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'''Cheatsheet is currently going through major refactoring. Please re-visit in a day.'''
Please visit [ Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) Prevention Cheat Sheet] to see the latest version of the cheat sheet.
[[Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)]] is a type of attack that occurs when a malicious web site, email, blog, instant message, or program causes a user’s web browser to perform an unwanted action on a trusted site when the user is authenticated. A CSRF attack works because browser requests automatically include any credentials associated with the site, such as the user's session cookie, IP address, etc. Therefore, if the user is authenticated to the site, the site cannot distinguish between the forged or legitimate request sent by the victim. We would need a token/identifier that is not accessible to attacker and would not be sent along (like cookies) with forged requests that attacker initiates. For more information on CSRF, see OWASP [[Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)|Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) Prevention Cheat Sheet]] .
The impact of a successful CSRF attack is limited to the capabilities exposed by the vulnerable application. For example, this attack could result in a transfer of funds, changing a password, or making a purchase with the user’s credentials. In effect, CSRF attacks are used by an attacker to make a target system perform a function via the target's browser, without the user’s knowledge, at least until the unauthorized transaction has been committed.
Impacts of successful CSRF exploits vary greatly based on the privileges of each victim. When targeting a normal user, a successful CSRF attack can compromise end-user data and their associated functions. If the targeted end user is an administrator account, a CSRF attack can compromise the entire web application. Using social engineering, an attacker can embed malicious HTML or JavaScript code into an email or website to request a specific 'task URL'. The task then executes with or without the user's knowledge, either directly or by using a Cross-Site Scripting flaw. For example, see [ Samy MySpace Worm].
__TOC__{{TOC hidden}}
== Warning: No Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Vulnerabilities ==
[[Cross-Site Scripting]] is not necessary for CSRF to work. However, any cross-site scripting vulnerability can be used to defeat all CSRF mitigation techniques available in the market today (except mitigation techniques that involve user interaction and described later in this cheatsheet). This is because an XSS payload can simply read any page on the site using an XMLHttpRequest (direct DOM access can be done, if on same page) and obtain the generated token from the response, and include that token with a forged request.  This technique is exactly how the [ MySpace (Samy) worm] defeated MySpace's anti-CSRF defenses in 2005, which enabled the worm to propagate.
It is imperative that no XSS vulnerabilities are present to ensure that CSRF defenses can't be circumvented. Please see the OWASP [[XSS (Cross Site Scripting) Prevention Cheat Sheet|XSS Prevention Cheat Sheet]] for detailed guidance on how to prevent XSS flaws. 
== Resources that need to be protected from CSRF vulnerability ==
The following list assumes that you are not violating RFC2616, section 9.1.1, by using GET requests for state changing operations. '''Note:''' If for any reason you violate, you would also need to protect those resources, which is mostly achieved with default form tag [GET method], href, and src attributes.
·      Form tags with POST
·      Ajax/XHR calls 
== CSRF Defense Recommendations Summary ==
We recommend token based CSRF defense (either stateful/stateless) as a primary defense to mitigate CSRF in your applications. We also recommend a user interaction based protection (either re-authentication/one-time token, detailed in section 5.5) for highly sensitive operations along with token based mitigation.
As a defense-in-depth measure, consider implementing one mitigation from section 5, Defense in Depth Mitigations. Choose the mitigation that fits your ecosystem considering the issues mentioned under them. These mitigation techniques are not recommended to be used by themselves (without token based mitigation) for mitigating CSRF in your applications.
== Primary Defense ==
=== Token Based Mitigation ===
This defense is one the most popular and recommended methods to mitigate CSRF. It can be achieved either with state (synchronizer token pattern - section 4.1.1) or stateless (encrypted/hash based token pattern - sections 4.1.2, 4.1.3). See section 4.3 on how to mitigate login CSRF in your applications. For all the mitigation's, it is implicit that general security principles should be adhered
* Strong encryption/HMAC functions should be adhered to.
'''Note:''' You can select any algorithm per your organizational needs. We recommend AES256-GCM for encryption and SHA256/512 for HMAC.
* Strict key rotation and token lifetime policies should be maintained. Policies can be set according to your organizational needs. Generic key management guidance from OWASP can be found [[Key Management Cheat Sheet|here]].
==== Synchronizer Token Pattern ====
Any state changing operation requires a secure random token (e.g., CSRF token) to prevent CSRF attacks. A CSRF token should be unique per user session, large random value, and also generated by a cryptographically secure random number generator. The CSRF token is added as a hidden field for forms headers/parameters for AJAX calls, and within the URL if the state changing operation occurs via a GET. See “Disclosure of Token” section below. The server rejects the requested action if the CSRF token fails validation.
