AWS For Humans

AWS For Humans

Modifying AWS Cloudfront response headers with Cloudfront functions

Laurynas Tumosa's photo
Laurynas Tumosa
·May 23, 2021·

4 min read

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Adding custom HTTP response headers to cloudfront is quite a common task. E.g.: Your website might need a Content-Security-Policy header.

Doing this task in Cloudfront was not easy. You needed to setup a Lambda@Edge function that intercepts response requests and adds the required headers. It\'s not that difficult to setup Lambda@Edge but using Lambda functions to add a simple HTTP header to a response feels like a bit of overkill. I even wrote about this when the Cloudfront team asked for suggestions:

I was quite surprised when this morning I heard about a new feature called CloudFront Functions. This feature is supposed to make tasks like adding a custom HTTP header simpler. Let's see how it works!

Cloudfront Functions vs Lambda@Edge

Cloudfront Functions are actually quite similar to Lambda@Edge. The main difference is that Cloudfront Functions run at Cloudfront Edge locations. Wile despite the word Edge in Lambda@Eddge it runs at specific AWS regions. Lambda@Edge supports Node.js while Lambda@Edge allows running javascript (ECMAScript 5.1 so let and const keywords are not supported). I\'m a bit surprised on why AWS decided to use older Javascript standard. Maybe since the functions are supposed to be lightweight and short that's fine. Since Cloudfront functions run at Cloudfront edge locations and use more lightweight runtime it should be faster than Lambda@Edge. Cloudfront Functions also have some limitations like no network or file system access, limited execution time, etc. Adding a custom response headers doesn\'t require any of that so let\'s do that using a Cloudfront function.

Adding custom security header using a Cloudfront Function

The Cloudfront function that we will build will intercept the response from the Cloudfront origin(s3) and will modify it by adding a content-security-policy header.

I prefer to use Terraform to define all my AWS resources as code. At this time the feature is not supported yet. However, it looks like support will be coming soon to both Terraform and Cloudformation (or CDK). So let\'s try to create a cloudfront function using AWS console.

I already have a Cloudfront distribution set up with an S3 bucket as origin. Inside S3 bucket I have a simple index.html page. If I run curl command now I can see the following response:

$ curl -i m433vf9z12dm5ej.cloudfront.net
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: text/html
Content-Length: 63
Connection: keep-alive
Date: Tue, 04 May 2021 16:25:59 GMT
Last-Modified: Tue, 04 May 2021 16:24:27 GMT
ETag: "1cf70af742cc5258f37ac61772a0554f"
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Server: AmazonS3
X-Cache: Hit from cloudfront
Via: 1.1 2f7792bdc67f7953e2dce93aea1bb9ee.cloudfront.net (CloudFront)
X-Amz-Cf-Pop: ARN54-C1
X-Amz-Cf-Id: Vr8Td6stRKhJVAk2rA5XoitG_eKKlm3_TJq-Aob1isHfrF5hQ_HoSQ==
Age: 6

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<body>
  <h1>Hello</h1>
</body>
</html>

Let\'s add a custom Content Security Policy(CSP) header that controls what resources and from where the browser is allowed to load from. It\'s used for preventing Cross Site Scripting attacks.

First let\'s go to Cloudfront Console and create a new function: {{< figure src="/images/cf-1.png" title="Cloudfront Functions Console" >}}

Let\'s give our function a name add-scp-headers and click Continue.

Now let\'s replace the example code with this:

function handler(event) {
    var response = event.response;
    //add SCP header to the response
    response.headers['content-security-policy'] = {value: "default-src 'self'"};
    return response;
}

It simply modifies the cloudfront response and adds the CSP header to the response.

After clicking save, let\'s click on the Test tab.

Since this function modifies requests after they reach origin let\'s select Viewer response as event type. After clicking test we can see that content-security-policy header is successfully added as a response header. {{< figure src="/images/cf2.png" title="Cloudfront Function Test">}}

Let\'s click publish to publish a new version of your function.

Finally, click Associate, select your distribution Viewer Response as an event type and click add association. {{< figure src="/images/cf3.png" title="Cloudfront Function Association" >}}

After using curl on your Cloudfront distribution you should receive this:

curl -i m433vf9z12dm5ej.cloudfront.net
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: text/html
Content-Length: 63
Connection: keep-alive
Date: Tue, 04 May 2021 16:25:59 GMT
Last-Modified: Tue, 04 May 2021 16:24:27 GMT
Etag: "1cf70af742cc5258f37ac61772a0554f"
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Server: AmazonS3
Via: 1.1 990c1aa70667fe4e8f93d88ac8400fc5.cloudfront.net (CloudFront)
Content-Security-Policy: default-src 'self'
X-Cache: Hit from cloudfront
X-Amz-Cf-Pop: ARN54-C1
X-Amz-Cf-Id: 18gD7OMeCKCE-SieGM2ScxOSTgeBQaSXXYdvQ5L6VvmBXDb8j_s69w==

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<body>
  <h1>Hello</h1>
</body>
</html>

Conclusion

To be honest, CF Functions is not a solution I expected when I tweeted about custom security headers. I thought it could be possible to simply have a section in cloudfront where you can specify the custom headers without needing to write any Javascript code.

However, Cloudfront functions is still a more convenient tool than Lambda@Edge if you need to do simple tasks like modifying response or request headers. It\'s more simple to use and provides simplified debugging, deployment, and monitoring options. I plan to migrate all my Lambda@Edge code to Cloudfront Functions.

Personally, I think that having multiple ways to work with Cloudfront(Lambda@Edge and CF Functions) adds some complexity but CF functions looks like a great tool when you don\'t need full capabilities of Lambda and also provides a nicer developer experience.

Further reading

For more info on CF Functions you can read official launch blog. You can also read official AWS documentation here

Update:

I wanted to write this blog post as I found no resources on how to add security headers using Cloudfront functions. As of now AWS also have a very cool page with example cloudfront functions.

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