There is hardly any programming language or framework that is void of vulnerabilities and challenges. NodeJS is no different. While its core is absolutely secure, there arises a need for additional security features for the third party packages in your web apps.
According to one research, 14% of the Node Package Manager is affected with some or the other security issues. So, what is the cause of these security issues?
Why do NodeJS projects face security risks?
Before we answer this question, let us know in brief what an NPM is. The NodeJS package manager is one of the biggest open source package ecosystems that has tremendously helped to boost the functionality of the app in addition to the developer productivity.
So, the main issue is that open source applications get licensing and security issues from their respective components. What is risky is that security testing tools are usually ineffective at detecting open source vulnerabilities. Apart from this, NodeJs easily installs additional modules which can be a threat to security too. Also, being more popular, NodeJs is often susceptible to hackers and other threats.
What are the most common NodeJS security risks?
While NPM phishing and regular expressions DoS (Denial of Service) are very common, other web security issues like cross-site scripting, security configuration and unvalidated redirects also pose a risk. The security issues arising from the use of NodeJs can expose you to attacks such as man-in-the-middle, code injection etc. Let us look at the various risks that may cause these and how to solve the same.
Using older versions of Express
The most popular web application framework for NodeJS is Express. The older versions of this framework could pose a serious security risk as they were not designed with security in mind. The developers have to use only the updated and maintained versions of the framework to ensure that the applications are secure.
Cross site scripting (XSS) allows hackers to insert unwanted client side scripts to web pages that may be viewed by other users. One major risk of this is data leaks. This can compromise your value and leak critical information outside. To prevent such attacks, developers can make use of output encoding techniques or tools like Jade with built-in encoding frameworks.
Default cookie session name
with session cookies, websites can identify users. All of your activities on a website get stored as cookies. The most common example of this functionality is the shopping carts in e- Commerce sites. Because of the session cookie, your website remembers your selected items on any site. As a result, your shopping cart on this e-Commerce site will have your selected items for checkout. If you open a new page, your past activities will not show up without session cookies.
It is risky to use default cookie names because attackers can know these names and pose a threat to your app. The best way to avoid this is to use middleware cookie session modules such as express-session.
Cross-Site Forgery Requests
CSRF attacks are the primary cause for end users abruptly ending actions on authenticated web apps. The targets of these attacks are alterations in the application state requests. This is mainly because the attackers cannot see the forged request-response. To prevent such attacks, one needs to use Anti-Forgery Tokens that monitor and validate the authenticity of user requests. These tokens also help to prevent one-click attacks.
Apart from the above, there are some common best practices that developers must follow while using NodeJs for enhanced security in their applications. Let us look at a few of those below.
Best NodeJS security practices
Here are some of the best practices to make your NodeJS application more secure.
Validating user inputs
SQL injections are the most popular kind of threat attacks. They happen when a malicious user is able to execute SQL statements on a particular database that you own. To avoid this, you must not blindly pass parameters from the frontend and to the database query. A better thing to do is to validate or escape values that the user provides. Database libraries like mongoose or knex will do it for you.
Implementation of strong authentication
A weak or broken authentication mechanism is the next biggest threat in NodeJS use. Some important things to consider include not using NodeJS built-in crypto library. Instead, you must use Scrypt or Bcrypt. Apart from this, you shouldn’t tell the user if they have entered a wrong username or a wrong password in particular. Opt for a more generic term like “Incorrect credentials”. Also, proper session management policies will greatly boost your application security.
Automatic vulnerability scanning
The NodeJS ecosystem has numerous modules and libraries that can be installed. So, obviously, you would end up using many of those in your projects. This naturally opens up the possibility of facing security threats. To ensure proper security, you must run frequent and automated vulnerability scans. You can use npm audit for basic checks, but you can also check out other popular tools Retire.js and WhiteSource Renovate. Check out some more here.
It is of utmost importance to make your applications secure at all times in a software development cycle. Therefore, while working with NodeJS, security should be on top of your mind, without which your data will be at a constant threat of being hacked or compromised.
At EOV, we have expertise in building safe applications by the proper use of the right framework, taking all necessary safety measures. If you would like us to build comprehensive, quality and secure web based applications for your business, you can reach out to us today!