Best Practices for Node.js Security
March 10, 2022
Like any other programming language or framework, Node.js is susceptible to every type of web app exposure. Although the basis of Node.js is secure, third-party packages may need more security standards to safeguard your web app. The study says that 14% of the NPM (Node Package Manager) ecosystem is impacted and 54% of the NPM ecosystem is about to be impacted indirectly.
What Is NPM and What Is Its Relation with Security Issues?
NPM or the Node.js Package Manager is globally one of the largest open-source package ecosystems. This rich ecosystem has caused a boost in the app’s functionality and developer productivity.
Sometimes, Node.js codebases comprise hundreds or thousands of these packages. Maybe developers don’t know the direct and indirect dependencies of the packages and the security risks related to them.
In 2018, NPM started concentrating on security, when they launched NPM audit. This new command performs a moment-in-time security assessment of the dependency tree of a project and creates the security report of an NPM audit. This report comprises the data regarding security exposures in the dependencies and offers NPM commands and suggestions for additional troubleshooting.
Why Do Node.js Projects Have Security Issues?
Open-source apps derive licensing and security risks from their open-source elements. Moreover, the security detecting tools like static and dynamic code assessment cannot identify open-source exposures efficiently.
To detect open-source elements in Node.js, you must assess the NPM index files that explain the dependencies. Nevertheless, these index files don’t incorporate reused open-source elements.
Sometimes, the open-source community reutilizes open-source projects to lower time-to-market, speed up development, and include functionality.
As an outcome, both commercial and open-source developers can launch code snippets, functions, and techniques into files. Also, numerous Node.js web development projects incorporate licensing terms other than the real Node.js license.
Top Node.js Security Risks and Solution Practices
The security issues related to Node.js can expose you to vulnerabilities like the man in the middle, code injection, and advanced constant threats. Here is a list of Node.js security risks that may cause these vulnerabilities and their possible solution practices:
1. Restrict XSS Attacks by Validating User Inputs
Hence, whatever users put in the search field, if not discovered in the database, will be sent back to them in the same old form. Thereby, if a hacker puts JS code rather than the product name in the search bar, he can execute a similar JS code.
You can validate the user input. For preventing XSS attacks in Node.js, you can utilize output encoding methods or tools like the Jade engine with in-built encoding frameworks. Also, you can opt for, XSS-filters or Validatorjs for this.
2. Abstain from Data Leaks
Don’t just rely on what you get from the frontend but also what you will convey to it. You can easily send all information for a specific object to the frontend and just filter what to display there. Nevertheless, it’s quite simple for a hacker to find the hidden data sent from the backend.
Only send the information that is needed. In case you just require first and last names, just retrieve those from the database. This may need you to do slightly more work, but this is absolutely worth it.
3. Utilize Security Linters
You can scan vulnerability automatically. Moreover, it is possible for you to catch basic security exposures even while writing the code.
You can utilize linter plugins like eslint-plugin-security. This type of security linter will give you a notification whenever you utilize insecure code practices.
4. Implement Access Control on Each Request
This thing is usually associated with how properly examined an app has been when it comes to user permissions to various URLs or areas of it. Thereby, in case you want to have limited areas on the app, such as admin dashboard, for instance, and normal users with no appropriate role can access it by any means, then you have access exposure.
The best way to get rid of this susceptibility is by manually testing app modules that need particular user permissions. Middlewares and access control rules are best executed on the server-side as they reduce the chances of manipulating access permissions from the client-side by JWT (JSON Web Token) authorization tokens or cookies.
Log access controlling and API rate restricting must be set up. This is how admins get alert when there are important steps that should be taken for reducing the attack and repeated failures.
5. Secure Deserialization
Insecure deserialization is a vulnerability that includes deserialization and application of buggy objects through remote code implementation or API calls. This kind of attack is known as CSRF (Cross-site Request Forgery) attack. This attack forces end-users to implement unwanted actions on valid web apps.
