What's New in Edge: Scoped Mass Assignment in Rails 3.1

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Security is important. You don’t want malicious users chatting on IRC about how they Pwnd your web application.

If you’re using Rails and you want to be secure, you should be protecting against mass assignment. Basically, without declaring attr_accessible or attr_protected, malicious users can set any column value in your database, including foreign keys and secure data.

Here’s a brief introduction to how mass assignment protection works. Let’s say you have a user that belongs to a group:

When I set group_id to be protected, I’m disallowing it to be set by mass assignment.

My recommended approach, however, is to always set a whitelist of mass assignable attributes with attr_accessible instead of a blacklist with attr_protected. That way, you don’t unintentionally leave a secure attribute unprotected.

This was a great addition to the Rails framework, but I always found myself wanting to conditionally protect attributes based on the state and authorization of my user. For example, I might want disallow users from setting their roles when they update their profiles, but I might want to allow admins to adjust their role via an administrative backend. This is how you can get it done in Rails 3.1

Along with this helpful change, you can also circumvent mass assignment protection entirely. This is useful, for example, if you’re loading data and you control the source.

You should really only use without_protection if you control the inputted attributes. It isn’t something you’d want to have in a controller action, generally speaking.

For more information on scoped mass assignment and additional attack vectors you should be securing against, check out the edge Rails guide on security

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