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§Allowed hosts filter

Play provides a filter that lets you configure which hosts can access your application. This is useful to prevent cache poisoning attacks. For a detailed description of how this attack works, see this blog post. The filter introduces a whitelist of allowed hosts and sends a 400 (Bad Request) response to all requests with a host that do not match the whitelist.

This is an important filter to use even in development, because DNS rebinding attacks can be used against a developer’s instance of Play: see Rails Webconsole DNS Rebinding for an example of how short lived DNS rebinding can attack a server running on localhost.

Note that if you are running a functional test against a Play application which has the AllowedHostsFilter, then FakeRequest and Helpers.fakeRequest() will create a request which already has HOST set to localhost.

§Enabling the allowed hosts filter

Note: As of Play 2.6.x, the Allowed Hosts filter is included in Play’s list of default filters that are applied automatically to projects. See the Filters page for more information.

To enable the filter manually, add the allowed hosts filter to your filters in application.conf:

play.filters.enabled += play.filters.hosts.AllowedHostsFilter

§Configuring allowed hosts

You can configure which hosts the filter allows using application.conf. See the Play filters reference.conf to see the defaults.

play.filters.hosts.allowed is a list of strings of the form .example.com or example.com. With a leading dot, the pattern will match example.com and all subdomains (www.example.com, foo.example.com, foo.bar.example.com, etc.). Without the leading dot it will just match the exact domain. If your application runs on a specific port, you can also include a port number, for instance .example.com:8080.

You can use the . pattern to match all hosts (not recommended in production). Note that the filter also strips the dot character from the end of the host, so the example.com pattern will match example.com.

An example configuration follows.

play.filters.hosts {
  # Allow requests to example.com, its subdomains, and localhost:9000.
  allowed = [".example.com", "localhost:9000"]
}

§Applying to routes via route modifiers

You may find that some of your routes can not be used properly with allowed hosts filtering. This is commonly the case for load balancer health checks, which often use the IP address of the server as the host name. Rather than completely disabling this important safety feature, you can use the route modifier whitelist to exclude the problematic routes from the filter while leaving it on by default.

For example, the default configuration defines an anyhost route tag, which can be used to exclude one or more routes from the filter.

play.filters.hosts.routeModifiers.whiteList = [anyhost]

With this configuration, routes tagged with anyhost will be exempt from the allowed hosts filter, for instance, your routes file may look like this:

+anyhost
GET           /healthcheck          controllers.HealthController.healthcheck

If the whitelist is empty and the blacklist is defined, the allowed hosts filter will only be applied to hosts defined in the blacklist. For example, the following config will only apply the allowed hosts filter to routes tagged with external.

play.filters.hosts.routeModifiers.whiteList = []
play.filters.hosts.routeModifiers.blackList = [external]

With this configuration, your routes file might look like this:

+external
GET           /                     controllers.HomeController.index
GET           /healthcheck          controllers.HealthController.healthcheck

§Testing

Because the AllowedHostsFilter filter is added automatically, functional tests need to have the Host HTTP header added.

If you are using FakeRequest or Helpers.fakeRequest, then the Host HTTP header is added for you automatically. If you are using play.mvc.Http.RequestBuilder, then you may need to add your own line to add the header manually:

Http.RequestBuilder request =
    new Http.RequestBuilder()
        .method(GET)
        .header(Http.HeaderNames.HOST, "localhost")
        .uri("/xx/Kiwi");

Next: Configuring HTTPS redirect