5 React Security Vulnerabilities Serious Enough To Break Your Application

Krunal Shah

Dec 03, 2020 | 8 min read

react security vulnerabilities

Security is often an important consideration of how to choose a technology stack for web application development. React is one of the best front-end frameworks for building both SPAs and MPAs. Every web developer vouches for the benefits React brings to the table for efficient web development. However, it’s also true that React web apps may face certain security pitfalls. But it’s nothing discouraging, every framework has its own pitfalls. What matters is how you deal with React security vulnerabilities and protect your application against possible attacks.

React Security Vulnerabilities and How to Prevent Them

There are many minor vulnerabilities that we aren’t covering here because it’s basic stuff. So here are the top 5 React security vulnerabilities serious enough to break your application:

React Security Vulnerabilities

1. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

cross-site scripting

Cross-site scripting is one of the most common React security vulnerabilities that your web app may encounter. In simple words, cross-site scripting refers to an attack wherein malicious client-side scripts are injected into web pages. The users can end up clicking or accepting those scripts. The attackers may then mess with access controls, connect with computer cameras or ports, and steal sessions or cookies.

There are two types of cross-site scripting that a web application may fall prey to.

a) The first one is Reflected Cross-Site Scripting. In this type of security attack, the attacker uses a malicious link with misinformation. This information can get into the page in a way that the browser reads it as app code. For example, the attacker may attempt to fill a form on the basis of a user-controlled query string.

b) The other type is Stored Cross-Site Scripting. During these attacks, the attacker may upload something with the aim to get it rendered on an application page. The most common examples of Stored Cross-Site Scripting are unwanted images or comments uploaded on the application.

How to prevent XSS security pitfall in React

The best way to prevent XSS security vulnerability in React applications is to disable the markups with code running instructions. Elements like <object> , <script>, <link> and <embed> are some examples for HTML code.

Additionally, a common defence against XSS is to use {} for default data binding. When you do this in your React app, the framework will escape values automatically. However, this works only when you are rendering textContent. It doesn’t work with HTML attributes.

You can also prevent this React security pitfall by employing WAF (Web Application Firewall) into your code. Its signature-based filtering is pretty effective in countering cross-site scripting attacks.

An HTML library capable of parsing HTML formatted-text can easily sanitize your HTML markup against XSS vulnerabilities. OWASP has a range of such libraries like OWASP Java HTML Sanitizer and HtmlSanitizer.

In addition to these, URL parsing and conducting Whitelist/blacklist validation can be pretty helpful in avoiding XSS attacks on a React application.

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2. SQL Injection

SQL Injection

Another common React security vulnerability is SQL injection (SQLi). It’s a trick hackers use to inject your database with random SQL code. By doing this, they are able to receive, edit, or delete data irrespective of user permissions.

Hackers are able to pull off SQLi by faking or creating new credentials. They manage to access data on the server by getting the admin credentials. Such a security attack can be very dangerous as hackers can modify this data or even destroy it.

Error based SQLi, time-based SQLi, and logical-error-based SQLi are three common types of SQL injections.

Broadly, a React application is vulnerable to this security pitfall because of improper coding of the app. Some developers may accidentally make it possible for SQL statements to enter through entry fields and move to the database directly.

How to prevent SQL injection security vulnerability in React apps

Always filter all types of user inputs with strict whitelists. Even if the input is from internal users, you can’t trust it when it comes to SQL queries.

Follow the principle of least privilege with all the accounts meant for connecting to the SQL database. For instance, when a website needs to extract web content using the SELECT statements, you should provide only that privilege to it.

It’s risky to give its database connection access to privileges like UPDATE, INSERT or DELETE. So one of the vital React security best practices is assigning the right kind of database roles to different accounts.

In no case should you allow your React app to connect to any database that may have admin privileges.

It’s possible that your app becomes vulnerable to SQLi through using an external library or software. Thus, as a React security best practice, keep scanning your app periodically with vulnerability scanners like Acunetix.

A strong way to avoid SQL injection is to validate all API functions with respect to their API schemas. This is particularly useful in avoiding time-based SQLi in your React web application.

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3. Broken authentication

Broken authentication

Badly implemented session management functions and authentication can lead to broken authentication in all web apps. Hackers can exploit this React security vulnerability to bypass or pick up the authentication solutions implemented in the app.