In order to facilitate a "transparent but visible" CSRF solution, developers are encouraged to adopt a pattern similar to [ Synchronizer Token Pattern] (The original intention of this synchronizer token pattern was to detect duplicate submissions in forms). The synchronizer token pattern requires the generation of random "challenge" tokens that are associated with the user's current session. These challenge tokens are then inserted within the HTML forms and calls associated with sensitive server-side operations. It is the responsibility of the server application to verify the existence and correctness of this token. By including a challenge token with each request, the developer has a strong control to verify that the user actually intended to submit the desired requests. Inclusion of a required security token in HTTP requests associated with sensitive business functions helps mitigate CSRF attacks as successful exploitation assumes the attacker knows the randomly generated token for the target victim's session. '''Note:''' These tokens aren’t like cookies that are automatically sent with forged requests made from your browser from the attacker website. This is analogous to the attacker being able to guess the target victim's session identifier. The following describes a general approach to incorporate challenge tokens within the request.
When a Web application formulates a request, the application should include a hidden input parameter with a common name such as "CSRFToken" (for forms)/ as header/parameter value for Ajax calls. The value of this token must be randomly generated such that it cannot be guessed by an attacker. Consider leveraging the class for Java applications to generate a sufficiently long random token. Alternative generation algorithms include the use of 256-bit BASE64 encoded hashes. Developers that choose this generation algorithm must make sure that there is randomness and uniqueness utilized in the data that is hashed to generate the random token.
<form action="/" method="post">
<input type="hidden" name="CSRFToken"
In general, developers need only generate this token once for the current session. After initial generation of this token, the value is stored in the session and is used for each subsequent request until the session expires. When a request is issued by the end-user, the server-side component must verify the existence and validity of the token in the request compared to the token found in the user session. If the token was not found within the request, or the value provided does not match the value within the user session, then the request should be aborted, and the event logged as a potential CSRF attack in progress.
To further enhance the security of this proposed design, consider randomizing the CSRF token parameter name and/or value for each request. Implementing this approach results in the generation of per-request tokens as opposed to per-session tokens. This is more secure than per-session tokens as the time range for an attacker to exploit the stolen tokens is minimal. However, this may result in usability concerns. For example, the "Back" button browser capability is often hindered as the previous page may contain a token that is no longer valid. Interaction with this previous page will result in a CSRF false positive security event at the server. Few applications that need high security typically implement this approach (such as banks). You have to check what suits your needs. Regardless of the approach taken, developers are encouraged to protect the CSRF token the same way they protect authenticated session identifiers, such as the use of TLS.
'''Existing Synchronizer Implementations'''
Synchronizer token defenses have been built into many frameworks, so we strongly recommend using them first when they are available. External components that add CSRF defenses to existing applications are also recommended. OWASP has the following:
·      For Java: OWASP [[CSRF Guard]]
·      For PHP and Apache: [[CSRFProtector Project]]
'''Disclosure of Token in URL'''
Some implementations of synchronizer tokens include the challenge token in GET (URL) requests as well as POST requests. This is often implemented as a result of sensitive server-side operations being invoked as a result of embedded links in the page or other general design patterns. These patterns are often implemented without knowledge of CSRF and an understanding of CSRF prevention design strategies. While this control does help mitigate the risk of CSRF attacks, the unique per-session token is being exposed for GET requests. CSRF tokens in GET requests are potentially leaked at several locations: browser history, log files, network appliances that make a point to log the first line of an HTTP request, and Referer headers if the protected site links to an external site. In the latter case (leaked CSRF token due to the Referer header being parsed by a linked site), it is trivially easy for the linked site to launch a CSRF attack on the protected site, and they will be able to target this attack very effectively, since the Referer header tells them the site as well as the CSRF token. The attack could be run entirely from JavaScript, so that a simple addition of a script tag to the HTML of a site can launch an attack (whether on an originally malicious site or on a hacked site). Additionally, since HTTPS requests from HTTPS contexts will not strip the Referer header (as opposed to HTTPS to HTTP requests) CSRF token leaks via Referer can still happen on HTTPS Applications.
The ideal solution is to only include the CSRF token in POST requests and modify server-side actions that have state changing affect to only respond to POST requests. This is in fact what the <nowiki>RFC 2616</nowiki> requires for GET requests. If sensitive server-side actions are guaranteed to only ever respond to POST requests, then there is no need to include the token in GET requests.
In most JavaEE web applications, however, HTTP method scoping is rarely ever utilized when retrieving HTTP parameters from a request. Calls to "HttpServletRequest.getParameter" will return a parameter value regardless if it was a GET or POST. This is not to say HTTP method scoping cannot be enforced. It can be achieved if a developer explicitly overrides doPost() in the HttpServlet class or leverages framework specific capabilities such as the AbstractFormController class in Spring.
