Building Open Source GraphQL Security

Nohé Hinniger-Foray

Open-Source GraphQL Security, Importance & Tools

Open-source principles have forged GraphQL as a standard, it’s ecosystem and community. Bringing value via transparency and collective knowledge as well as empowering the community with tools and practices to build better, bigger & more efficient APIs from day to day. Now that GraphQL APIs are well-established and with a lots of queries on a daily basis, ensuring their security becomes crucial.

In this exploration, we’ll dive into how these open-source practices are important and benefits for the security of GraphQL and which community tools you can leverage today to secure your APIs.

GraphQL Is Open-Source at Its Core

The inception and evolution of GraphQL are intrinsically tied to the principles of open-source, ensuring it flourished not just as a query language but as a community-driven initiative progressing toward broader, unified API development standards. From its public specifiction release in 2015 by Facebook to its transition to the GraphQL Foundation in 2018—hosted by the Linux Foundation—its journey has been transparent and collaborative.

While the GraphQL specification paved the way for consistent and efficient API queries, the open-source community enhanced this original draft further. Take the Relay Pagination Specification, for instance, which streamlines how pagination can be handled in GraphQL (among other React specific features), providing a standard methodology that developers can rely on. Similarly, the introduction of custom directives allowed GraphQL to become more flexible and adaptable to specific use-cases, like the @rest directive or @live queries.

Moreover, the vast majority of widespread GraphQL tools have and are being built under open-source licences. Servers implementations, frontend clients, utilities like schema management, code generation or even fully fledged API platforms are legion. You can find a comphrensive list of such tools on the website. The Guild are also masters when it comes to GrahpQL & Open-source and their tools come highly recommended.

For instance, as GraphQL is transport agnostic, it can be used with any protocol, a tremendous amount of open-source tools have been built to leverage this flexibility, especially by @enisdenjo: graphql-http graphql-ws graphql-sse

I can also mention the work on unified APIs via GraphQL federation that is also under active open-source development, with the Open-Federation initiative, and upcoming GraphQL Fusion specification.

And last but not least, the GraphQL community is also very community centered, wether via the GraphQL working group or the various events and meetups such as the GraphQL Conf.

In essence, GraphQL isn’t simply open-source in its availability but embodies open-source in its ongoing development, enhancements, and community engagement, perpetually enriching its ecosystem with diverse inputs, insights, and innovations.

The Importance of Open Source and Public Resources in Security

Keeping the internet safe is a big challenge. It’s like a tightly connected place with lots of potential threats. Open source and public tools have been doing a great job at protecting it for years.

Cybersecurity thrives on collaboration, exemplified by the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) system. This public database acts as a central repository for known cybersecurity threats, allowing for quick dissemination and response. By making vulnerabilities public, the CVE system ensures timely and widespread implementation of security measures. For instance, the identification and patching of the Heartbleed bug in OpenSSL was significantly aided by the CVE system, showcasing its effectiveness in promoting rapid response.

Open source plays a crucial role in cybersecurity by fostering an environment of transparency and collaboration. It allows for the open identification and resolution of vulnerabilities, benefiting the entire digital ecosystem. For example, the Linux Kernel, known for its security, continually improves through community contributions. Similarly, tools like Kali Linux offer insights into offensive cybersecurity strategies, helping developers strengthen their defenses.

This combination of open source and CVE is especially vital in areas like GraphQL and API security, providing a foundation for robust, adaptable cybersecurity strategies. Through shared knowledge and tools, open source and CVE create a proactive defense against evolving cyber threats.

In a field like cybersecurity, where dangers morph quickly, having shared knowledge, united alertness, and available-to-all tools become an essential shield against potential attacks. The marriage of open source and cybersecurity offers a lively platform for ongoing learning, changing, and sharing attack and defense mechanisms, crafting a global, united front against cyber threats.

Moving forward, we’ll dive into how this perfect pairing of open source and cybersecurity is crucial, not just relevant, for GraphQL and API security. We’ll highlight practical tools and strategies you can use today to protect your applications.

Open Source GraphQL Security Ressources & Tools

There are many GraphQL open-source tools available to help developers and businesses defend against possible cybersecurity threats. From defensive measures that shield sensitive data to offensive tools aimed at identifying vulnerabilities, the open-source community has build invaluable resources to cover a wide variedy of cyber-security needs.

Learning Tools & Resources: Armoring with Knowledge

In the sphere of cybersecurity, especially concerning GraphQL, the adage ‘knowledge is power’ is paramount. Continual learning, embracing best practices, and leveraging insights from the community is an essential shield to secure APIs against vulnerabilities.

  1. Best Practices

    • Persisted/Trusted queries: This feature allows you to save bandwidth and improve performance by sending a hash of the query instead of the full query. It also has a huge impact on security, as it prevents attackers from sending arbitrary queries to your server. Check GraphQL Yoga persisted operations
    • 9 GraphQL Security Best Practices: Dive into Escape’s comprehensive guide which unveils nine pivotal security best practices, presenting a blend of actionable insights and theoretical knowledge to fortify GraphQL implementations against potential threats.
    • The Guild’s best practices article: While this resource by The Guild isn’t strictly security-focused, it provides invaluable best practices on GraphQL clients that, when adeptly applied, augment the robustness and efficiency of GraphQL APIs, subsequently enhancing their inherent security.
    • Official authorization docs The official GraphQL documentation provides a comprehensive guide to authorization, which is a crucial aspect of security in your API. Generally speaking, knowing the specification and documentation is a key to understanding how your application works and therefore how to secure it.
  2. API Security Academy

    The API Security Academy, an open-source platform developed by Escape, navigates through the multifaceted world of GraphQL security. A wellspring of knowledge, it offers structured learning paths, exploring vulnerabilities, attack vectors, and preventive strategies, thereby forging a security-savvy developer who can intuitively construct and validate secure APIs.

