Django documentation

Cross Site Request Forgery protection

The CSRF middleware and template tag provides easy-to-use protection against Cross Site Request Forgeries. This type of attack occurs when a malicious Web site contains a link, a form button or some javascript that is intended to perform some action on your Web site, using the credentials of a logged-in user who visits the malicious site in their browser. A related type of attack, ‘login CSRF’, where an attacking site tricks a user’s browser into logging into a site with someone else’s credentials, is also covered.

The first defense against CSRF attacks is to ensure that GET requests (and other ‘safe’ methods, as defined by 9.1.1 Safe Methods, HTTP 1.1, RFC 2616) are side-effect free. Requests via ‘unsafe’ methods, such as POST, PUT and DELETE, can then be protected by following the steps below.

How to use it

To enable CSRF protection for your views, follow these steps:

  1. Add the middleware 'django.middleware.csrf.CsrfViewMiddleware' to your list of middleware classes, MIDDLEWARE_CLASSES. (It should come before any view middleware that assume that CSRF attacks have been dealt with.)

    Alternatively, you can use the decorator csrf_protect() on particular views you want to protect (see below).

  2. In any template that uses a POST form, use the csrf_token tag inside the <form> element if the form is for an internal URL, e.g.:

    <form action="." method="post">{% csrf_token %}

    This should not be done for POST forms that target external URLs, since that would cause the CSRF token to be leaked, leading to a vulnerability.

  3. In the corresponding view functions, ensure that the 'django.core.context_processors.csrf' context processor is being used. Usually, this can be done in one of two ways:

    1. Use RequestContext, which always uses 'django.core.context_processors.csrf' (no matter what your TEMPLATE_CONTEXT_PROCESSORS setting). If you are using generic views or contrib apps, you are covered already, since these apps use RequestContext throughout.

    2. Manually import and use the processor to generate the CSRF token and add it to the template context. e.g.:

      from django.core.context_processors import csrf
      from django.shortcuts import render_to_response
      
      def my_view(request):
          c = {}
          c.update(csrf(request))
          # ... view code here
          return render_to_response("a_template.html", c)
      

      You may want to write your own render_to_response() wrapper that takes care of this step for you.

The utility script extras/csrf_migration_helper.py can help to automate the finding of code and templates that may need these steps. It contains full help on how to use it.

AJAX

While the above method can be used for AJAX POST requests, it has some inconveniences: you have to remember to pass the CSRF token in as POST data with every POST request. For this reason, there is an alternative method: on each XMLHttpRequest, set a custom X-CSRFToken header to the value of the CSRF token. This is often easier, because many javascript frameworks provide hooks that allow headers to be set on every request.

As a first step, you must get the CSRF token itself. The recommended source for the token is the csrftoken cookie, which will be set if you’ve enabled CSRF protection for your views as outlined above.

Note

The CSRF token cookie is named csrftoken by default, but you can control the cookie name via the CSRF_COOKIE_NAME setting.

Acquiring the token is straightforward:

// using jQuery
function getCookie(name) {
    var cookieValue = null;
    if (document.cookie && document.cookie != '') {
        var cookies = document.cookie.split(';');
        for (var i = 0; i < cookies.length; i++) {
            var cookie = jQuery.trim(cookies[i]);
            // Does this cookie string begin with the name we want?
            if (cookie.substring(0, name.length + 1) == (name + '=')) {
                cookieValue = decodeURIComponent(cookie.substring(name.length + 1));
                break;
            }
        }
    }
    return cookieValue;
}
var csrftoken = getCookie('csrftoken');

The above code could be simplified by using the jQuery cookie plugin to replace getCookie:

var csrftoken = $.cookie('csrftoken');

Note

The CSRF token is also present in the DOM, but only if explicitly included using csrf_token in a template. The cookie contains the canonical token; the CsrfViewMiddleware will prefer the cookie to the token in the DOM. Regardless, you’re guaranteed to have the cookie if the token is present in the DOM, so you should use the cookie!

Warning

If your view is not rendering a template containing the csrf_token template tag, Django might not set the CSRF token cookie. This is common in cases where forms are dynamically added to the page. To address this case, Django provides a view decorator which forces setting of the cookie: ensure_csrf_cookie().