For these cases, attempting to retrofit this pattern in existing applications requires significant development time and cost, and as a temporary measure it may be better to pass CSRF tokens in the URL. Once the application has been fixed to respond to HTTP GET and POST verbs correctly, CSRF tokens for GET requests should be turned off.
==== Encryption based Token Pattern ====
The Encrypted Token Pattern leverages an encryption, rather than comparison method of Token-validation. It is most suitable for applications that do not want to maintain any state at server side.
After successful authentication, the server generates a unique token comprised of the user's ID, a timestamp value and a [ nonce], using a unique key available only on the server. This token is returned to the client and embedded in a hidden field for forms, in the request-header/parameter for AJAX requests. On receipt of this request, the server reads and decrypts the token value with the same key used to create the token. Inability to correctly decrypt suggest an intrusion attempt. Once decrypted, the UserId and timestamp contained within the token are validated; the UserId is compared against the currently logged in user, and the timestamp is compared against the current time.
On successful token-decryption, the server has access to parsed values, ideally in the form of [ claims]. These claims are processed by comparing the UserId claim to any potentially stored UserId (in a Cookie or Session variable, if the site already contains a means of authentication). The Timestamp is validated against the current time, preventing replay attacks. Alternatively, in the case of a CSRF attack, the server will be unable to decrypt the poisoned token, and can block and log the attack.
This technique addresses some of the shortfalls in other stateless approaches, such as the need to store data in a Cookie, circumnavigating the Cookie-subdomain and HTTPONLY issues.
==== HMAC Based Token Pattern ====
[ HMAC (hash-based message authentication code)] is a cryptographic function that helps to guarantee integrity and authentication of a message. It is another way that CSRF mitigation can be achieved without maintaining any state at the server and is similar to an encryption token-based pattern with two main differences:
* Uses a strong HMAC function instead of an encryption function to generate the token
* Includes an additional field called ‘operation’ that would indicate the purpose of the operation for which you are including the CSRF token (may it be form tag/ajax call)
(Ex: ‘oneclickpurchase’ (or) buy/asin=SDFH&category=2&quantity=3)
'''Note:''' Fields mentioned in encryption token pattern (user's ID, a timestamp value and a nonce) are included.
The operation field helps in mitigating the fact that the hash function generates the same value irrespective of multiple iterations (unlike strong encryption functions that generate different values when they are encrypted each time). So, it would help in avoiding having repeated token values across your application. Nonce field serves the same purpose in encrypted token pattern (i.e., to avoid rare collisions due to weak cryptographic functions and acts as a defense-in-depth measure).
Generate the token using HMAC including all four fields mentioned previously (user's ID, a timestamp value, nonce, and operation) and then include it in hidden fields for form tags, headers/parameters for ajax calls. Once you receive the HMAC from the client in the requests, re-generate HMAC with the same fields that you used to generate it, and then verify that the HMAC you re-generated matches the HMAC received from the client. If it does, it is a legitimate user request and if it does not, flag it as a CSRF intrusion and alert your incident response teams. Because an attacker has no visibility into the key used for generating the hash fields used in generating it, there is no way for them to re-generate it to use in forged request.
=== Auto CSRF Mitigation Techniques ===
Though the technique of mitigating tokens is widely used (stateful with synchronizer token and stateless with encrypted/HMAC token), the major problem associated with these techniques is the human tendency to forget things at times. If a developer forgets to add the token to any state changing operation, they are making the application vulnerable to CSRF. To avoid this, you can try to automate the process of adding tokens to CSRF vulnerable resources (mentioned earlier in this document). You can achieve this by doing the following:
* Write wrappers (that would auto add tokens when used) around default form tags/ajax calls and educate your developers to use those wrappers instead of standard tags. Though this approach is better than depending purely on developers to add tokens, it still is vulnerable to the issue of human tendency to forget things. [ Spring Security] uses this technique to add CSRF tokens by default when a custom <form:form> tag is used, you can opt to use after verifying that its enabled and properly configured in the Spring Security version you are using.
* Write a hook (that would capture the traffic and add tokens to CSRF vulnerable resources before rendering to customers) in your organizational web rendering frameworks. Because it is hard to analyze when a particular response is doing any state change (and thus needing a token), you might want to include tokens in all CSRF vulnerable resources (ex: include tokens in all POST responses). This is one recommended approach, but you need to consider the performance costs it might incur.
* Get the tokens automatically added on the client side when the page is being rendered in user’s browser, with help of a client side script (this approach is used by [[CSRF Guard]]). You need to consider any possible JavaScript hijacking attacks.
We recommend researching if the framework you are using has an option to achieve CSRF protection by default before trying to build your custom auto tokening system. For example, .NET has an [ in-built protection] that adds token to CSRF vulnerable resources. You are responsible for proper configuration (such as key management and token management) before using these in-built CSRF protections that do auto tokening to CSRF vulnerable resources.
