Skip to main content
Version: v0.7

Common Cookie and CSRF Pitfalls

Because Ory Kratos is not just an API, but instead talks to your users' browsers directly, several security measures have been implemented in Ory Kratos. One of them is protection against CSRF:

CSRF is an attack that tricks the victim into submitting a malicious request. It inherits the identity and privileges of the victim to perform an undesired function on the victim’s behalf. For most sites, browser requests automatically include any credentials associated with the site, such as the user’s session cookie, IP address, Windows domain credentials, and so forth. Therefore, if the user is currently authenticated to the site, the site will have no way to distinguish between the forged request sent by the victim and a legitimate request sent by the victim.

Source

To protect against CSRF, several endpoints are protected by Anti-CSRF measures. Typically, endpoints accepting POST, DELTE, PUT actions have Anti-CSRF measures. When rendering a form for example, a <input type="hidden" name="csrf_token" value="..."> HTML Input Element is added. Ory Kratos compares that value to the value set in the Anti-CSRF Cookie. If the values match, the request is allowed.

Ory Kratos uses HTTP Cookies to store login sessions when accessed via a browser.

Common Pitfalls#

Sometimes, cookies and CSRF just wont work - all requests end up with a 401 Unauthorized or 400 Bad Request. Here are some common causes and easy fixes if that happens to you!

Before starting to debug cookie and CSRF issues, make sure to check out the Chrome Developer Tools (or any comparable technology) Cookies tabs in the Application tab

Google Chrome Developer Tools - Application Tab - Cookies

as well as the network tab - look for Cookie and Set-Cookie HTTP Headers:

Google Chrome Developer Tools - Network Tab - Cookies

SameSite Attribute#

If you run Ory Kratos in --dev mode, it disables SameSite=Lax as Google Chrome rejects all cookies that have SameSite=Lax but have secure set to false. If you require SameSite=Lax, you need to run Ory Kratos with HTTPS and not use the --dev flag.

Ory Kratos running over HTTP without dev-mode enabled#

Ory Kratos' cookies have the Secure flag enabled by default. This means that the browser will not send the cookie unless the URL is a HTTPS URL. If you want Ory Kratos to work with HTTP (e.g. on localhost) you can add the --dev flag: kratos serve --dev.

Do not do this in production!

Running on separate (sub-)domains#

Cookies work best on the same domain. While it is possible to get cookies running on subdomains it is not possible to do that across Top Level Domains (TLDs).

Make sure that your application (e.g. the SecureApp from the quickstart) and Ory Krato's Public API are available on the same domain - preferably without subdomains. Hosting both systems and routing paths with a Reverse Proxy such as Nginx or Envoy or AWS API Gateway is the best solution. For example, routing https://my-website/kratos/... to Ory Kratos and https://my-website/dashboard to the SecureApp's Dashboard. Alternatively you can use piping in your app as we do in the Quickstart guide.

We do not recommend running them on separate subdomains, e.g. https://kratos.my-website/ and https://secureapp.my-website/).

Running the apps on different TLDs will not work at all, e.g. e.g. https://kratos-my-website/ and https://secureapp-my-website/.

Running the services on different ports however is ok, if the domain stays the same.

Mixing up 127.0.0.1 and localhost#

As already explained, make sure that the TLD stays the same. This is especially true for 127.0.0.1 and localhost which are both separate TLDs. Make sure that you use 127.0.0.1 or localhost consistently across your configuration!

Trying to access Ory Kratos Cookies from client-side JavaScript#

The cookies Ory Kratos sets cannot be accessed directly from Client-Side JavaScript because the HttpOnly flag is set. This flag cannot be modified!

Accessing Ory Kratos APIs from client-side JavaScript / AJAX#

When implementing a Single Page App (SPA) using AngularJS or ReactJS you probably want to access Ory Krato's Public APIs.

To prevent several attack vectors, Ory Krato's Public API is protected - even for some GET requests - with Anti-CSRF measures.

Because AJAX does not send cookies per default, you need to configure your AJAX request to include cookies. Using the Browser's fetch function, you need to set credentials: 'include' for example.

Accessing Ory Kratos APIs from a server-side application#

When implementing a server-side application (e.g. in PHP, Java, Go, NodeJS, ...) make sure to include the Cookie header from the client when fetching the self-service flows (e.g. GET /self-service/login/flows?id=...):

export default (req: Request, res: Response) => {  // ...  kratos.getSelfServiceLoginFlow(flow, req.header('cookie'))}

A complete example looks as follows:

https://raw.githubusercontent.com/ory/kratos-selfservice-ui-node/master/src/routes/login.ts

Without forwarding the Cookie HTTP Header it will not be possible to fetch the flow due to a security error. This protection prevents accidental leak of personal information when users copy/paste, for example, the login URL.