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Nitin Ranganath
Nitin Ranganath

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5 NPM Packages to Secure Your Node.js Backend in 5 Minutes

When you start to focus on the performance and security of your backend alongside the other features, you know that you're growing and maturing as a developer. It goes without saying but having some sort of security measure against common attacks is essential, even if it's just a hobby project.

If you're new to security or want to quickly get started with some basic protection, these 5 NPM packages will help you get started in just a few minutes. The best part about these packages is that all you have to do is just install them and use them as middleware. It's that easy!

In a hurry or just need the list of packages? Here are the 5 NPM packages that I'll be going over:

Package Name Package Link
helmet NPM Link
xss-clean NPM Link
hpp NPM Link
express-mongo-sanitize NPM Link
express-rate-limit NPM Link

Helmet

What it does: Sets security-related HTTP response headers to protect against some well-known web vulnerabilities.

What does it protect against: Cross-site scripting attacks, cross-site injections, clickjacking, MIME sniffing and targeted attacks towards Express servers by disabling the X-Powered-By header.

How to use it:

npm install helmet
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const app = require('express')();
const helmet = require('helmet');

// Using helmet middleware
app.use(helmet());

app.listen(1337);
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GitHub logo helmetjs / helmet

Help secure Express apps with various HTTP headers

Helmet

npm version FOSSA Status

Helmet helps you secure your Express apps by setting various HTTP headers. It's not a silver bullet, but it can help!

Quick start

First, run npm install helmet --save for your app. Then, in an Express app:

const express = require("express");
const helmet = require("helmet");

const app = express();

app.use(helmet());

// ...
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You can also use ECMAScript modules if you prefer.

import helmet from "helmet";

const app = express();

app.use(helmet());
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How it works

Helmet is Express middleware. (It also works with Connect or no library at all! If you need support for other frameworks or languages, see this list.)

The top-level helmet function is a wrapper around 15 smaller middlewares.

In other words, these two…

XSS-Clean

What it does: Sanitizes user input coming from POST request body (req.body), GET request query (req.query) and URL parameters (req.params).

What does it protect against: Cross-site scripting / XSS attacks.

How to use it:

npm install xss-clean
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const app = require('express')();
const xssClean = require('xss-clean');

// Protect against XSS attacks, should come before any routes
app.use(xssClean());

app.listen(1337);
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GitHub logo jsonmaur / xss-clean

Middleware to sanitize user input

Node.js XSS-Clean

Build Status Coverage Status

Node.js Connect middleware to sanitize user input coming from POST body, GET queries, and url params. Works with Express, Restify, or any other Connect app.

How to Use

npm install xss-clean --save
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var restify = require('restify')
var xss = require('xss-clean')

var app = restify.createServer()

app.use(restify.bodyParser())

/* make sure this comes before any routes */
app.use(xss())

app.listen(8080)
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This will sanitize any data in req.body, req.query, and req.params. You can also access the API directly if you don't want to use as middleware.

var clean = require('xss-clean/lib/xss').clean

var cleaned = clean('<script></script>')
// will return "&lt;script>&lt;/script>"
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License

MIT © Jason Maurer

HPP

What it does: Puts the array parameters in req.query and/or req.body asides and just selects the last parameter value to avoid HTTP Parameter Pollution attacks.

What does it protect against: Bypassing input validations and denial of service (DoS) attacks by uncaught TypeError in async code, leading to server crash.

How to use it:

npm install hpp
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const app = require('express')();
const hpp = require('hpp');

// Protect against HPP, should come before any routes
app.use(hpp());

app.listen(1337);
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GitHub logo analog-nico / hpp

Express middleware to protect against HTTP Parameter Pollution attacks

HPP

Express middleware to protect against HTTP Parameter Pollution attacks

Build Status Coverage Status Dependency Status

Why?

Let Chetan Karande's slides do the explaining:

Slide 48 Slide 49 Slide 50 Slide 54

...and exploits may allow bypassing the input validation or even result in denial of service.

And HPP solves this how exactly?

HPP puts array parameters in req.query and/or req.body aside and just selects the last parameter value. You add the middleware and you are done.

Installation

NPM Stats

This is a module for node.js and io.js and is installed via npm:

npm install hpp --save
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Getting Started

Add the HPP middleware like this:

// ...
var hpp = require('hpp');
// ...
app.use(bodyParser.urlencoded()); // Make sure the body is parsed beforehand.

app.use(hpp()); // <- THIS IS THE NEW LINE

// Add your own middlewares afterwards, e.g.:
app.get('/search',
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Express Mongo Sanitize

What it does: Searches for any keys in objects that begin with a $ sign or contain a . from req.body, req.query or req.params and either removes such keys and data or replaces the prohibited characters with another allowed character.