=== Login CSRF ===
Most developers tend to ignore CSRF vulnerability on login forms as they assume that CSRF would not be applicable on login forms because user is not authenticated at that stage. That assumption is false. CSRF vulnerability can still occur on login forms where the user is not authenticated, but the impact/risk view for it is quite different from the impact/risk view of a general CSRF vulnerability (when a user is authenticated).
With a CSRF vulnerability on login form, an attacker can make a victim login as them and learn behavior from their searches. For more information about login CSRF and other risks, see section 3 of [ this] paper.
Login CSRF can be mitigated by creating pre-sessions (sessions before a user is authenticated) and including tokens in login form. You can use any of the techniques mentioned above to generate tokens. Pre-sessions can be transitioned to real sessions once the user is authenticated. This technique is described in [ Robust Defenses for Cross-Site Request Forgery section 4.1].
If sub-domains under your master domain are treated as not trusty in your threat model, it is difficult to mitigate login CSRF. A strict subdomain and path level referrer header (because most login pages are served on HTTPS - no stripping of referrer - and are also linked from home pages) validation (detailed in section 5.1) can be used in these cases for mitigating CSRF on login forms to an extent.
== Defense In Depth Measures ==
=== Verifying origin with standard headers ===
This defense technique is specifically proposed in section 5.0 of [ Robust Defenses for Cross-Site Request Forgery]. This paper proposes the first creation of the Origin header and its use as a CSRF defense mechanism.
There are two steps to this mitigation, both of which rely on examining an HTTP request header value.
1.  Determining the origin the request is coming from (source origin). Can be done via Origin and/or referer header.
2.  Determining the origin the request is going to (target origin).
At server side we verify if both of them match. If they do, we accept the request as legitimate (meaning it’s the same origin request) and if they don’t, we discard the request (meaning that the request originated from cross-domain). Reliability on these headers comes from the fact that they cannot be altered programmatically (using JavaScript in an XSS) as they fall under [ forbidden headers] list (i.e., only browsers can set them).
==== Identifying Source Origin (via Origin/Referer header) ====
'''Checking the Origin Header'''
If the Origin header is present, verify that its value matches the target origin. Unlike the Referer, the Origin header will be present in HTTP requests that originate from an HTTPS URL.
'''Checking the Referer Header'''
If the Origin header is not present, verify the hostname in the Referer header matches the target origin. This method of CSRF mitigation is also commonly used with unauthenticated requests, such as requests made prior to establishing a session state, which is required to keep track of a synchronization token.
In both cases, make sure the target origin check is strong. For example, if your site is "" make sure "" does not pass your origin check (i.e., match through the trailing/after the origin to make sure you are matching against the entire origin).
If neither of these headers are present, you can either accept or block the request. We recommend '''blocking'''. Alternatively, you might want to log all such instances, monitor their use cases/behavior, and then start blocking requests only after you get enough confidence.
==== Identifying the Target Origin ====
You might think it’s easy to determine the target origin, but it’s frequently not. The first thought is to simply grab the target origin (i.e., its hostname and port #) from the URL in the request. However, the application server is frequently sitting behind one or more proxies and the original URL is different from the URL the app server actually receives. If your application server is directly accessed by its users, then using the origin in the URL is fine and you're all set.
If you are behind a proxy, there are a number of options to consider.
* '''Configure your application to simply know its target origin:''' It’s your application, so you can find its target origin and set that value in some server configuration entry. This would be the most secure approach as its defined server side, so it is a trusted value. However,  this might be problematic to maintain if your application is deployed in many places, e.g., dev, test, QA, production, and possibly multiple production instances. Setting the correct value for each of these situations might be difficult, but if you can do it via some central configuration and providing your instances to grab value from it, that's great! ('''Note:''' Make sure the centralized configuration store is maintained securely because major part of your CSRF defense depends on it.)
* '''Use the Host header value:''' If you prefer that the application find its own target so it doesn't have to be configured for each deployed instance, we recommend using the Host family of headers. The Host header's purpose is to contain the target origin of the request. But, if your app server is sitting behind a proxy, the Host header value is most likely changed by the proxy to the target origin of the URL behind the proxy, which is different than the original URL. This modified Host header origin won't match the source origin in the original Origin or Referer headers.
* '''Use the X-Forwarded-Host header value:''' To avoid the issue of proxy altering the host header, there is another header called X-Forwarded-Host, whose purpose is to contain the original Host header value the proxy received. Most proxies will pass along the original Host header value in the X-Forwarded-Host header. So that header value is likely to be the target origin value you need to compare to the source origin in the Origin or Referer header.
