Security Series - CSRF

This will be the first post of a Web Security Series. To start this series let’s address one of the known web security vulnerabilities - Cross Site Request Forgery, known simply as CSRF (or XSRF).


CSRF attacks exploit the fact that the browser sends cookies and authentication headers automatically to the target site.

Say for instance you have logged on to your banking site -

If a malicious site contains a form, like:

<form action="" method="post">
    <input type="hidden" name="account" value="666"/>
    <input type="hidden" name="amount" value="1000"/>

    <button type="submit" value="win money">win money</button>

The browser will automatically send the cookies and header information it has to the target site.

Even with no session cookies or other (i.e. stateless rest services), http basic authentication is still an issue.


Use a CSRF Synchronizer Token. This is something that it is impossible for the attacker site to know about. On POST/PUT/DELETE this will be added to the payload as an HTTP parameter.

With spring-security module the protection is enabled by default. We can customize.

Spring Config

   // disable if needed

   // specify a custom/your own CSRF token provider
   // enable cookies for postman
   .csrf().csrfTokenRepository(new CookieCsrfTokenRepository())

Example Form

    <input type="hidden" name="${_csrf.parameterName}" value="${_csrf.token}" />


  • Beware CORS enablement. If the CORS is too relaxed can undermine CSRF protection.

  • Even with stateless applications. If the server returns stateless cookie (authentication) the browser will still send those as part of the request.

Written on June 18, 2018