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But keep them up-to-date, too. A few additional precautions can make your application even more secure. There are a number of authentication plug-ins for Rails available. Good ones, such as the popular devise and authlogic , store only encrypted passwords, not plain-text passwords. Every new user gets an activation code to activate their account when they get an e-mail with a link in it. If someone requested a URL like these, they would be logged in as the first activated user found in the database and chances are that this is the administrator :. This is possible because on some servers, this way the parameter id, as in params[:id], would be nil.

However, here is the finder from the activation action:. And thus it found the first user in the database, returned it, and logged them in. You can find out more about it in this blog post. It is advisable to update your plug-ins from time to time. Moreover, you can review your application to find more flaws like this.

Brute-force attacks on accounts are trial and error attacks on the login credentials. A list of user names for your web application may be misused to brute-force the corresponding passwords, because most people don't use sophisticated passwords. Most passwords are a combination of dictionary words and possibly numbers. So armed with a list of user names and a dictionary, an automatic program may find the correct password in a matter of minutes.

Because of this, most web applications will display a generic error message "user name or password not correct", if one of these are not correct. If it said "the user name you entered has not been found", an attacker could automatically compile a list of user names. However, what most web application designers neglect, are the forgot-password pages. These pages often admit that the entered user name or e-mail address has not been found. This allows an attacker to compile a list of user names and brute-force the accounts. In order to mitigate such attacks, display a generic error message on forgot-password pages, too.

Note, however, that this is not a bullet-proof solution against automatic programs, because these programs may change their IP address exactly as often. However, it raises the barrier of an attack. Many web applications make it easy to hijack user accounts. Why not be different and make it more difficult?. Think of a situation where an attacker has stolen a user's session cookie and thus may co-use the application. If it is easy to change the password, the attacker will hijack the account with a few clicks.

As a countermeasure, make change-password forms safe against CSRF , of course.

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And require the user to enter the old password when changing it. However, the attacker may also take over the account by changing the e-mail address. After they change it, they will go to the forgotten-password page and the possibly new password will be mailed to the attacker's e-mail address.

As a countermeasure require the user to enter the password when changing the e-mail address, too. Depending on your web application, there may be more ways to hijack the user's account. In this proof-of-concept attack, the victim would have been lured to a web site controlled by the attacker. If the victim was logged in to Google Mail, the attacker would change the filters to forward all e-mails to their e-mail address. This is nearly as harmful as hijacking the entire account. It is often used to protect registration forms from attackers and comment forms from automatic spam bots by asking the user to type the letters of a distorted image.

You will get two keys from the API, a public and a private key, which you have to put into your Rails environment. Most bots are really dumb. They crawl the web and put their spam into every form's field they can find. On the server side, you will check the value of the field: If it contains any text, it must be a bot.

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Then, you can either ignore the post or return a positive result, but not saving the post to the database. This way the bot will be satisfied and moves on. Note that this protects you only from automatic bots, targeted tailor-made bots cannot be stopped by this. By default, Rails logs all requests being made to the web application.

But log files can be a huge security issue, as they may contain login credentials, credit card numbers et cetera. When designing a web application security concept, you should also think about what will happen if an attacker got full access to the web server. Encrypting secrets and passwords in the database will be quite useless, if the log files list them in clear text.

You can filter certain request parameters from your log files by appending them to config. Provided parameters will be filtered out by partial matching regular expression. Ruby uses a slightly different approach than many other languages to match the end and the beginning of a string. That is why even many Ruby and Rails books get this wrong. So how is this a security threat? Say you wanted to loosely validate a URL field and you used a simple regular expression like this:.

This may work fine in some languages. And thus a URL like this passes the filter without problems:. This URL passes the filter because the regular expression matches - the second line, the rest does not matter. Now imagine we had a view that showed the URL like this:. Changing a single parameter may give the user unauthorized access.

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Remember that every parameter may be changed, no matter how much you hide or obfuscate it. It will be available in params in the controller. There, you will most likely do something like this:. This is alright for some web applications, but certainly not if the user is not authorized to view all projects. If the user changes the id to 42, and they are not allowed to see that information, they will have access to it anyway. Instead, query the user's access rights, too :. Depending on your web application, there will be many more parameters the user can tamper with.

As a rule of thumb, no user input data is secure, until proven otherwise, and every parameter from the user is potentially manipulated. Don't be fooled by security by obfuscation and JavaScript security. Developer tools let you review and change every form's hidden fields.

JavaScript can be used to validate user input data, but certainly not to prevent attackers from sending malicious requests with unexpected values. The Firebug addon for Mozilla Firefox logs every request and may repeat and change them. That is an easy way to bypass any JavaScript validations. And there are even client-side proxies that allow you to intercept any request and response from and to the Internet.

Injection is a class of attacks that introduce malicious code or parameters into a web application in order to run it within its security context. Injection is very tricky, because the same code or parameter can be malicious in one context, but totally harmless in another. The following sections will cover all important contexts where injection attacks may happen.

The first section, however, covers an architectural decision in connection with Injection.

When sanitizing, protecting, or verifying something, prefer permitted lists over restricted lists. A restricted list can be a list of bad e-mail addresses, non-public actions or bad HTML tags. This is opposed to a permitted list which lists the good e-mail addresses, public actions, good HTML tags, and so on. Although sometimes it is not possible to create a permitted list in a SPAM filter, for example , prefer to use permitted list approaches :. Permitted lists are also a good approach against the human factor of forgetting something in the restricted list.

Thanks to clever methods, this is hardly a problem in most Rails applications. However, this is a very devastating and common attack in web applications, so it is important to understand the problem. SQL injection attacks aim at influencing database queries by manipulating web application parameters. A popular goal of SQL injection attacks is to bypass authorization. Another goal is to carry out data manipulation or reading arbitrary data. Here is an example of how not to use user input data in a query:. This could be in a search action and the user may enter a project's name that they want to find.

The two dashes start a comment ignoring everything after it. So the query returns all records from the projects table including those blind to the user. This is because the condition is true for all records. Usually a web application includes access control. The user enters their login credentials and the web application tries to find the matching record in the users table. The application grants access when it finds a record.

However, an attacker may possibly bypass this check with SQL injection.