Security RPC XSRF

Cross-Site Request Forgery (XSRF or CSRF) is a type of web attack where an attacker can perform actions on behalf of an authenticated user without user’s knowledge. Typically, it involves crafting a malicious HTML page, which, once visited by a victim, will cause the victim’s browser to issue an attacker-controlled request to a third-party domain. If the victim is authenticated to the third-party domain, the request will be sent with the browser’s cookies for that domain, and could potentially trigger an undesirable action on behalf of the victim and without victim’s consent - for example, delete or modify a blog or add a mail forward rule.

This document explains how developers can protect GWT RPCs against XSRF attacking using GWT’s builtin XSRF protection introduced in GWT 2.3

  1. Overview
  2. Server-side changes
  3. Client-side changes


RPC XSRF protection is built using RpcToken feature, which lets a developer set a token on a RPC endpoint using HasRpcToken interface and have that token included with each RPC call made via that endpoint.

Default XSRF protection implementation derives XSRF token from a session authentication cookie by generating an MD5 hash of the session cookie value and using the resulting hash as XSRF token. This stateless XSRF protection implementation relies on the fact that attacker doesn’t have access to the session cookie and thus is unable to generate valid XSRF token.

Server-side changes

Configure XsrfTokenServiceServlet

Client-side code will obtain XSRF tokens by calling XsrfTokenService.getNewXsrfToken() server-side implementation configured in web.xml:


Since XSRF token is tied to an authentication session cookie, the name of that cookie must be passed to the XsrfTokenServiceServlet as well as all XSRF-protected RPC service servlets. This is done via context parameter in web.xml:


Note: Servlet initialization parameter (<init-param>) can also be used to pass the name of the session cookie to each servlet individually.

Make RPC servlets XSRF protected

All server-side implementations of RPC services must extend XsrfProtectedServiceServlet:



import com.example.client.MyService;

public class MyServiceImpl extends XsrfProtectedServiceServlet implements
    MyService {

  public String myMethod(String s) {
    // Do something interesting with 's' here on the server.
    return s;

Client-side changes

Make client RPC interfaces XSRF protected

Client-side RPC interfaces can be marked as XSRF protected using one of the following ways:



  public interface MyService extends XsrfProtectedService {
    public String myMethod(String s);
  • by explicitly annotating interface or methods with @XsrfProtect annotation. @NoXsrfProtect annotation can be used to disable XSRF protection on a method or service to disable XSRF protection:


  public interface MyService extends RemoteService {
    public String myMethod(String s);

Method level annotations override RPC interface level annoatations. If no annotations are present and the RPC interface contains a method that returns RpcToken or its implementation, then XSRF token validation is performed on all methods of that interface except for the method returning RpcToken.

Tip: To specify which RpcToken implementation GWT should generate serializers for use @RpcTokenImplementation annotation.

Include XsrfToken with RPC calls

To make a call to an XSRF protected service client must obtain a valid XsrfToken and set it on the service endpoint by casting the service’s asynchronous interface to HasRpcToken and calling setRpcToken() method:

XsrfTokenServiceAsync xsrf = (XsrfTokenServiceAsync)GWT.create(XsrfTokenService.class);
((ServiceDefTarget)xsrf).setServiceEntryPoint(GWT.getModuleBaseURL() + "xsrf");
xsrf.getNewXsrfToken(new AsyncCallback<XsrfToken>() {

  public void onSuccess(XsrfToken token) {
    MyServiceAsync rpc = (MyServiceAsync)GWT.create(MyService.class);
    ((HasRpcToken) rpc).setRpcToken(token);

    // make XSRF protected RPC call
    rpc.doStuff(new AsyncCallback<Void>() {
      // ...

  public void onFailure(Throwable caught) {
    try {
      throw caught;
    } catch (RpcTokenException e) {
      // Can be thrown for several reasons:
      //   - duplicate session cookie, which may be a sign of a cookie
      //     overwrite attack
      //   - XSRF token cannot be generated because session cookie isn't
      //     present
    } catch (Throwable e) {
      // unexpected

Tip: If you would like to register a special handler for exceptions generated during XsrfToken validation use HasRpcToken.setRpcTokenExceptionHandler()