Finally, you’ll have to actually set the header on your AJAX request, while protecting the CSRF token from being sent to other domains.

function csrfSafeMethod(method) {
    // these HTTP methods do not require CSRF protection
    return (/^(GET|HEAD|OPTIONS|TRACE)$/.test(method));
}
function sameOrigin(url) {
    // test that a given url is a same-origin URL
    // url could be relative or scheme relative or absolute
    var host = document.location.host; // host + port
    var protocol = document.location.protocol;
    var sr_origin = '//' + host;
    var origin = protocol + sr_origin;
    // Allow absolute or scheme relative URLs to same origin
    return (url == origin || url.slice(0, origin.length + 1) == origin + '/') ||
        (url == sr_origin || url.slice(0, sr_origin.length + 1) == sr_origin + '/') ||
        // or any other URL that isn't scheme relative or absolute i.e relative.
        !(/^(\/\/|http:|https:).*/.test(url));
}
$.ajaxSetup({
    beforeSend: function(xhr, settings) {
        if (!csrfSafeMethod(settings.type) && sameOrigin(settings.url)) {
            // Send the token to same-origin, relative URLs only.
            // Send the token only if the method warrants CSRF protection
            // Using the CSRFToken value acquired earlier
            xhr.setRequestHeader("X-CSRFToken", csrftoken);
        }
    }
});

Note

Due to a bug introduced in jQuery 1.5, the example above will not work correctly on that version. Make sure you are running at least jQuery 1.5.1.

You can use settings.crossDomain in jQuery 1.5 and newer in order to replace the sameOrigin logic above:

function csrfSafeMethod(method) {
    // these HTTP methods do not require CSRF protection
    return (/^(GET|HEAD|OPTIONS|TRACE)$/.test(method));
}
$.ajaxSetup({
    crossDomain: false, // obviates need for sameOrigin test
    beforeSend: function(xhr, settings) {
        if (!csrfSafeMethod(settings.type)) {
            xhr.setRequestHeader("X-CSRFToken", csrftoken);
        }
    }
});

Note

In a security release blogpost, a simpler “same origin test” example was provided which only checked for a relative URL. The sameOrigin test above supersedes that example—it works for edge cases like scheme-relative or absolute URLs for the same domain.

Other template engines

When using a different template engine than Django’s built-in engine, you can set the token in your forms manually after making sure it’s available in the template context.

For example, in the Cheetah template language, your form could contain the following:

<div style="display:none">
    <input type="hidden" name="csrfmiddlewaretoken" value="$csrf_token"/>
</div>

You can use JavaScript similar to the AJAX code above to get the value of the CSRF token.

The decorator method

Rather than adding CsrfViewMiddleware as a blanket protection, you can use the csrf_protect decorator, which has exactly the same functionality, on particular views that need the protection. It must be used both on views that insert the CSRF token in the output, and on those that accept the POST form data. (These are often the same view function, but not always).

Use of the decorator by itself is not recommended, since if you forget to use it, you will have a security hole. The ‘belt and braces’ strategy of using both is fine, and will incur minimal overhead.

csrf_protect(view)

Decorator that provides the protection of CsrfViewMiddleware to a view.

Usage:

from django.views.decorators.csrf import csrf_protect
from django.shortcuts import render

@csrf_protect
def my_view(request):
    c = {}
    # ...
    return render(request, "a_template.html", c)

Rejected requests

By default, a ‘403 Forbidden’ response is sent to the user if an incoming request fails the checks performed by CsrfViewMiddleware. This should usually only be seen when there is a genuine Cross Site Request Forgery, or when, due to a programming error, the CSRF token has not been included with a POST form.

The error page, however, is not very friendly, so you may want to provide your own view for handling this condition. To do this, simply set the CSRF_FAILURE_VIEW setting.

How it works

The CSRF protection is based on the following things:

  1. A CSRF cookie that is set to a random value (a session independent nonce, as it is called), which other sites will not have access to.

    This cookie is set by CsrfViewMiddleware. It is meant to be permanent, but since there is no way to set a cookie that never expires, it is sent with every response that has called django.middleware.csrf.get_token() (the function used internally to retrieve the CSRF token).

  2. A hidden form field with the name ‘csrfmiddlewaretoken’ present in all outgoing POST forms. The value of this field is the value of the CSRF cookie.

    This part is done by the template tag.

  3. For all incoming requests that are not using HTTP GET, HEAD, OPTIONS or TRACE, a CSRF cookie must be present, and the ‘csrfmiddlewaretoken’ field must be present and correct. If it isn’t, the user will get a 403 error.

    This check is done by CsrfViewMiddleware.

  4. In addition, for HTTPS requests, strict referer checking is done by CsrfViewMiddleware. This is necessary to address a Man-In-The-Middle attack that is possible under HTTPS when using a session independent nonce, due to the fact that HTTP ‘Set-Cookie’ headers are (unfortunately) accepted by clients that are talking to a site under HTTPS. (Referer checking is not done for HTTP requests because the presence of the Referer header is not reliable enough under HTTP.)

This ensures that only forms that have originated from your Web site can be used to POST data back.

It deliberately ignores GET requests (and other requests that are defined as ‘safe’ by RFC 2616). These requests ought never to have any potentially dangerous side effects , and so a CSRF attack with a GET request ought to be harmless. RFC 2616 defines POST, PUT and DELETE as ‘unsafe’, and all other methods are assumed to be unsafe, for maximum protection.