This mitigation in earlier versions of the CSRF Cheat Sheet is treated as a primary defense. For reasons mentioned below, it is now moved to the Defense in Depth section.
As it’s implicit, this mitigation would work properly when origin or referrer headers are present in the requests. Though these headers are included the '''majority''' of the time, there are some use cases where they are not included (most of them are for legitimate reasons to safeguard users privacy/to tune to browsers ecosystem). The following lists some use cases:
* Internet Explorer 11 does not add the Origin header on a CORS request across sites of a trusted zone. The Referer header will remain the only indication of the UI origin. See the following references in stackoverflow [ here] and [ here].
* In an instance following a [ 302 redirect cross-origin], Origin is not included in the redirected request because that may be considered sensitive information that should not be sent to the other origin.
* There are some [ privacy contexts] where Origin is set to “null” For example, see the following [ here].
* Origin header is included for all cross origin requests but for same origin requests, in most browsers it is only included in POST/DELETE/PUT '''Note:''' Although it is not ideal, many developers use GET requests to do state changing operations.
* Referer header is no exception. There are multiple use cases where referrer header is omitted as well ([ <nowiki>[1]</nowiki>], [ <nowiki>[2]</nowiki>], [ <nowiki>[3]</nowiki>], [ <nowiki>[4]</nowiki>] and [ <nowiki>[5]</nowiki>]). Load balancers, proxies and embedded network devices are also well known to strip the referrer header due to privacy reasons in logging them.
Though exceptions can be written for above cases in your source and target origin check logic, there is currently no central repository (even there is one, keeping it up-to-date is a problem) that references cases previously mentioned. Each browser is handling each of those use cases (browsers are known to handle things differently considering their ecosystem. IE example of not sending origin header within trusted zone is such example). Rejecting requests that do not contain origin and/or referrer headers might sound like a good idea but it can impact legitimate users. Keeping this system in monitoring mode and trying to investigate cases such as stated above, then adding them into exception logic is a process that you may consider to make this defense more stable in your environment.
This CSRF defense relies on browser behavior that can change at times. For example, when new privacy contexts are discovered, under which situations you have to keep your validation logic updated, where as in token based mitigation, you have full control on the CSRF mitigation. If browsers alter CSRF tokens, they are literally changing the HTML content on rendering pages (which no browser would ever want to do!).
When there is an XSS vulnerability on a page of an application protected with Origin and/or Referrer header, the level of effort required to exploit state changing operations (that are typically vulnerable to CSRF) on other pages is very easy (grab the parameters and forge a request, as Origin and Referrer header is included by default by browsers) than compared to token based mitigation (where attacker needs to download the target page, parse the DOM for the token, construct a forge request, and send it to server).
'''Note:''' Although the concept of origin header stemmed from [ this] paper that references robust CSRF defenses, initial [ origin header RFC] does not reference to mitigate CSRF in any way (another [ draft version] does, however).
=== Double Submit Cookie ===
If storing the CSRF token in session is problematic, an alternative defense is use of a double submit cookie. A double submit cookie is defined as sending a random value in both a cookie and as a request parameter, with the server verifying if the cookie value and request value match.
When a user authenticates to a site, the site should generate a (cryptographically strong) pseudorandom value and set it as a cookie on the user's machine separate from the session id. The site does not have to save this value in any way, thus avoiding server side state. The site then requires that every transaction request include this random value as a hidden form value (or other request parameter). A cross origin attacker cannot read any data sent from the server or modify cookie values, per the same-origin policy. This means that while an attacker can force a victim to send any value he wants with a malicious CSRF request, the attacker will be unable to modify or read the value stored in the cookie. Since the cookie value and the request parameter or form value must be the same, the attacker will be unable to successfully force the submission of a request with the random CSRF value.
As an example, the [ Direct Web Remoting (DWR)] Java library version 2.0 has CSRF protection built in that implements the double cookie submission transparently.
When the UI and the function service reside in different hosts, the Double Submit Cookie guard turns difficult to implement because the UI body and the Set-Cookie response header will be generated as part of different requests to different processes.  The Set-Cookie response header would need to be induced by a request from the client javascript.  In that case, making sure that both the UI and the service request came from a client serviced by the same UI origin appears as difficult as the original issue.
=== Encrypted Token Pattern ===
The Encrypted Token Pattern leverages an encryption, rather than comparison, method of Token-validation. After successful authentication, the server generates a unique Token comprised of the user's ID, a timestamp value and a [ nonce], using a unique key available only on the server. This Token is returned to the client and embedded in a hidden field. Subsequent AJAX requests include this Token in the request-header, in a similar manner to the Double-Submit pattern. Non-AJAX form-based requests will implicitly persist the Token in its hidden field. On receipt of this request, the server reads and decrypts the Token value with the same key used to create the Token. Inability to correctly decrypt suggest an intrusion attempt. Once decrypted, the UserId and timestamp contained within the token are validated to ensure validity; the UserId is compared against the currently logged in user, and the timestamp is compared against the current time.
