In this article, we explore some of the best practices for NodeJs Security.
When a node.js framework is used extensively, apps built using it becomes a good target for security breaches as malicious actors can inflict more harm. In such times, if you don't have suitable security measures in place, it is common to incur significant damages leaving a mark on your app's reputation. If you don't want to fall into such mishaps, it's better to follow some tech-specific security best practices.
Let’s have a look at the top 10 NodeJS security best practices that you can follow to safeguard your apps.
NodeJs Security Best Practices
1.Setup Regular Logging and Monitoring
Though logging requests are important, many developers think that it can be avoided, as they somehow slow the apps. The reality is that not having a regular logging setup on your apps is a big security concern.
Logging helps you store all the requests that come on your server, whether they were authenticated, what type of data was requested, whether the data was provided, if there was any issue with the request and even identifiers about the request maker. Without a logging system & audit, you cannot monitor your application well. It becomes very hard to trace back security errors and breakdowns in the application.
Whenever you are creating a NodeJS application, you should focus on enabling logging into the app. You should always store some server logs like info, warning, errors, successful requests, etc. This will help you see how your application performs under different scenarios, and if any security incident happens, you can detect the errors from the web app's log.
2. Don’t Block the Event Loop
One huge fallback of NodeJS is its single-threaded event loop. Every request or process is handled by the NodeJS event loop. If you do something that is resource intensive, there is a chance that the event loop may block.
When your NodeJS app's event loop blocks, it cannot accept any new request, nor can it serve existing requests efficiently. In such cases, the app may come to a screeching halt, and many security issues can emerge from that.
So when you are building a NodeJS application, always make sure that you don't block the event loop. When you are processing any IO event, always use it with a callback that can handle the task asynchronously. Moreover, always write efficient code and release resources as soon as their need is over.
3. Implement Stronger Authentication Policies
Authentication is the most important part of securing your applications. Weak or unstable authentication systems are the primary sources of cyber attacks and the aftermath can be miserable. So one must have a strong authentication system as a best practice in securing your app.
Always try to set up SSO and Multi-factor authentication features in your apps. If you want to use regular email and password login options, then you should set up stronger encryption standards, and the errors need to be more generic to hide information. If your authentication errors are too specific, anyone with bad intentions would exploit your app.
4. Handle Errors Efficiently
Efficient error handling plays a significant role in creating secure NodeJS applications. When creating customer-centric applications, you cannot send out raw error messages to the user. If you directly return the error as you get from the API route, it can be a significant security issue.
Most frameworks like NodeJS have a debugging mode wherein each error you encounter is accompanied by the entire trace of code and settings where the compiler/interpreter encounters the error.
It is natural to have errors, but how you handle them shows your understanding of security in app development. If you have an endpoint that is not working, hackers can keep requesting that endpoint to crash your app and make it unavailable for users. Always wrap your endpoints with error-handling endpoints that protect the broken routes in your apps.
5. Set Cookie Flags
HTTP applications do not remember a request after they have served it. While this is a good thing, at certain times, servers need to identify that the requests are coming in a sequence from the same user and that they are part of a single session. In such cases, session management comes in handy, and cookies are a good way to handle client-side sessions.
When you are creating cookies on the client side, always put certain flags in your cookies to make security and verification easier. You can put flags to identify whether the cookie has expired or not, whether it is stored safely, and if the user is the same as to whom the cookie was assigned. Such flags can decrease security errors, and you can enjoy a secure app usage experience.
6. Sanitize and Validate User Input
Many times hackers try to exploit websites by putting in malicious code through a website's input boxes. If you directly run or store such input from users on your servers you may have big issues. Without input validation, you may not have data in the way that you require, and your databases may end up inconsistent.
When creating a NodeJS web app, always sanitize and validate user input. Once you receive user input, you should sanitize it for any malicious code stubs. And after sanitizing, validate that new data for any specific rules that you have set for your data collection. You should only store or process the data after it is ideally sanitized and validated. If there are any issues in the data, return an error and discard the data immediately.
7. Keep Packages Updated
Outdated packages often have some security concerns and unfixed bugs. If such bugs are exploited on your production applications, you can face dire consequences. The best way to keep your NodeJS apps secure and follow best practices is by updating the packages.
When you use third-party libraries through NPM, the library can be updated quickly with just one command. You can quickly update and remove security issues through the NPM command line interface.
8. Enforce Access Control
The key to secure applications is by enforcing access control on each route. With access control, you can verify if a user has access to the URL. Moreover, you can also restrict users based on their access rights.
With this approach, you can ensure that only the correct people have access to the routes, and not everyone can move across the entire application. Moreover, if you have an open API, you should consider adding a rate limiter which will restrict access once the API key is used for certain times during a period.
9. Restrict Request Size
When you accept large amounts of data from clients in the request body, it becomes easy for attackers to exploit this and send malicious data to your APIs. This way, they can flood the server with too many requests with large request bodies or can crash the server by sending more data than the server can process through its memory.
The best way to protect your NodeJS applications is by setting up request size restrictions. With such restrictions, you can discard incoming requests that are greater than the maximum allowed size.
10. Use Strict Mode
While there are many other security best practices to follow while developing enterprise-grade Node.js applications, it is always better to start with the tried and tested ones. The ones discussed here are great, and if you follow these, you can save yourself from many cybersecurity torments.
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