Caching

If the csrf_token template tag is used by a template (or the get_token function is called some other way), CsrfViewMiddleware will add a cookie and a Vary: Cookie header to the response. This means that the middleware will play well with the cache middleware if it is used as instructed (UpdateCacheMiddleware goes before all other middleware).

However, if you use cache decorators on individual views, the CSRF middleware will not yet have been able to set the Vary header or the CSRF cookie, and the response will be cached without either one. In this case, on any views that will require a CSRF token to be inserted you should use the django.views.decorators.csrf.csrf_protect() decorator first:

from django.views.decorators.cache import cache_page
from django.views.decorators.csrf import csrf_protect

@cache_page(60 * 15)
@csrf_protect
def my_view(request):
    # ...

Testing

The CsrfViewMiddleware will usually be a big hindrance to testing view functions, due to the need for the CSRF token which must be sent with every POST request. For this reason, Django’s HTTP client for tests has been modified to set a flag on requests which relaxes the middleware and the csrf_protect decorator so that they no longer rejects requests. In every other respect (e.g. sending cookies etc.), they behave the same.

If, for some reason, you want the test client to perform CSRF checks, you can create an instance of the test client that enforces CSRF checks:

>>> from django.test import Client
>>> csrf_client = Client(enforce_csrf_checks=True)

Limitations

Subdomains within a site will be able to set cookies on the client for the whole domain. By setting the cookie and using a corresponding token, subdomains will be able to circumvent the CSRF protection. The only way to avoid this is to ensure that subdomains are controlled by trusted users (or, are at least unable to set cookies). Note that even without CSRF, there are other vulnerabilities, such as session fixation, that make giving subdomains to untrusted parties a bad idea, and these vulnerabilities cannot easily be fixed with current browsers.

Edge cases

Certain views can have unusual requirements that mean they don’t fit the normal pattern envisaged here. A number of utilities can be useful in these situations. The scenarios they might be needed in are described in the following section.

Utilities

csrf_exempt(view)

This decorator marks a view as being exempt from the protection ensured by the middleware. Example:

from django.views.decorators.csrf import csrf_exempt

@csrf_exempt
def my_view(request):
    return HttpResponse('Hello world')
requires_csrf_token(view)

Normally the csrf_token template tag will not work if CsrfViewMiddleware.process_view or an equivalent like csrf_protect has not run. The view decorator requires_csrf_token can be used to ensure the template tag does work. This decorator works similarly to csrf_protect, but never rejects an incoming request.

Example:

from django.views.decorators.csrf import requires_csrf_token
from django.shortcuts import render

@requires_csrf_token
def my_view(request):
    c = {}
    # ...
    return render(request, "a_template.html", c)
New in Django 1.4: Please see the release notes

This decorator forces a view to send the CSRF cookie.

Scenarios

CSRF protection should be disabled for just a few views

Most views requires CSRF protection, but a few do not.

Solution: rather than disabling the middleware and applying csrf_protect to all the views that need it, enable the middleware and use csrf_exempt().

CsrfViewMiddleware.process_view not used

There are cases when CsrfViewMiddleware.process_view may not have run before your view is run - 404 and 500 handlers, for example - but you still need the CSRF token in a form.

Solution: use requires_csrf_token()

Unprotected view needs the CSRF token

There may be some views that are unprotected and have been exempted by csrf_exempt, but still need to include the CSRF token.

Solution: use csrf_exempt() followed by requires_csrf_token(). (i.e. requires_csrf_token should be the innermost decorator).

View needs protection for one path

A view needs CRSF protection under one set of conditions only, and mustn’t have it for the rest of the time.

Solution: use csrf_exempt() for the whole view function, and csrf_protect() for the path within it that needs protection. Example:

from django.views.decorators.csrf import csrf_exempt, csrf_protect

@csrf_exempt
def my_view(request):

    @csrf_protect
    def protected_path(request):
        do_something()

    if some_condition():
       return protected_path(request)
    else:
       do_something_else()

Page uses AJAX without any HTML form

A page makes a POST request via AJAX, and the page does not have an HTML form with a csrf_token that would cause the required CSRF cookie to be sent.

Solution: use ensure_csrf_cookie() on the view that sends the page.

Contrib and reusable apps

Because it is possible for the developer to turn off the CsrfViewMiddleware, all relevant views in contrib apps use the csrf_protect decorator to ensure the security of these applications against CSRF. It is recommended that the developers of other reusable apps that want the same guarantees also use the csrf_protect decorator on their views.

Settings

A number of settings can be used to control Django’s CSRF behavior.

CSRF_FAILURE_VIEW

New in Django 1.2: Please see the release notes

Default: 'django.views.csrf.csrf_failure'

A dotted path to the view function to be used when an incoming request is rejected by the CSRF protection. The function should have this signature:

def csrf_failure(request, reason="")

where reason is a short message (intended for developers or logging, not for end users) indicating the reason the request was rejected.

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