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How to protect forms from CSRF attacks


How to make sure a POST form submission genuinely originates from a form created by the application, and is not a Cross-Site Request Forgery.


We keep a unique csrf_token that is rendered as a hidden field inside post forms and can not be guessed by CSRF attackers. This token gets checked during POST methods.

We need 4 things:

  1. A csrf_token() function - to use inside form templates. It either returns the existing session.csrf_token or generates a new one.

  2. A @csrf_protected decorator for POST() methods. It pops session.csrf_token and compares it with the csrf_token input we expect to get from a genuine form (see <input type="hidden" ...> below. Whether the test succeeds or fails, this will make sure that next time csrf_token() is called (most probably - from inside a form’s template), a new token will be generated.

  3. Make csrf_token() available to templates by adding it to the globals of our render object.

  4. Add <input type="hidden" name="csrf_token" value="$csrf_token()"/> to the forms in the templates.

We define csrf_token() like this:

def csrf_token():
    if not session.has_key('csrf_token'):
        from uuid import uuid4
    return session.csrf_token

The @csrf_protected decorator is defined like this:

def csrf_protected(f):
    def decorated(*args,**kwargs):
        inp = web.input()
        if not (inp.has_key('csrf_token') and inp.csrf_token==session.pop('csrf_token',None)):
            raise web.HTTPError(
                "400 Bad request",
                """Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) attempt (or stale browser form).
<a href="">Back to the form</a>."""') # Provide a link back to the form
        return f(*args,**kwargs)
    return decorated

In order to make csrf_token() available to templates, we need to add it to the globals of the render object like this:

render = web.template.render('templates',globals={'csrf_token':csrf_token})

A template that renders a POST form (called - say - myform.html) would look like:

<form method=post action="">
  <input type="hidden" name="csrf_token" value="$csrf_token()"/>
  # ... form fields ...

If we’re using a Form object from web.form called form, our myform.html template would look like:

<form method=post action="">
  <input type="hidden" name="csrf_token" value="$csrf_token()"/>

The form page’s object would then look like:

class myformpage:
    def GET(self):
        return render.myform(...)
    @csrf_protected # Verify this is not CSRF, or fail
    def POST(self):
        # If we're here - this is not a CSRF attack

A simple working demo is availale here.