Server Side E-Mail Validation with PHP

Validation is one of the most important things which can be done on a public-facing website. It prevents users from entering required information incorrectly or even worse attempting to damage your site via some form of script or SQL Injection attack.

Recently I was developing a website for a Real Estate firm, as a legal requirement they need to have valid e-mail addresses to link up to views of listings. Client Side e-mail validation is fairly simple, but what if the user is malicious and removes the JavaScript or just has JavaScript disabled. So I added both client and server side e-mail validation.

One important thing to remember is to always sanitise your inputs whenever something is going into a database, but that’s for another article. There are several ways to tackle e-mail validation, I let the Client Side handle the format and let the server do some heavier work. Firstly, it required making the function. I’ve called it checkEmail, we also need to pass it an e-mail address via $email.

function checkEmail($email)
{

We then move on to setting things up, creating our error variable and getting our e-mail argument and ensuring it is safe.

    $email_error = false;
    $Email = htmlspecialchars(stripslashes(strip_tags(trim($email))));

After getting the address from our function call, perform a simple test to see if there is anything and if there is begin validating. If not pass our error and tell the user.

	if ($Email == '') { $email_error = true; }
	elseif (!preg_match('^([a-zA-Z0-9._-])[email protected]([a-zA-Z0-9._-])+\.([a-zA-Z0-9._-])([a-zA-Z0-9._-])^', $Email)) { $email_error = true; }

There is a piece of nifty REGEX which simply validates if we have a valid e-mail address in a specific format of an e-mail address of [email protected] with only alphanumeric and – . _ being accepted. If our REGEX passes we then begin to do some checking, which is where the server side validation comes in. We explode our e-mail address to extract the domain and using PHP’s inbuilt checkdnsrr function we can perform an MX Lookup of the supplied domain.

	else {
	list($Email, $domain) = explode('@', $Email, 2);
		if (! checkdnsrr($domain, 'MX')) { $email_error = true; }
		else {
		$array = array($Email, $domain);
		$Email = implode('@', $array);
		}
	}
	if ($email_error) { return false; } else{return true;}
}

If the checks all pass then we return FALSE and allow the form to submit with code embedded on the calling page. If we do get an error then we return TRUE with code again embedded on the calling page to notify the user.

And there you have it,  server side e-mail validation. Of course you could improve on what I’ve done by actually checking for an alias on the particular domain or by sending out an e-mail validation to the address before the user can continue, but that is all beyond the scope of this function and article. If you do end up using this function, I’d love to hear where you are using it, so feel free to let me know.

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