On successful Token-decryption, the server has access to parsed values, ideally in the form of [ claims]. These claims are processed by comparing the UserId claim to any potentially stored UserId (in a Cookie or Session variable, if the site already contains a means of authentication). The Timestamp is validated against the current time, preventing replay attacks.
Alternatively, in the case of a CSRF attack, the server will be unable to decrypt the poisoned Token, and can block and log the attack.
This pattern exists primarily to allow developers and architects protect against CSRF without session-dependency. It also addresses some of the shortfalls in other stateless approaches, such as the need to store data in a Cookie, circumnavigating the Cookie-subdomain and HTTPONLY issues.
=== Protecting REST Services: Use of Custom Request Headers ===
Adding CSRF tokens, a double submit cookie and value, encrypted token, or other defense that involves changing the UI can frequently be complex or otherwise problematic. An alternate defense which is particularly well suited for AJAX endpoints is the use of a custom request header. This defense relies on the [ same-origin policy (SOP)] restriction that only JavaScript can be used to add a custom header, and only within its origin. By default, browsers don't allow JavaScript to make cross origin requests.
A particularly attractive custom header and value to use is:
* X-Requested-With: XMLHttpRequest
because most JavaScript libraries already add this header to requests they generate by default. Some do not though. For example, AngularJS used to, but doesn't anymore. [ Their rationale and how to add it back is here].
If this is the case for your system, you can simply verify the presence of this header and value on all your server side AJAX endpoints in order to protect against CSRF attacks. This approach has the double advantage of usually requiring no UI changes and not introducing any server side state, which is particularly attractive to REST services. You can always add your own custom header and value if that is preferred.
This defense technique is specifically discussed in section 4.3 of [ Robust Defenses for Cross-Site Request Forgery]. However, bypasses of this defense using Flash were documented as early as 2008 and again as recently as 2015 by [ Mathias Karlsson to exploit a CSRF flaw in Vimeo]. But, we believe that the Flash attack can't spoof the Origin or Referer headers so by checking both of them we believe this combination of checks should prevent Flash bypass CSRF attacks. (NOTE: If anyone can confirm or refute this belief, please let us know so we can update this article)
= Alternate CSRF Defense: Require User Interaction =
Sometimes its easier or more appropriate to involve the user in the transaction in order to prevent unauthorized transactions (forged or otherwise).
The following are some examples of challenge-response options:
*Re-Authentication (password or stronger)
*One-time Token
While challenge-response is a very strong defense against CSRF (assuming proper implementation), it does impact user experience. For applications in need of high security, tokens (transparent) and challenge-response should be used on high risk functions.
An example of a transparent use of security tokens that doesn't impact the user experience is the use of transaction IDs. Imagine a user wants to initiate a transaction, like send money via PayPal.
* In Step 1: the user provides the email address and the amount of money they want to send.
** The server responds with a confirmation dialog that includes a unique transaction ID for this money transfer.
* In Step 2: the user confirms the proposed transaction.
** The confirmation request includes the transaction ID generated in step 1. If the server verifies the transaction ID as part of this step, this prevents CSRF against this transaction flow without using a CSRF specific defense token. The transaction ID as part of the confirm essentially serves as the CSRF defense if the attacker cannot predict this value, The transaction ID 'should' be random/unguessable. Ideally, not just the next transaction number in a growing by one list of transaction IDs.
This is just one example of site's behavior that might naturally protect certain state changing events against CSRF attacks.
= Alternate CSRF Defense: SameSite cookie attribute =
'''SameSite''' cookie attribute prevents the browser from sending this cookie along with cross-site requests. The main goal is mitigate the risk of cross-origin information leakage, and provides some protection against cross-site request forgery attacks.
The attribute start to be well supported by modern browsers, see [ CanIUse] statistics for support details.
Source: [[SameSite|SameSite dedicated article]].
Example of cookies using this attribute:
Set-Cookie: JSESSIONID=xxxxx; SameSite=Strict
Set-Cookie: JSESSIONID=xxxxx; SameSite=Lax
= Prevention Measures That Do NOT Work =
For more information on prevention measures that do NOT work, please see the [[Cross-Site_Request_Forgery_(CSRF)#Prevention_measures_that_do_NOT_work | OWASP CSRF article]].
= Personal Safety CSRF Tips for Users =
Since CSRF vulnerabilities are reportedly widespread, it is recommended to follow the following best practices to mitigate risk. These include:
* Logoff immediately after using a Web application
* Do not allow your browser to save username/passwords, and do not allow sites to “remember” your login
* Do not use the same browser to access sensitive applications and to surf the Internet freely (tabbed browsing).
