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stefnotch
stefnotch

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Enabling COOP/COEP without touching the server

Or how to modify security headers clientside.

Ever since the rather impressive Meltdown and Spectre attacks, browser vendors had to clamp down on shared memory and high resolution timers. While this conveniently means that the casual user doesn't have to work about phantom trolleys, it can be an irritating restriction for a developer. Some APIs got limited, while others were completely disabled unless one does a little dance to appease the web browser.

This means that certain web-applications have an additional hurdle to overcome.

A few examples of web-applications that have this problem are in-browser video converters using ffmpeg.wasm, a web-based notebook that supports Python and multithreaded Emscripten applications.

The Problem

The following APIs are unavailable by default

  • SharedArrayBuffer
  • Atomics

To re-enable them, the site needs to be served over HTTPS[1] and two headers need to be set. The headers, which have to be set server side[2], are

  • Cross-Origin-Opener-Policy: same-origin

  • Cross-Origin-Embedder-Policy: require-corp

This can be quite a challenge for a number of reasons. It is not always a walk in the park for a frontend developer to control the headers that the backend sends. Static frontend applications are becoming more widespread. It is quite common that one uses a CDN which simply doesn't support setting custom HTTP headers. I personally needed a solution, as I was deploying a web-based computer algebra system on GitHub pages.

Finally, do note that those headers impose some additional restrictions. The main one is that the Cross-Origin-Embedder-Policy header makes it harder to load cross-origin resources.

[1] Or be on localhost, since the requirement is that the document has to be in a secure context

[2] Those headers cannot be set using <meta http-equiv="..">, as they're not included in the whitelist.

What if I can't set the headers myself?

Service workers to the rescue!

It turns out that there is something that sits between the server serving the webpage and frontend Javascript. Service workers can intercept all requests, modify the responses and even set arbitrary HTTP headers.

First, we register our service worker in a Javascript file that gets loaded as soon as the website gets loaded. To make sure that the service worker can intercept all requests, we have to reload the page.

// main.js
if ("serviceWorker" in navigator) {
  // Register service worker
  navigator.serviceWorker.register(new URL("./sw.js", import.meta.url)).then(
    function (registration) {
      console.log("COOP/COEP Service Worker registered", registration.scope);
      // If the registration is active, but it's not controlling the page
      if (registration.active && !navigator.serviceWorker.controller) {
          window.location.reload();
      }
    },
    function (err) {
      console.log("COOP/COEP Service Worker failed to register", err);
    }
  );
} else {
  console.warn("Cannot register a service worker");
}
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Then, place the service worker right next to the script above and call it sw.js. The important part is that every time the fetch event listener is invoked, we replace the response with one where the COOP/COEP headers are set. All the other parts are optional.

Do make sure that the service worker gets served from the topmost directory, right where the index.html of the website is. This makes sure that the service worker's scope includes all the files on your site.

// sw.js
self.addEventListener("install", function () {
  self.skipWaiting();
});

self.addEventListener("activate", (event) => {
  event.waitUntil(self.clients.claim());
});

self.addEventListener("fetch", function (event) {
  if (event.request.cache === "only-if-cached" && event.request.mode !== "same-origin") {
    return;
  }

  event.respondWith(
    fetch(event.request)
      .then(function (response) {
        // It seems like we only need to set the headers for index.html
        // If you want to be on the safe side, comment this out
        // if (!response.url.includes("index.html")) return response;

        const newHeaders = new Headers(response.headers);
        newHeaders.set("Cross-Origin-Embedder-Policy", "require-corp");
        newHeaders.set("Cross-Origin-Opener-Policy", "same-origin");

        const moddedResponse = new Response(response.body, {
          status: response.status,
          statusText: response.statusText,
          headers: newHeaders,
        });

        return moddedResponse;
      })
      .catch(function (e) {
        console.error(e);
      })
  );
});
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What this ends up doing is

  1. when the page gets loaded for the first time, we register the worker
  2. then we reload the page
  3. and finally, now that the worker is controlling everything, every request will now have the appropriate headers set

I can quite recommend using the coi-serviceworker library, which is based on this post and does exactly what is needed.

Of course the ideal solution is still to set the headers server side.

Security issue?

No, I doubt that. There is a w3c test for this. It's a way of opting in into additional security restrictions on your website.

Opting out with the same approach does not work.

Once you add the COEP header, you won't be able to bypass the restriction by using service workers. If the document is protected by a COEP header, the policy is respected before the response enters the document process, or before it enters the service worker that is controlling the document.

-- https://web.dev/why-coop-coep/

Top comments (4)

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merriment profile image
Merriment

Hey Stefnotch,

Thanks for this post! I'm trying to implement this client-side in Capacitor.js App.
Have you had any experience with integrating this solution into a hybrid app?

stackoverflow.com/questions/712456...

thanks

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vagrantjin profile image
Vagrant Jin Kazama

Great read. I was implementing a feature using Web Assembly and ran into a bunch of issues with SharedArrayBuffer. You've shed some much needed light on this, thanks.

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zophiel profile image
Zophiel

Does this solve loading in crossdomain media such as images or video's?

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stefnotch profile image
stefnotch Author

I'm reasonably sure that it doesn't. If I recall correctly, this "Enabling COOP/COEP" only works if mostly everything is on the same origin.

Loading crossorigin media still involves all of that fun developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/W...

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