DEV Community

Mark Burggraf
Mark Burggraf

Posted on

Hacking the PostgREST Headers: Oh, the Things You Can Do!

When using the Supabase Javascript Client, reading the PostgREST headers gives us all sorts of useful information for logging and security purposes.

Luke Bechtel from Revaly recently asked "is there any way to get things like Browser Type or Host Name from inside a PostgreSQL trigger or RLS (Row Level Security) Policy?" Well, since the Supabase client uses PostgREST, and PostgREST is a web tool, then it should be able to access to the server's request object. And indeed, it does.


See pg_headerkit: PostgREST Header Kit

Interesting Use Cases

Why is this useful or important? Imagine these use cases:

  • Allow-listing IPs: only allow users to select, insert, update, or delete if they're coming from a pre-defined list of IP addresses.
  • Origin Restrictions: allow a feature only during development (when the request is coming from localhost but not your production domain).
  • Platform Checking: only allow users from mobile platforms to use your application (no desktop browsers).
  • Logging: Log the user's IP address and browser User Agent in your database with their anonymous request data.
  • Version Requirements: only allow clients coming from the most recent version of the Supabase Javascript Client Library.

Of course, if the user is logged into our app, we can also get their id using auth.uid(), or their email using auth.jwt() ->> 'email'.

Getting Access to the Request Headers

How can we get access to all this useful information? By using the PostgreSQL current_setting function, we can access the request.headers liks this: current_setting('request.headers', true). So, to put that into a useful function, we get:

    AS $$
    SELECT current_setting('request.headers', true)::json
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

This function returns a JSON object with all the header information from the request. We get things like:

accept-encoding: "gzip"
accept-language: "en-US,en;q=0.9"
host: "localhost:3000"
origin: "http://localhost:8100"
referer: "http://localhost:8100/"
user-agent: "Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10_15_7) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/ Safari/537.36"
x-client-info: "supabase-js/1.35.7"
x-consumer-username: "anon-key"
x-forwarded-for: ","
x-forwarded-host: ""
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

If we want to get the data from a specific header, we can create this function:

CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION get_header(item text) RETURNS text
    AS $$
    SELECT (current_setting('request.headers', true)::json)->>item
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

This allows us to get the text value for any specified header, such as: get_header('user-agent').

Using the Results in a RLS (Row Level Security) Policy

Let's say we want to only allow records to be inserted into our table beta_tests if the request is coming from a server running on localhost, port 3000.

CREATE POLICY "only allow inserts on public.beta_tests from localhost:3000" 
ON public.beta_tests 
WITH CHECK (get_header('host')='localhost:3000');
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

For security purposes, we can restict the usage for a table based on a whitelisted set of IPs. First, we need to get the user's IP address, which is found in x-forwarded-for, but that has 2 IP addresses separated by commas, and we only want the first one. So we can use the PostgreSQL SPLIT_PART function, which is similar to the Javascript split function: SPLIT_PART(get_header('x-forwarded-for') || ',', ',', 1). Note how we concatenate a comma to the x-forwarded-for header (get_header('x-forwarded-for') || ','), just in case there's an empty string there?

Now that we have the user's IP address, we can test to see if it's in our whitelist set:

CREATE POLICY "only allow access to table_for_internal_use_only from a set of IPs" ON "public"."table_for_internal_use_only"
TO public
USING (SPLIT_PART(get_header('x-forwarded-for') || ',', ',', 1) = ANY (ARRAY['','','']))
WITH CHECK (SPLIT_PART(get_header('x-forwarded-for') || ',', ',', 1) = ANY (ARRAY['','','']));
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

You could extend this by creating a table of IP addresses and check against that table ((SELECT count(*) from my_whitelist_table where ip = SPLIT_PART(get_header('x-forwarded-for') || ',', ',', 1)) > 0), but be careful, this adds an extra lookup to another table, and this slows down your RLS policy considerably and could lead to scaling problems down the road.

Using the Results in a PostgreSQL Trigger

Let's create a log table caled log_table, and then for every record inserted into our test_table, we'll log a record there with the user's user_agent, host, origin, referer, and ip:

CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS log_table (id serial primary key, table_name text, key text, created_at timestamptz DEFAULT now(), user_agent text, host text, origin text, referer text, ip text);

  RETURNS trigger AS
  INSERT INTO log_table(table_name, key, user_agent, host, origin, referer, ip)
  VALUES(TG_TABLE_NAME::regclass::text,, get_header('user-agent'), get_header('host'), get_header('origin'), get_header('referer'), SPLIT_PART(get_header('x-forwarded-for') || ',', ',', 1));
LANGUAGE 'plpgsql';

CREATE TRIGGER test_trigger
  ON test_table
  EXECUTE PROCEDURE log_user_data();
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Things of note here:

  • TG_TABLE_NAME::regclass::text returns the current table name in our trigger (so we can re-use this trigger on other tables!)
  • converts the id field of the current table to text (a string). I use a UUID as the id field for almost every table I create, so this should work just fine. If you use a different convention or primary key type, you may have to alter this.
  • SPLIT_PART(get_header('x-forwarded-for') || ',', ',', 1), as mentioned earlier, grabs the first ip found in the x-forwarded-for header.

Other Interesting Tidbits from the User-Agent

We can parse the user-agent header to get relevant information, such as:

Is the user running on a Windows platform:
get_header('user-agent') LIKE '%Windows%'

Or Mac:
get_header('user-agent') LIKE '%Mac OS X%'

Is the user on a Mobile device:
get_header('user-agent') LIKE 'Mobile/%'

Check iOS Major Version:
get_header('user-agent') LIKE '%iPhone OS 16%'

The user-agent isn't the most accurate way to get this information, though, and user-agents are always subject to change (and can be forged) so be careful with this.

Other Caveats and Warnings

You may find additional headers beyond the ones listed here available to you when testing this, but it's best not to rely on them, as they:

  1. may not be available on every platform or device (some headers exist on desktop systems but not mobile systems, for instance)
  2. may change or go away completely based on infrastructure changes or changes to PostgREST or the Supabase Client Libraries.


PostgREST exposes some really useful request headers that give PostgreSQL functions the power to do some things that previously required a separate middleware tier. Moving this functionality into the database eliminates the need for that extra tier and might also speed up your application by reducing extra network round-trips. It also allows you to add an extra security layer at the database level, so you can allow or restrict access based on IP address, host name, client type, Javascript client version, and more!

Top comments (0)