VirtualSpirit's Perspective: Ruby on Rails Apps Security Guide
Published at August 04, 2023

When developing a website application, one of the top priorities should be security. It's crucial to protect customer data and prevent potential vulnerabilities like content spoofing in your Ruby on Rails app. 

Whether you're upgrading an existing Ruby on Rails product or planning a new one using this technology, it's essential to explore the security mechanisms available to safeguard your business and customer data.

The ability to withstand security threats is a crucial aspect of web projects, especially for businesses operating in industries with strict security regulations. 

Considering the potential challenges, building a secure Rails application offers significant advantages. 

By implementing the best practices for Ruby on Rails Security, you ensure a smooth web development process with the highest level of protection. 

An Overview of Ruby on Rails

Ruby on Rails is a web application development framework that employs the Ruby programming language. Yukihiro Matsumoto ("Matz") created it in 1995 with the intention of making it object-oriented, developer-friendly, and intuitive.  

Ruby, the underlying programming language, is also open-source, versatile, portable, and highly demanding. 

It employs the MVC ( Model-View-Controller) that involves the components of the model, the view, and the controller.

When to Check Your Ruby on Rails Application's Security?

Regularly check your Ruby on Rails app's security for potential vulnerabilities and compliance with standards. 

For example, evaluate after significant changes, new features, security incidents, increased user base, and vulnerability reports in your Ruby on Rails application. Keep your app protected and instil confidence in your users.

Ruby on Rails Apps Security Features: Best Practices

Ruby on Rails Apps security features

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Ruby on Rails is widely praised for its strength in security. It comes with several built-in security features to protect web applications from common vulnerabilities.

Understanding these features is essential for developers and business owners to make the most of the framework's security capabilities.

1. Protecting from Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) 

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) is a common attack where bad actors inject harmful scripts into web pages seen by other users.

Ruby on Rails tackles this by automatically encoding user-generated content. When data is shown in views, Ruby on Rails ensures that any harmful scripts appear as plain text, keeping XSS attacks at bay.

2. Enforcing SSL

We have the capability to ensure that the Rails application operates on a secure network using the HTTPS protocol. This configuration accomplishes the following:

It automatically redirects requests for the HTTP version of the app to the HTTPS protocol every time.

The internet browser is instructed to exclusively remember the app as Transport Layer Security (TLS)-only, which is an extension of the HTTPS protocol.

A secure flag is set on cookies, preventing browsers from sending cookies with HTTP requests.

3. Protecting from SQL Injection Attacks

SQL injection attacks are one of the common web app attacks. It occurs when attackers insert malicious SQL statements into input fields, allowing them to gain unauthorised access to, or manipulate, the application's database.

Ruby on Rails actively guards against SQL injection attacks by using parameterised queries. It separates parameters from the SQL statement, ensuring that user input is treated strictly as data, with no chance of executing any harmful code. 

This active approach effectively shields Ruby on Rails from potential SQL injection vulnerabilities, enhancing the overall resilience of the web application against such malicious exploits. 

4. CSRF Protection with Authenticity Tokens

Ruby on Rails provides robust protection against web app vulnerabilities such as Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) attacks. This safeguard is achieved by incorporating a token called "authenticity_token" in HTML responses, which is then stored in the user's session cookies. 

The session consists of a hash of values and session IDs, all of which are included in the cookies.

As a result, each cookie sent to the user's browser contains the session ID, represented as a 32-character string. 

5. Model View Controller (MVC) 

Cross-site scripting vulnerabilities can arise when a website neglects to properly sanitise user input, such as HTML, JavaScript, or VBScript. But, in Ruby on Rails, ensuring the sanitisation of users' input becomes straightforward. 

Within this pattern, all data that is retrieved or stored passes through a model, allowing for automatic and effective sanitisation of user input.

Moreover, additional measures can be taken to enhance security by sanitising input or output within the view using the "sanitise" method. When using this method, all tags are encoded, and any blacklisted tags are entirely removed.

Hence, it guarantees that no potentially harmful or unwanted content can bypass security measures.

6. CORS (Cross-Origin Resource Sharing)

CORS, also known as Cross-Origin Resource Sharing, actively defines the scope of interactivity between the application's API and external web resources from different origins. 

By installing the "rack-cors" gem, you can take charge of configuring CORS in your Ruby on Rails application. 

Further, create a file named "cors.rb" in the "initialiser" directory to proactively define the specific endpoints or resources that the website is permitted to access.

This active setup empowers you to control and restrict API access, ensuring that only trusted and authorised websites can make requests. With a strong CORS policy in place, potential security risks like cross-origin attacks are actively mitigated. 

Securing Your Ruby on Rails Apps with VirtualSpirit

At VirtualSpirit, we understand the importance of securing your web and mobile apps to safeguard sensitive data and protect against potential threats.

With our expertise in Ruby on Rails, we implement customised security measures to ensure your applications remain resilient against common vulnerabilities like Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF), and SQL injection attacks. 

Our proactive approach includes continuous monitoring for emerging threats and prompt application of updates and patches to keep your apps fortified. Discuss your Ruby on Rails app project here

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