 14:53 • Could you also add how $string is really retrieved? I'd like to see how you get the user input – dustytrash Aug 15 at 14:56
• $string is output from an internal micro service (HTTP local network) that returns internal templates. The string SHOULD be save, but ofc it would be an bad idea to rely on it. Thats why i use htmlspecialchars on everything (no twig or so, plain php|phtml atm). But this template must be rendered by the browser. I use <?php echo cleanHtmlTagsOnly($string); ?> to write it into the output, where cleanHtmlTagsOnly() is the code in the question. – cottton Aug 15 at 15:08

I did some testing and research on this, AFAIK your script is safe.

However, you should also be aware of how you retrieve the input. For example, what if the String contained a ", followed by executing PHP code. This would be an even worse vulnerability than malicious client-side code.

This post states old versions of IE may be vulnerable if your char-set is UTF-7, which it probably isn't.

If <div style...> is entered, it will be escaped. Therefore <div> and <span> should be included.

I believe every tag can have an onload=script, (E.G <u onload="script">), so only allowing tags by themselves is a good idea. (As you are already doing)

I suggest adding div, span, b, br and many other tags to the whitelist.

Edit: Since you mentioned you use PHP to echo the output, I also suggest testing using PHP functions or variables in the input, such as $_SERVER['REMOTE_ADDR']. Will the output show the result of that variable, or the literal text? • Indeed it outputs a $var. $string = "<span>some html...</span>$var <div>..."; echo $string; -ofc executes|includes the variable - didnt thought about that. So an somebody that has access to the templates could add </span> ... {$_SERVER['...']} ... to get it printed|executed. How do i prevent that? – cottton Aug 15 at 15:45
• No wait - forget it. I receive and handle a string. I was confused for a moment. Nothing in the string gets interpreted. I would have to use eval to do so, but ofc i dont :D – cottton Aug 15 at 15:50