  3. Blogs and More

    Explore the many insights and experiences shared by experts through different channels:

    • Blogs: Immerse yourself in rich content through blogs from Escape and The Guild, offering a spectrum of perspectives, learnings, and strategies around GraphQL and cybersecurity.
    • Videos: Discover visual insights through a collection of videos curated by GraphQL WTF. Although not strictly centered around security, understanding various facets of GraphQL enhances your capability to architect, implement, and secure GraphQL APIs more effectively.

Online security is always changing, often at a rapid pace. By adhering to best practices, engaging with learning platforms and tapping into the collective knowledge shared through blogs and videos, we arm ourselves and our APIs against the multifaceted cybersecurity threats that persist in the digital realm.

This path of continuous learning and adaptation ensures that as developers and cybersecurity professionals, we remain up to date to secure our GraphQL APIs against both prevalent and emerging threats.

Defensive Tools

  1. GraphQL Armor

    Developed by our tech team at Escape, GraphQL Armor is a middleware plugin designed to be an immediate security upgrade for your GraphQL server. Acting like a personal bodyguard for your data, it integrates seamlessly with Envelop — a flexible plugin system introduced by The Guild for crafting high-quality, performant GraphQL extensions. GraphQL Armor adheres to the ethos of providing accessible, user-friendly security solutions that can be efficiently integrated into your GraphQL setup, safeguarding it from potential vulnerabilities and threats.

  2. GraphQL Shield

    GraphQL Shield empowers developers with a permission layer for applications, securing APIs by utilizing an intuitive rule-API that activates the Shield engine on every request. Moreover, it smartly caches data to keep your application sprightly and ensures internal data remains under wraps, enhancing both performance and security.

With open-source defensive tools like GraphQL Armor and GraphQL Shield, businesses and developers can reinforce the security of their GraphQL APIs, protecting data and operations from unauthorized access and potential malicious activities. Navigating through the extensive open-source ecosystem and leveraging these security tools not only fortifies your GraphQL APIs but also enriches the collective knowledge and defense mechanisms of the community, aligning with the spirit of collaborative development and security.

In the upcoming section, we’ll delve into offensive tools and resources for learning to equip you with a holistic arsenal for safeguarding your GraphQL APIs.

Offensive Tools: A Proactive Step towards Fortified Defense

When it comes to ensuring an unbreakable security perimeter, adopting an offensive approach is pivotal. By putting our defenses to the test and simulating possible attacks, we preemptively expose potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses before they can be exploited maliciously. This strategy is basically following the idea: the best defense is a good offense. Let’s uncover two powerful open-source tools that allow us to proactively secure our GraphQL APIs by adopting an offensive stance.

  1. Goctopus

    Say hello to Goctopus, our open-source GraphQL endpoint discovery and fingerprinting tool. This tentacled marvel meticulously hunts down GraphQL endpoints, fingerprinting their authentication methods and schema availability, ensuring not a single detail slips through its grasp. Built by the Escape team, Goctopus lends developers and businesses a watchful eye, enabling them to identify and comprehend the specifics of GraphQL endpoints with precision, ensuring that they can reinforce any possible points of vulnerability within their organization before they become a target.

  2. Clairvoyance

    Meet Clairvoyance, a savvy tool designed to peek into GraphQL APIs even when introspection is disabled, which is a common security measure (e.g., Apollo Server automatically disables introspection in production environments). Clairvoyance subtly and skillfully retrieves schema information from these APIs, providing developers with insights into the API structure and potential vulnerability points. This becomes particularly vital when dealing with APIs that have sought to shield their schema details as a security measure.

Both Goctopus and Clairvoyance offer distinctive capabilities, allowing developers and cybersecurity professionals to proactively and meticulously assess and bolster their GraphQL API defenses. By utilizing these offensive tools, we position ourselves a step ahead, ensuring that our APIs are not just constructed with security in mind but are continually assessed and enhanced to defend against evolving cybersecurity threats.

As we move forward, our journey will venture into open-source learning resources and best practices in GraphQL security, ensuring that your armory is not just stocked with tools but also with knowledge and strategies to implement them effectively.

Wrapping up and Joining Forces

Huge shoutout to The Guild for hosting this dive into the depths of GraphQL and open-source magic. Their work, and the work of countless others in our robust community, propels GraphQL to new heights daily. Your code, knowledge, and keen eyes are the gears moving this ecosystem forward.

But hey, let’s not stop there! Contribute, Engage, Elevate. That’s the open-source mantra. Your expertise could well be the next big leap forward for GraphQL tools and platforms. Check out these awesome GraphQL projects on and the Awesome GraphQL security list! Here at Escape, our open-source initiatives and SaaS solutions are all about injecting the GraphQL space with robust, unshakeable security defenses. But it’s a team sport, and every contribution counts.

Let’s keep the momentum, elevate our game in cybersecurity, and shape a future where GraphQL isn’t just powerful and efficient but an unassailable fortress in API development.

Thanks for tagging along on this adventure. Together, let’s build a safer, and better GraphQL ecosystem.

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