Rails IP Spoofing Vulnerabilities and Protection

I’ve recently bumped into an interesting post about a stackoverflow vulnerability discovered by Anthony Ferrara. I didn’t think too much about it. I’ve come across similar issues before, where the application relies on a piece of information that might be easy to forge. Telephony systems are vulnerable to Caller ID spoofing, which becomes increasingly easier with Voice-Over-IP providers. Web based applications can also be fooled if they rely on header information, such as the X-Forwarded-For, typically used by Proxy servers.

I was experimenting with switching rails from Phusion Passenger to Unicorn, when I suddenly came across a strange error message:

    ActionDispatch::RemoteIp::IpSpoofAttackError (IP spoofing attack?!HTTP_CLIENT_IP=""HTTP_X_FORWARDED_FOR=""): app/controllers/application_controller.rb:138:in `append_info_to_payload'

That looked quite impressive. Rails is trying to identify spoofing attacks and raise an exception when it happens? Nice.

However, after digging a little deeper, trying to figure out what’s actually happening, it seems that Rails might actually be vulnerable to spoofing attacks under certain setups. I will try to describe those scenarios and suggest a few workarounds to avoid any pitfalls.

What I observed applies to Rails latest stable (3.2.9 at the time of writing), previous versions and potentially future versions as well (including 4.0).


Your rails application might be vulnerable to IP spoofing. To test it, try to add a fake X-Forwarded-For header and check which IP address appears in your log files.


curl -H "X-Forwarded-For:" http://your.website.com

You can try to implement one of the workarounds mentioned below.

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I’m not pinterested in spam

Just a quick rant this time.

I recently signed-up for pinterest. I wasn’t actually interested in signing-up, but wanted to see what their sign-up process looks like. If you’ve read one of my previous posts, you’d know I nearly always use unique, unpredictable email addresses for new services I sign-up to. Pinterest registration is quite nice, and only asks for a few details and an email address (that is, if you prefer a username and password instead of using Facebook or Twitter to login). Once you enter the details, pinterest sends you a Please verify your email message to your inbox. So far, so good.

However, what happens if you don’t verify your email? As was the case here. I wasn’t actually interested in creating an account. I assumed that I won’t hear from pinterest again. Wrong. I just received an email from pinterest, announcing their new secret boards. So much for confirming my account. According to Spamhaus, this is considered unconfirmed opt-in which is categorized as spam.

To add insult to injury, if I try to opt-out from the email I just received, Pinterest asks me to login to my (unconfirmed) account. These are all small annoyances, I know. But is it really that difficult to do things right? An unconfirmed account should not receive any messages. Opt-out links should just be one click and that’s it.