26 Jun 2013, 23:24

Content Security Policy (CSP)

On a similar topic as CORS and the same origin police I wrote some months ago, there is another initiative called Content Security Policy which is defined as follow in the Mozilla Developper Network CSP Page :

Content Security Policy (CSP) is an added layer of security that helps to detect and mitigate certain types of attacks, including Cross Site Scripting (XSS) and data injection attacks. These attacks are used for everything from data theft to site defacement or distribution of malware.


The idea behind is that you will "whitelist" the code you accept to render whether it is hosted on third party serivces (like facebook or google buttons) up to inline code within your page (yes, I mean the CSS and JS code you add with the <style> and <script> tags)

What does it look like ?

It's so far only a HTTP Header called "Content-Security-Policy" you will have to set ; for the 1.1 Specs, it will also be a "meta" tags you can set in your HTML.

You will define then the diffrent directives you want to have, depending on your needs :

  • connect-src limits the origins to which you can connect (via XHR, WebSockets, and EventSource).
  • font-src specifies the origins that can serve web fonts. Google’s Web Fonts could be enabled via font-src https://themes.googleusercontent.com
  • frame-src lists the origins that can be embedded as frames. For example: frame-src https://youtube.com would enable embedding YouTube videos, but no other origins.
  • img-src defines the origins from which images can be loaded.
  • media-src restricts the origins allowed to deliver video and audio.
  • object-src allows control over Flash and other plugins.
  • script-src lists the origin of scripts that would be loaded
  • style-src is script-src’s counterpart for stylesheets.

Let's see an example :

Content-Security-Policy: script-src 'self' https://apis.google.com

It would mean that :

  • any script loaded from my domain and from https://apis.google.com will be loaded.
  • If you try to load jquery from code.jquery.com in your html, it will not be loaded as this host has not been whitelisted.

Another example to illustrate to what extend you can fine tune this directive :

Content-Security-Policy: default-src 'none'; script-src https://cdn.mybank.net; style-src https://cdn.mybank.net; img-src https://cdn.mybank.net; connect-src https://api.mybank.com; frame-src 'self'

It would mean that :

  • You will not load any code hosted on your domain
  • Script, Style and Image files can only be loaded fomr https://cdn.mybank.net
  • You can connect via Ajax or similar only to https://api.mybank.com/
  • and load frame only from your domain
  • Outside of this rules, all other code/content will never be loaded.

Last one, if you want your site to load all the required files for social widgets (like Facebook, Twiitter, Google ones), the directive would be :

Content-Security-Policy: default-src 'self'; script-src https://apis.google.com https://platform.twitter.com; frame-src https://plusone.google.com https://facebook.com https://platform.twitter.com

Inline CSS / JS Code

Sometime you do have some Javascript / CSS code in your html. Even if you defined "self" as default-src, it will prevent from loading indline JS/CSS code and also prevent "eval()" to be computed.

So the best practice is of course to put your CSS / JS code in external files. However, if you can't, you will have to add the "unsafe-inline" and "unsafe-eval" directives. Of course, it's strongly disrecommended. Indeed, if anyone can inject code in your page, then it will do whatever he wants.

Reporting & Monitoring

Introducing CSP may hurt your site to some extend  as you may forgot to declare some required resources and of course you may be interested to know if someone tries to inject code. CSP also provides some directives for these two needs.

First, for debug purposes, you have the "report-only" directive that would report files to be excluded but will not block them ; you will then use :

Content-Security-Policy-Report-Only: default-src 'self'; ...; report-uri /my_amazing_csp_report_parser;

Once you are fine and go in production, you want to know what happens in reality and prevent malicious code to be loaded. Just do as follow :

Content-Security-Policy: default-src 'self'; ...; report-uri /my_amazing_csp_report_parser;

For both cases, once the rule is hit, the browser will POST the information to your report uri and you will have something like :

  "csp-report": {
    "document-uri": "http://example.org/page.html",
    "referrer": "http://evil.example.com/",
    "blocked-uri": "http://evil.example.com/evil.js",
    "violated-directive": "script-src 'self' https://apis.google.com",
    "original-policy": "script-src 'self' https://apis.google.com; report-uri http://example.org/my_amazing_csp_report_parser"

Current support in browsers

  • Firefox from Firefox 23 (next stable release) and later. Firefox for Android and Firefox OS soon to follow.
  • Chrome :  25 and later
  • Internet Explorer : 10 and later (sandbox directive only)

How if differs from CORS ?

CORS also aims to mitigate the "same origin policy" issue by allowing which sites can load your content. CSP is the opposite as you would define which hosts you want to load content from and will go deeper as it allows a fine grained control on the loaded/computed code.

I would say CSP it really security focused whereas CORS was more to ease developper tasks to load content from another place.

More resources on CSP

[Edit 1] : An example on how to play safely in sanboxed iframes.