evanmcdonnal evanmcdonnal - 2 months ago 30
CSS Question

How does CORS (Access-Control-Allow-Origin header) increase security?

I'm doing some work with this right now and I have to say, it makes no sense at all to me! Basically, I have some CDN server which provides css, images ect for a site. For whatever reason, in order for my browser to stop blocking those resources with a CORS error, I had to have that server (the CDN) add the Access-Control-Allow-Origin header. But as far as I can tell that does absolutely nothing to increase security. Shouldn't the page I request which references those cross-domain resources be telling the browser it's safe to get stuff from the other domain? If that were a malicious domain wouldn't it just have the Access-Control-Allow-Origin set to * so that sites load their malicious responses (you don't have to answer that because obviously they would)?

So can someone explain how this mechanism/feature provides security? As far as I can tell the implementors fucked up and it actually does nothing. The header should be required from the page which references/requests cross-domain resources rather than from that domain being requested.

To be clear; if I request a page at domain A it would make sense for the response to include the Access-Control-Allow-Origin header white listing resources from domain B (Access-Control-Allow-Origin:.B.com), however it makes no sense at all for domain B to effectively white list itself by providing the header; Access-Control-Allow-Origin: which is how this is currently implemented. Can anyone clarify what the benefit of this feature is?

Answer

If I have a protected resource hosted on site A, but also control sites B, C, and D, I may want to use that resource on all of my sites but still prevent anyone else from using that resource on theirs. So I instruct my site A to send Access-Control-Allow-Origin: B, C, D along with all of its responses. It's up to the web browser itself to honor this and not serve the response to the underlying Javascript or whatever initiated the request if it didn't come from an allowed origin. Error handlers will be invoked instead. So it's really not for your security as much as it's an honor-system (all major browsers do this) access control method for servers.