When the authentication breaks, hackers can mess with user account information, passwords, session tokens, and more.

Unfortunately, broken authentication is a massively common security pitfall for all the web apps, not just React. In most cases, improper implementation of access and identity controls are the leading cause behind this.

The following are the common security risk factors in React relevant to broken authentication:

  • Predictable or easy login credentials
  • Unprotected user authentication credentials
  • Session IDs exposed in the URL
  • Some session IDs may be vulnerable to session fixation attacks
  • Session value that does not timeout or gets invalidated after logout
  • Session IDs that are not rotated after successful login
  • Passwords, session IDs, and other credentials sent over unencrypted connections

React security checklist to prevent broken authentication

  • Employ multi-factor authentication wherever possible. It prevents attacks from credential stuffing and stolen credential re-use.
  • Always enforce password checks in terms of strength or weakness. A good way to do this can be to match the passwords against the most common worst choices for passwords.
  • NIST 800-63 B guidelines for password length and complexity are pretty helpful. Use those or other evidence-based guidelines for strong passwords to prevent broken authentication.
  • A common React security best practice is to use the same messages for all authentication-related outcomes. It guards the processes like credential recovery, account registration, and API pathways against account enumeration attacks.
  • Lastly, use a secure, server-side session manager to generate a new session ID whenever a user tries to log in. However, do not generate it in the form of a URL or it will defeat the purpose. Also, store these IDs securely and make sure they are invalidated after the session ends.

4. Zip Slip

 Zip slip

Zip slip is a security vulnerability in React apps that let users submit zip files. Web developers enable this feature to reduce file sizes while they are being uploaded. The app then decompresses these files to retrieve the original files in the zip.

Zip slip is basically a directory traversal that hackers can exploit to extract files, most commonly from an archive.

How does it happen?

Sometimes, a few parts of a file system can remain outside their designated folder. The attacker may gain access to these file parts and overwrite them. They do so in order to invoke these files remotely or make the system to call them. In this way, they manage to achieve Remote Command Execution on the user’s device.

You have to be extra cautious about this React security vulnerability. It can lead to overwriting of sensitive resources like configuration files. What’s worse? The attacker can exploit this not only on the client-side but also on the server-side.

How to avoid Zip Slip Security Vulnerability in React

The only way to avoid this security pitfall is to ensure no malicious file enters the application. The following are the security best practices for preventing zip slip in React:

  • Ensure the files are named with standard names
  • Don’t allow special characters in file names
  • Always compare and match the names with regular, standard expressions
  • Rename all the uploaded files in a zip. Generate new names for each one before the app uses or stores them.

5. XML External Entities (XXE)

XML External Entities

In certain cases, XXE attacks are also considered a type of injection attack. XML parsers that are outdated in your React web application become the most vulnerable to get abused with injection attacks leading to DoS attacks. In such attacks, the perpetrator attempts to collect confidential data from the server.

In certain cases, XXE attacks fall under the category of injection attacks. Outdated XML parsers in your React web app are the most vulnerable to injection attacks that lead to DoS attacks. During such attacks, the attacker aims to collect sensitive data from the application server.

How to avoid XXE security attacks in React applications

A common React security best practice is to NOT serialize sensitive data. You can use complex JSON formats to avoid serialization.

Some SAST tools may prove helpful in identifying malicious XXE in your code. You can use them to secure your React app.

This security pitfall arises because of outdated XML processors. So ensure that you keep upgrading them periodically.

React Security Best Practices followed by Third Rock Techkno

We understand how crucial the security of an application is both for the business and the users. In the case of React, the problem that most engineering leads and businesses face is the wide gap between reporting security issues and rolling out a solution. It’s a norm now that with every new version of React, the community will face one or two security challenges at least.

Thus, the development methodology followed at Third Rock Techkno ensures that React web apps are scanned and tested for security pitfalls at every stage.

We have a team of 100+ talented developers and QA testers who keep themselves updated with the latest security trends. They are up to date with React security best practices for multi-page as well as single-page applications.

360-degree data validation, end to end encryption, multi-factor authentication are some of the most common security measures we are very particular about. Additionally, we also ensure that attacks like XSS, XXE are prevented with the help of 24x7 DNS protection.

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