In the world of web development and security, Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) is a term that you’ve probably come across. So, what is it exactly? Simply put, CSRF is a type of malicious exploit where unauthorized commands are transmitted from a user that the web application trusts. It’s like a wolf in sheep’s clothing – making it tricky to identify and prevent.
That’s where ColdFusion comes into play. This rapid web application development platform plays a crucial role in building effective security measures against CSRF attacks. However, securing ColdFusion applications isn’t as simple as ticking checkboxes on your to-do list; it requires strategic planning and execution.
Let’s delve into understanding CSRF better and how to secure your ColdFusion applications against this ever-evolving threat.

What is CSRF (Cross Site Request Forgery) Attack?

In Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF), which is also called one-click attack or session riding, the attacker forces the victim’s browser to execute unwanted actions on a web application in which he/she is currently authenticated. If the session for that web application has not timed out, an attacker may execute unauthorized commands. Though CSRF has some pre-conditions that an attacker must set in place before he succeeds, it is an important attack to understand and protect against. In simple words, CSRF vulnerabilities occur when the web application cannot distinguish legitimate requests from forged requests. CSRF is rated among the 10 most critical web application security flaws in OWASP’s Top 10 project. CSRF attack is possible with both POST and GET requests.

Traditionally, applications are being protected against CSRF attack using Captcha. But, what if you have an alternative where you need not enter a verification code, no hassle of user errors while entering the security codes and keep your form clean? Awesome! This is now possible with ColdFusion 10.

In ColdFusion 10, two new functions – CSRFGenerateToken() and CSRFVerifyToken() are added to protect your ColdFusion web application against a CSRF attack. Here is an example on how to add the CSRF protection.


<cfset csrftoken= CSRFGenerateToken()/>

<cfform method="post" action="loginAction.cfm">
<cfinput name="csrftoken" type="hidden" value="#csrfToken#">
Login ID: <cfinput name="loginID" type="text"><br/>
Password: <cfinput name="password" type="password"><br/>
<cfinput name="Submit" type="submit" value="Sign In">


<cfif (not isdefined("form.csrfToken")) or (not CSRFVerifyToken(form.csrfToken))>
Sorry, invalid Login ID or Password
<!--- logic for authenticated user goes here --->

There are lot other security enhancements in ColdFusion 10 on which we’ll discuss in future articles. Meanwhile, if you have any questions or need help in securing your ColdFusion application, don’t hesitate to reach us.

Exploring the CSRF Attack Vectors

Let’s dive into the murky waters of CSRF attack vectors, unraveling the methods hackers use to exploit vulnerabilities in your system.

CSRF attack vectors mainly involve tricking a victim into making an unwanted request to a web application in which they’re authenticated. This is typically done by embedding malicious scripts or URL redirections in web pages that seem harmless.

Hackers can also use social engineering tactics, like sending a link via email or chat that, when clicked, carries out a specific action on the targeted website.

The victim’s browser automatically includes any cookies pertaining to the site in the request, so if the user is logged in, their credentials will be included. This allows the attacker to impersonate the user and perform actions on their behalf without their knowledge or consent.

The real danger lies in the fact that from the web application’s perspective, the requests appear legitimate since they’re associated with the user’s session. This makes CSRF attacks notoriously hard to detect and prevent.

Identifying the CSRF Threats

You might be wondering how to spot these sneaky CSRF threats lurking in your system, right?

Identifying CSRF threats can be a bit tricky, especially because these attacks are often invisible to both users and web applications. They take advantage of the trust a site has for a user, not the user’s trust in the site, which makes them difficult to detect.

Typically, CSRF attacks are hidden in malicious emails, ads, or sites that appear legitimate but are designed to trick the user into performing an action on your site without their knowledge or consent. If your web application processes requests without verifying the source, you might fall victim to a CSRF attack.

To identify these threats, it’s important to regularly examine your server logs for suspicious activity and to use security tools that can scan for vulnerabilities. Look for patterns of unusual behavior, such as multiple requests coming from a single IP address or large numbers of identical requests.

Additionally, pay attention to the referrer headers in HTTP requests. If a request for your site is coming from an unrelated site, it might be a CSRF attack.

By being vigilant and proactive, you can help protect your ColdFusion application from CSRF threats.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the best way to detect a CSRF attack?
The best way to detect a CSRF attack is by using anti-CSRF tokens. These are random, unique values associated with a user’s session and are typically embedded within web forms. When the form is submitted, the server checks if the token matches the one associated with that user’s session. If they don’t match, it might be a CSRF attack.

2. Is CSRF a serious security threat?
Yes, Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) is a serious security threat. It tricks the victim into submitting a malicious request. It uses the identity and privileges of the victim to perform an undesired function on their behalf, like changing their email address or password, which can lead to data theft or loss.

3. What should I do if I suspect a CSRF attack?
If you suspect a CSRF attack, immediately stop all activity on the site. Clear your browser’s cookies and cache to remove any malicious scripts. Change your passwords for all accounts accessed during that session. Finally, report your suspicion to the website’s administrators so they can investigate and fix any potential security issues.

4. Are there any tools to help me protect my ColdFusion application?
Yes, there are tools that can help you secure your ColdFusion application. One of them is the OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) CSRF Guard. It is a tool that can prevent Cross-Site Request Forgery attacks on your web application by inserting unique tokens into every request.

5. How often should I update my ColdFusion security model?
You should update your ColdFusion security model regularly, ideally every time a new patch or update is released by Adobe. This can help protect your application from new threats and vulnerabilities. So, it’s like updating your phone when a new software version comes out to keep it secure and efficient.


Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) is a dangerous type of attack that can be used to compromise the security of a ColdFusion application.

It’s important for organizations to understand the various attack vectors associated with CSRF and identify potential threats in order to protect their applications.

By understanding the ColdFusion security model, organizations can implement effective strategies for securing their applications against CSRF attacks.

Organizations that take the time to properly secure their applications against CSRF attacks will be better equipped to provide a safe and secure online experience for their users.

References: ColdFusion Security Improvements, Fragile Security