* The use of plugins such as No-Script makes POST based CSRF vulnerabilities difficult to exploit.  This is because JavaScript is used to automatically submit the form when the exploit is loaded. Without JavaScript the attacker would have to trick the user into submitting the form manually.
Integrated HTML-enabled mail/browser and newsreader/browser environments pose additional risks since simply viewing a mail message or a news message might lead to the execution of an attack.
= Implementation example  =
The following JEE web filter provides an example of implementation of concepts described into this article.
It implements the following concepts, precisely the ones focusing on stateless approach because the following project,[ OWASP CSRFGuard], cover the stateful approach.
* Verifying same origin with standard headers.
* CSRF specific defenses:
** Double submit cookie (stateless).
** Leverage SameSite cookie attribute.
Source are located [ here] and provides a runnable POC.
<syntaxhighlight lang="java">
import org.slf4j.Logger;
import org.slf4j.LoggerFactory;
import javax.servlet.Filter;
import javax.servlet.FilterChain;
import javax.servlet.FilterConfig;
import javax.servlet.ServletException;
import javax.servlet.ServletRequest;
import javax.servlet.ServletResponse;
import javax.servlet.annotation.WebFilter;
import javax.servlet.http.Cookie;
import javax.servlet.http.HttpServletRequest;
import javax.servlet.http.HttpServletResponse;
import javax.servlet.http.HttpServletResponseWrapper;
import javax.xml.bind.DatatypeConverter;
import java.util.Arrays;
* Filter in charge of validating each incoming HTTP request about Headers and CSRF token.
* It is called for all requests to backend destination.
* We use the approach in which:
* - The CSRF token is changed after each valid HTTP exchange
* - The custom Header name for the CSRF token transmission is fixed
* - A CSRF token is associated to a backend service URI in order to enable the support for multiple parallel Ajax request from the same application
* - The CSRF cookie name is the backend service name prefixed with a fixed prefix
* Here for the POC we show the "access denied" reason in the response but in production code only return a generic message !
* @see ""
* @see ""
* @see ""
* @see ""
public class CSRFValidationFilter implements Filter {
    * JVM param name used to define the target origin
    public static final String TARGET_ORIGIN_JVM_PARAM_NAME = "target.origin";
    * Name of the custom HTTP header used to transmit the CSRF token and also to prefix
    * the CSRF cookie for the expected backend service
    private static final String CSRF_TOKEN_NAME = "X-TOKEN";
    * Logger
    private static final Logger LOG = LoggerFactory.getLogger(CSRFValidationFilter.class);
    * Application expected deployment domain: named "Target Origin" in OWASP CSRF article
    private URL targetOrigin;
    * Secure generator
    private final SecureRandom secureRandom = new SecureRandom();
    * {@inheritDoc}
    public void doFilter(ServletRequest request, ServletResponse response, FilterChain chain) throws IOException, ServletException {
        HttpServletRequest httpReq = (HttpServletRequest) request;
        HttpServletResponse httpResp = (HttpServletResponse) response;
        String accessDeniedReason;
        /* STEP 1: Verifying Same Origin with Standard Headers */
        //Try to get the source from the "Origin" header
        String source = httpReq.getHeader("Origin");
        if (this.isBlank(source)) {
            //If empty then fallback on "Referer" header
            source = httpReq.getHeader("Referer");
            //If this one is empty too then we trace the event and we block the request (recommendation of the article)...
            if (this.isBlank(source)) {
                accessDeniedReason = "CSRFValidationFilter: ORIGIN and REFERER request headers are both absent/empty so we block the request !";
                httpResp.sendError(HttpServletResponse.SC_FORBIDDEN, accessDeniedReason);
        //Compare the source against the expected target origin
        URL sourceURL = new URL(source);
        if (!this.targetOrigin.getProtocol().equals(sourceURL.getProtocol()) || !this.targetOrigin.getHost().equals(sourceURL.getHost())
|| this.targetOrigin.getPort() != sourceURL.getPort()) {
            //One the part do not match so we trace the event and we block the request
            accessDeniedReason = String.format("CSRFValidationFilter: Protocol/Host/Port do not fully matches so we block the request! (%s != %s) ",
this.targetOrigin, sourceURL);
            httpResp.sendError(HttpServletResponse.SC_FORBIDDEN, accessDeniedReason);
        /* STEP 2: Verifying CSRF token using "Double Submit Cookie" approach */
        //If CSRF token cookie is absent from the request then we provide one in response but we stop the process at this stage.
