HTTP Security Headers and Inline Resources

As it turns out, HTTPS is not the end-all to securing a website.

Mozilla Observatory and Security Headers both scan HTTP headers and report back on adherence to, or lack thereof, best practices.

In my case dbushell.com gets a big fat “F”. I’m hosting on GitHub Pages so there is not much I can do except use a <meta> tag (more on that later). I am using Netlify to host a few other websites / PWAs.

In testing I configured netlify.toml to add:

[[headers]]
  for = "/*"

  [headers.values]
    X-Frame-Options = "DENY"
    X-XSS-Protection = "1; mode=block"
    X-Content-Type-Options = "nosniff"
    Content-Security-Policy = "default-src 'self'; frame-ancestors 'none'"

These HTTP headers direct the browser as follows:

  1. X-Frame-Options: disallow the site from being iframed
  2. X-XSS-Protection: add cross-site scripting protection (older browsers)
  3. X-Content-Type-Options: only load resources with a correct MIME type
  4. Content Security Policy: whitelist where resources can be loaded from

CSP from what I understand is the new “standard” that overrides the first three headers. It provides nuance in directives for each type of resource.

Naturally, when I deployed this update and refreshed my PWA it was broken. There was no CSS being applied despite the CSS being right there; inlined within a <style> element. This was because the default-src 'self' directive only allows same domain sources and blocks inline. I could extend this to read:

default-src 'self'; style-src 'unsafe-inline';

As the directive suggests this is considered “unsafe”. Further research suggests one of the safest and coolest options is to add a cryptographic hash:

default-src 'self'; style-src 'sha256-[hash]';

With this directive the inline css cannot be altered without breaking the hashed value. This includes any CSS changes I make. For a statically generated site the build process requires an additional step.

Easy enough to do in Node:

const fs = require('fs');
const csso = require('csso');
const crypto = require('crypto');

// Read CSS source file
let css = fs.readFileSync(`stylesheet.css`);
// Minify the CSS for inlining
css = csso.minify(css.toString()).css;
// Generate the hash value
const hash = crypto
  .createHash('sha256')
  .update(css)
  .digest('base64');

From here the CSS is written within a style element <style>${css}</style> ensuring no additional whitespace between the tags. The CSP header is also updated with the new hash, for example:

style-src 'sha256-QpACKkYqaJasYCFZA51jC7LHJJVCHbb1h0Uc5eMvurQ=';

I’m not using a framework or templating engine so a rough find and replace suffices:

let toml = fs.readFileSync(`netlify.toml`);
toml = toml.toString().replace(
  /style-src 'sha256-[^']+?'/,
  `style-src 'sha256-${hash}'`
);
fs.writeFileSync(`netlify.toml`, toml);

If I had multiple inline sources a more robust solution might be sensible to generate this header. With that my PWA is getting passing grades.

As for my website hosted on GitHub Pages I would need to use a meta tag:

<meta http-equiv="Content-Security-Policy" content=" ... ">

Which I have yet to implement. As of writing, my website has quite a lot of inline CSS, JavaScript, and SVG. Not to mention a few external CDN resources. It’s going to take some thinking to implement CSP correctly.

Another task for the backlog then!


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