The objects of CSRF attacks are modifications in app state requests, as the hacker cannot see the forged request reaction. Attackers can apply tricks on users via unusual actions by using social engineering methods, such as sending links through email or chat. CSRF can force state-modifying requests like transforming email ids and then fund transferring. CSRF can compromise the whole web app for admin users.
To reduce such hacks or attacks, you need to prevent CSRF. You can do this by using anti-forgery tokens in Node.js. These anti-CSRF tokens are utilized for preventing one-click attacks and checking and validating the authenticity of user requests.
6. Execute HTTP Response Headers
Express is one of the most extensively used web app frameworks for Node.js. Nevertheless, Express was not created with security consideration. This is why older Express versions may have security risks.
You need to use maintained and updated versions for making sure the security of apps. In fact, you can avoid many less common attacks by adding extra security-related HTTP headers to your app. The most common frameworks like CORS can enhance your API’s security but ponder utilizing modules like Helmet, which adds more headers for securing your app.
Helmet can help you shield Express and Node.js apps. It’s a collection of middleware functions that execute 11 different header-based security systems for you with a line of code. It incorporates the prevention of cross-site scripting attacks, man-in-the-middle attacks, and administration of secure server connections.
7. Establish Logging and Monitoring
Logging and monitoring are also associated with Node.js security. After all, your objective is to make mechanisms secure from the start, but it actually needs a continuous procedure. And for this, you require logging and monitoring.
Some hackers want to make your app unavailable, which can be found out with no logging. But some hackers want to stay unidentified for a longer time. For this case, log and metrics monitoring will help you detect the wrong matter. With just basic logging, you cannot get sufficient data for understanding if you get strange-looking requests from your own app, a hacker, or a third-party API.
There are various tools and many of them talking and combining, offer the precise layers for improving the protection of your system, depending on data. Data is important for assessing and identifying probable exposures and invasions of your app. You can make many routines that implement depending on a few pre-decided system behaviors.
The logging and monitoring explain everything that happens inside an app. Hence, the monitoring functions as the voice of it that will come at you if something vulnerable is recognized.
8. Execute Strong & Complete Authentication
An incomplete, weak, or broken authentication system is known as another common vulnerability. It possibly occurs because many developers think that they are secure as they have it. But, in reality, unstable or weak authentication is simple to bypass.
One prime fix is to utilize current authentication solutions like OAuth, Firebase Auth or Okta. In case you want to go for Node.js authentication solutions, keep a few things in mind.
While making passwords, never utilize the Node.js in-built crypto library; rather utilize Scrypt or Bcrypt. Ensure to restrict failed login attempts and never tell users in case the password or username that is not correct.
Moreover, you require appropriate session handling policies. Ensure to execute 2FA authentication. If done appropriately, it can boost your app security a lot. You can do it using modules like Speakeasy or node-2fa.
9. Regularly Scan Apps Automatically for Vulnerability
The Node.js ecosystem comprises several libraries and modules to install. Many of them can be utilized usually in your projects. This produces a security risk. You cannot be completely sure that it’s secure while using code written by somebody else.
To solve this, you must run regular automated vulnerability scanning. This helps you find dependencies with common vulnerabilities.
Moreover, you can opt for NPM analysis for basic monitoring, but ponder using tools like Retire.js, WhiteSource Renovate, OWASP Dependency-Check, OSS INDEX, Acutinex, and NODEJSSCAN.
10. Make Fluid Build Pipelines for Security Patches
When web servers or apps are left unprotected or protected with weak security standards, security misconfiguration vulnerabilities happen. Due to this vulnerability, several parts of the app stack (app containers, database, server, etc.) become prone to vulnerable exploits.
Weak build pipelines are a big entry point of security misconfiguration type attacks like staging or development area credentials at times make it to creation. This leaves the app exposed as staging or development area configurations to get loose security standards.
You are recommended to keep every environment (development, staging and production) equal with various credentials and access levels.