Re: Why the restriction on unauthenticated GET in CORS?

On Wed, Jul 18, 2012 at 4:41 AM, Henry Story <> wrote:
> And it is the experience of this being required that led me to build a CORS proxy [1] - (I am not the first to write one, I add quickly)

Yes, the Origin and unauthenticated CORS restrictions are trivially
circumvented by a simple proxy.

> So my argument is that this restriction could be lifted since
>  1. GET is indempotent - and should not affect the resource fetched

HTTP method semantics are an obligation for conformance and not
guaranteed technically. Any method can be mis-used for any purpose
from a security point of view.

The people at risk from the different method semantics are those who
use them incorrectly, for example a bank which issues transactions
using GET over a URI:

>  2. If there is no authentication, then the JS Agent could make the request via a CORS praxy of its choosing, and so get the content of the resource anyhow.

Yes, the restriction on performing an unauthenticated GET only serves
to promote the implementation of 3rd party proxy intermediaries and,
if they become established, will introduce new security issues by way
of indirection.

The pertinent question for cross-origin requests here is - who is
authoring the link and therefore in control of the request? The reason
that cross-origin js which executes 3rd party non-origin code within a
page is not a problem for web security is that the author of the page
must explicitly include such a link. The control is within the
author's domain to apply prudence on what they link to and include
from. Honorable sites with integrity seek to protect their integrity
by maintaining bona-fide links to trusted and reputable 3rd parties.

>  3. One could still pass the Origin: header as a warning to sites who may be tracking people in unusual ways.

This is what concerns people about implementing a proxy - essentially
you are circumventing a recommended security practice whereby sites
use this header as a means of attempting to protect themselves from
CSRF attacks. This is futile and these sites would do better to
implement CSRF tokens which is the method used by organizations which
must protect against online fraud with direct financial implications,
ie your bank.

There are too many recommendations for protecting against CRSF and the
message is being lost. On the reverse, the poor uptake of CORS is
because people do not understand it and are wary of implementing
anything which they regard as a potential for risk if they get it

>   Lifting this restriction would make a lot of public data available on the web for use by JS agents cleanly. Where requests require authentication or are non-indempotent CORS makes a lot of sense, and those are areas where data publishes would need to be aware of CORS anyway, and should implement it as part of a security review. But for people publishing open data, CORS should not be something they need to consider.

The restriction is in place as the default method of cross-origin
requests prior to XHR applied HTTP auth and cookies without
restriction. If this were extended in the same manner to XHR it would
allow any page to issue scripted authenticated requests to any site
you have visited within the lifetime of your browsing application
session. This would allow seemingly innocuous sites to do complex
multi-request CSRF attacks as background processes and against as many
targets as they can find while you're on the page.

The more sensible option is to make all XHR requests unauthenticated
unless explicitly scripted for such operation. A request to a public
IP address which carries no user-identifiable information is
completely harmless by definition.

On Wed, Jul 18, 2012 at 4:47 AM, Ian Hickson <> wrote:
> No, such a proxy can't get to intranet pages.
> "Authentication" on the Internet can include many things, e.g. IP
> addresses or mere connectivity, that are not actually included in the body
> of an HTTP GET request. It's more than just cookies and HTTP auth headers.

The vulnerability of unsecured intranets can be eliminated by applying
the restriction to private IP ranges which is the source of this
attack vector. It is unsound (and potentially legally disputable) for
public access resources to be restricted and for public access
providers to pay the costs for the protection of private resources. It
is the responsibility of the resource's owner to pay the costs of
enforcing their chosen security policies.

Cameron Jones

Received on Thursday, 19 July 2012 12:07:54 UTC