        //Using this way we implement the first providing of token
        Cookie tokenCookie = null;
        if (httpReq.getCookies() != null) {
            String csrfCookieExpectedName = this.determineCookieName(httpReq);
            tokenCookie = -> c.getName().equals(csrfCookieExpectedName)).findFirst().orElse(null);
        if (tokenCookie == null || this.isBlank(tokenCookie.getValue())) {
  "CSRFValidationFilter: CSRF cookie absent or value is null/empty so we provide one and return an HTTP NO_CONTENT response !");
            //Add the CSRF token cookie and header
            this.addTokenCookieAndHeader(httpReq, httpResp);
            //Set response state to "204 No Content" in order to allow the requester to clearly identify an initial response providing the initial CSRF token
        } else {
            //If the cookie is present then we pass to validation phase
            //Get token from the custom HTTP header (part under control of the requester)
            String tokenFromHeader = httpReq.getHeader(CSRF_TOKEN_NAME);
            //If empty then we trace the event and we block the request
            if (this.isBlank(tokenFromHeader)) {
                accessDeniedReason = "CSRFValidationFilter: Token provided via HTTP Header is absent/empty so we block the request !";
                httpResp.sendError(HttpServletResponse.SC_FORBIDDEN, accessDeniedReason);
            } else if (!tokenFromHeader.equals(tokenCookie.getValue())) {
                //Verify that token from header and one from cookie are the same
                //Here is not the case so we trace the event and we block the request
                accessDeniedReason = "CSRFValidationFilter: Token provided via HTTP Header and via Cookie are not equals so we block the request !";
                httpResp.sendError(HttpServletResponse.SC_FORBIDDEN, accessDeniedReason);
            } else {
                //Verify that token from header and one from cookie matches
                //Here is the case so we let the request reach the target component (ServiceServlet, jsp...) and add a new token when we get back the bucket
                HttpServletResponseWrapper httpRespWrapper = new HttpServletResponseWrapper(httpResp);
                chain.doFilter(request, httpRespWrapper);
                //Add the CSRF token cookie and header
                this.addTokenCookieAndHeader(httpReq, httpRespWrapper);
    * {@inheritDoc}
    public void init(FilterConfig filterConfig) throws ServletException {
        //To easier the configuration, we load the target expected origin from an JVM property
        //Reconfiguration only require an application restart that is generally acceptable
        try {
            this.targetOrigin = new URL(System.getProperty(TARGET_ORIGIN_JVM_PARAM_NAME));
        } catch (MalformedURLException e) {
            LOG.error("Cannot init the filter !", e);
            throw new ServletException(e);
"CSRFValidationFilter: Filter init, set expected target origin to '{}'.", this.targetOrigin);
    * {@inheritDoc}
    public void destroy() {
"CSRFValidationFilter: Filter shutdown");
    * Check if a string is null or empty (including containing only spaces)
    * @param s Source string
    * @return TRUE if source string is null or empty (including containing only spaces)
    private boolean isBlank(String s) {
        return s == null || s.trim().isEmpty();
    * Generate a new CSRF token
    * @return The token a string
    private String generateToken() {
        byte[] buffer = new byte[50];
        return DatatypeConverter.printHexBinary(buffer);
    * Determine the name of the CSRF cookie for the targeted backend service
    * @param httpRequest Source HTTP request
    * @return The name of the cookie as a string
    private String determineCookieName(HttpServletRequest httpRequest) {
        String backendServiceName = httpRequest.getRequestURI().replaceAll("/", "-");
        return CSRF_TOKEN_NAME + "-" + backendServiceName;
    * Add the CSRF token cookie and header to the provided HTTP response object
    * @param httpRequest  Source HTTP request
    * @param httpResponse HTTP response object to update
    private void addTokenCookieAndHeader(HttpServletRequest httpRequest, HttpServletResponse httpResponse) {
        //Get new token
        String token = this.generateToken();
        //Add cookie manually because the current Cookie class implementation do not support the "SameSite" attribute
        //We let the adding of the "Secure" cookie attribute to the reverse proxy rewriting...
        //Here we lock the cookie from JS access and we use the SameSite new attribute protection
        String cookieSpec = String.format("%s=%s; Path=%s; HttpOnly; SameSite=Strict", this.determineCookieName(httpRequest), token, httpRequest.getRequestURI());
        httpResponse.addHeader("Set-Cookie", cookieSpec);
        //Add cookie header to give access to the token to the JS code
        httpResponse.setHeader(CSRF_TOKEN_NAME, token);
= Authors and Primary Editors  =
Dave Wichers - dave.wichers[at]<br />
Paul Petefish -<br />
Eric Sheridan - eric.sheridan[at]<br />
Dominique Righetto - dominique.righetto[at]<br />
= Other Cheatsheets =

Latest revision as of 09:02, 15 July 2019


The Cheat Sheet Series project has been moved to GitHub!

Please visit Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) Prevention Cheat Sheet to see the latest version of the cheat sheet.