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Clickjacking Protection Using X-FRAME-OPTIONS Available for Firefox

But browser support is only half the solution, don’t forget to implement the server-side, too.

Clickjacking, unlike more well-known (and understood) web application vulnerabilities, has been given scant amount of attention despite its risks and its usage. Earlier this year, for example, it was used as an attack on Twitter, but never really discussed as being a clickjacking attack. Maybe because aside from bandaid rewriting applications to prevent CSRF (adding nonces and validation of the same to every page) or adding framekillers there just haven’t been many other options to prevent the attack technique from being utilized against users. Too, it is one of the more convoluted attack methods out there so it would be silly to expect non-technical media to understand it let alone explain how it works to their readers.

There is, however, a solution on the horizon. IE8 has introduced an opt-in measure that allows developers – or whomever might be in charge of network-side scripting implementations – to prevent clickjacking on vulnerable pages using a custom HTTP header to prevent them from being “framed” inappropriately: X-FRAME-OPTIONS.

The behavior is described in the aforementioned article as:

If the X-FRAME-OPTIONS value contains the token DENY, IE8 will prevent the page from rendering if it will be contained within a frame. If the value contains the token SAMEORIGIN, IE will block rendering only if the origin of the top level-browsing-context is different than the origin of the content containing the X-FRAME-OPTIONS directive. For instance, if http://shop.example.com/confirm.asp contains a DENY directive, that page will not render in a subframe, no matter where the parent frame is located. In contrast, if the X-FRAME-OPTIONS directive contains the SAMEORIGIN token, the page may be framed by any page from the exact http://shop.example.com origin.

But that’s only IE8, right? Well, natively, yes. But a development version of NoScript has been released that supports the X-FRAME-OPTIONS header and will provide the same protections as are natively achieved in IE8.

The problem is that this is only half the equation: the X-FRAME-OPTIONS header needs to exist before the browser can act on it and the preventive measure for clickjacking completed. As noted in the Register, “some critics have contended the protection will be ineffective because it will require millions of websites to update their pages with proprietary code.”

That’s not entirely true as there is another option that will provide support for X-FRAME-OPTIONS without updating pages/applications/sites with proprietary code: network-side scripting. The “proprietary” nature of custom HTTP headers is also debatable, as support for Firefox was provided quickly via NoScript and if the technique is successful will likely be adopted by other browser creators.


HOW-TO ADD X-FRAME-OPTIONS TO YOUR APPLICATION – WITH or WITHOUT CODE CHANGES


Step 1: Add the custom HTTP header “X-FRAME-OPTIONS” with a value of “DENY” or “SAMEORIGIN” before returning a response to the client

Really, that’s it. The browser takes care of the rest for you. OWASP has a great article on how to implement a ClickjackFilter for JavaEE and there are sure to be many more blogs and articles popping up describing how one can implement such functionality in their language-of-choice. Even without such direct “how-to” articles and code samples, it is merely a matter of adding a new custom HTTP header – examples of which ought to be easy enough to find.

Similarly a solution can be implemented using network-side scripting that requires no modification to applications.

In fact, this can be accomplished via iRules in just one line of code:

when HTTP_RESPONSE { 
    HTTP::header insert "X-FRAME-OPTIONS" “(DENY || SAMEORIGIN)”
}

I believe the mod_rewrite network-side script would be as simple, but as I am not an expert in mod_rewrite I will hope someone who is will leave an appropriate example as a comment or write up a blog/article and leave a pointer to it.

A good reason to utilize the agility of network-side scripting solutions in this case is that it is not necessary to modify each application requiring protection, which takes time to implement, test, and deploy. An even better reason is that a single network-side script can protect all applications, regardless of language and deployment platform, without a lengthy development and deployment cycle.

Regardless of how you add the header, it would be a wise idea to add it as a standard part of your secure-code deployment requirements (you do have those, don’t you?) because it doesn’t hurt anything for the custom HTTP header to exist and visitors using X-FRAME-OPTIONS enabled browsers/solutions will be a lot safer than without it.

 

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More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

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