In the early days of PHP, if you wanted to store passwords you had to do a lot of the work yourself – this left many systems vunerable, as it was only half implemented or done badly. Since then, however, the team behind developing PHP has been hard at work making the whole process much easier (thus increasing overall security).
Htaccess files are a hidden type of file used on Apache (usually Linux based) for configuring certain aspects of the server. For more information on what they are read the Wikipedia article. Htaccess files can be (and are) used for a wide range of things, some of which will be covered in this article, as we will work though some of my favourite.