What does it protect against: MongoDB Operator Injection. Malicious users could send an object containing a $ operator, or including a ., which could change the context of a database operation.

How to use it:

npm install express-mongo-sanitize
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const app = require('express')();
const mongoSanitize = require('express-mongo-sanitize');

// Remove all keys containing prohibited characters
app.use(mongoSanitize());

app.listen(1337);
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GitHub logo fiznool / express-mongo-sanitize

Sanitize your express payload to prevent MongoDB operator injection.

Express Mongoose Sanitize

Express 4.x middleware which sanitizes user-supplied data to prevent MongoDB Operator Injection.

Build Status npm version npm downloads per week Dependency Status

What is this module for?

This module searches for any keys in objects that begin with a $ sign or contain a ., from req.body, req.query or req.params. It can then either:

  • completely remove these keys and associated data from the object, or
  • replace the prohibited characters with another allowed character.

The behaviour is governed by the passed option, replaceWith. Set this option to have the sanitizer replace the prohibited characters with the character passed in.

The config option allowDots can be used to allow dots in the user-supplied data. In this case, only instances of $ will be sanitized.

See the spec file for more examples.

Why is it needed?

Object keys starting with a $ or containing a . are reserved for use by MongoDB as operators. Without this…

Express Rate Limit

What does it do: Used to limit IP addresses from making repeated requests to API endpoints. An example would be to rate limit an endpoint that is responsible for sending password reset emails, which can incur additional fees.

What does it protect against: Brute force, denial of service (DoS) and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

How to use it:

npm install express-rate-limit
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const app = require('express')();
const rateLimit = require('express-rate-limit');

// Restrict all routes to only 100 requests per IP address every 1o minutes
const limiter = rateLimit({
    windowMs: 10 * 60 * 1000,    // 10 minutes
    max: 100                     // 100 requests per IP
});
app.use(limiter);

app.listen(1337);
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GitHub logo nfriedly / express-rate-limit

Basic rate-limiting middleware for express

Express Rate Limit

Tests npm version npm downloads

Basic rate-limiting middleware for Express. Use to limit repeated requests to public APIs and/or endpoints such as password reset. Plays nice with express-slow-down.

Alternate Rate Limiters

This module does not share state with other processes/servers by default. If you need a more robust solution, I recommend using an external store. See the stores section below for a list of external stores.

This module was designed to only handle the basics and didn't even support external stores initially. These other options all are excellent pieces of software and may be more appropriate for some situations:

Installation

From the npm registry:

# Using npm
> npm install express-rate-limit
# Using yarn or pnpm
> yarn/pnpm add express-rate-limit
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From Github Releases:

# Using npm
> npm install https://github.com/nfriedly/express-rate-limit/releases/download/v{version}/express-rate-limit.tgz
# Using yarn or pnpm
> yarn/pnpm add https://github.com/nfriedly/express-rate-limit/releases/download/v{version}/express-rate-limit.tgz
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Replace {version} with the version of the package that…


With these 5 NPM packages, you can make your Node.js + Express.js application much more secure in just 5 minutes. All of the packages above are extremely easy to use, just export and use as a middleware.

What security precautions do you take? Or did I miss any of your favorite packages? Let me know in the discussion below and I'll be happy to hear your thoughts.

Discussion (8)

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geobrodas profile image
Georgey

I'm a Web developer, and I recently took up a ethical hacking course to see how I can combine the knowledge to my expertise in web dev. And one thing which actually worried me was the Man in the middle attack. Good to see there is a way to prevent this. Thanks a ton for sharing this!!! Great job!

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itsnitinr profile image
Nitin Ranganath Author

Oh wow, I'm really glad you found the article to be helpful. Could you link me to the course you're talking about, curious about the content. Thanks for reading!

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geobrodas profile image
Georgey

Sure actually it's an internship course I'm doing, which I got after answering the exam NEO. It happens once in a year.

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evieskinner18 profile image
Evie

Very helpful and educational article thanks Nitin!

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itsnitinr profile image
Nitin Ranganath Author

Thank you so much for reading :)

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ridaehamdani profile image
Ridae HAMDANI

I am using mongo as database for a while and I was worried about malicious data which can change my initial query , I think mongo sanitize will help me ... Thanks @itsnitinr for you article

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itsnitinr profile image
Nitin Ranganath Author

I'm sure it will. Glad to have helped you out and thank you for reading.

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mattdclarke profile image
Matt • Edited on

node-rate-limiter-flexible is good for more specific rate limiting. You can rate limit by IP, user or IP and user.