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RFC 7034

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HTTP Header Field X-Frame-Options


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Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)                           D. Ross
Request for Comments: 7034                                     Microsoft
Category: Informational                                       T. Gondrom
ISSN: 2070-1721                                           Thames Stanley
                                                            October 2013

                   HTTP Header Field X-Frame-Options


   To improve the protection of web applications against clickjacking,
   this document describes the X-Frame-Options HTTP header field, which
   declares a policy, communicated from the server to the client
   browser, regarding whether the browser may display the transmitted
   content in frames that are part of other web pages.

Status of This Memo

   This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
   published for informational purposes.

   This document is a product of the Internet Engineering Task Force
   (IETF).  It represents the consensus of the IETF community.  It has
   received public review and has been approved for publication by the
   Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG).  Not all documents
   approved by the IESG are a candidate for any level of Internet
   Standard; see Section 2 of RFC 5741.

   Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
   and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2013 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   ( in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must
   include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of
   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the Simplified BSD License.

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Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  3
     1.1.  Requirements Language  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  3
   2.  X-Frame-Options Header . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  4
     2.1.  Syntax . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  4
     2.2.  Augmented Backus-Naur Form (ABNF)  . . . . . . . . . . . .  5
       2.2.1.  Examples of X-Frame-Options  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  6
     2.3.  Design Issues  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  6
       2.3.1.  Enable HTML Content from Other Domains . . . . . . . .  6
       2.3.2.  Browser Behavior and Processing  . . . . . . . . . . .  6  Violation of X-Frame-Options . . . . . . . . . . .  6  Variation in Current Browser Behavior  . . . . . .  7  Usage Design Pattern and Example Scenario for
                   the ALLOW-FROM Parameter . . . . . . . . . . . . .  8  No Caching of the X-Frame-Options Header . . . . .  8
   3.  IANA Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  9
     3.1.  Registration Template  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  9
   4.  Security Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  9
     4.1.  Privacy Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
   5.  References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
     5.1.  Normative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
     5.2.  Informative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
   Appendix A.  Browsers That Support X-Frame-Options . . . . . . . . 13
   Appendix B.  Description of a Clickjacking Attack  . . . . . . . . 13
     B.1.  Shop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
     B.2.  Online Shop Confirm Purchase Page  . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
     B.3.  Flash Configuration  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
   Appendix C.  Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

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1.  Introduction

   In 2009 and 2010, many browser vendors ([Microsoft-X-Frame-Options],
   [CLICK-DEFENSE-BLOG], and [Mozilla-X-Frame-Options]) introduced the
   use of a non-standard HTTP [RFC2616] header field "X-Frame-Options"
   to protect against clickjacking [Clickjacking].  HTML-based web
   applications can embed or "frame" other web pages.  Clickjacking is a
   type of attack that occurs when an attacker uses multiple transparent
   or opaque layers in the user interface to trick a user into clicking
   on a button or link on another page from server B when they were
   intending to click on the same place of the overlaying page from
   server A.  Thus, the attacker is "hijacking" clicks meant for page A
   and routing them to page B.  The attacker is tricking the user (who
   sees the overlaying user interface content from page A) into clicking
   specific locations on the underlying page from server B, triggering
   some actions on server B and potentially using an existing session
   context in that step.  This is an attack on both the user and on
   server B.  In addition, server A may or may not be the attacker.

   This specification provides informational documentation about the
   current use and definition of the X-Frame-Options HTTP header field.
   As described in Section, not all browsers implement
   X-Frame-Options in exactly the same way, which can lead to unintended
   results.  And, given that the "X-" construction is deprecated
   [RFC6648], the X-Frame-Options header field will be replaced in the
   future by the Frame-Options directive in the Content Security Policy
   (CSP) version 1.1 [CSP-1-1].

   A study [FRAME-BUSTING] demonstrated that existing anti-clickjacking
   measures, e.g., frame-breaking JavaScript, have weaknesses that allow
   their protection to be circumvented.

   Short of configuring the browser to disable frames and scripts
   entirely, which massively impairs browser utility, browser users are
   vulnerable to this type of attack.

   The use of "X-Frame-Options" allows a web page from host B to declare
   that its content (for example, a button, links, text, etc.) must not
   be displayed in a frame (<frame> or <iframe>) of another page (e.g.,
   from host A).  This is done by a policy declared in the HTTP header
   and enforced by browser implementations as documented here.

1.1.  Requirements Language

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [RFC2119].

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2.  X-Frame-Options Header

   The X-Frame-Options HTTP header field indicates a policy that
   specifies whether the browser should render the transmitted resource
   within a <frame> or an <iframe>.  Servers can declare this policy in
   the header of their HTTP responses to prevent clickjacking attacks,
   which ensures that their content is not embedded into other pages or

2.1.  Syntax

   The header field name is:


   There are three different values for the header field.  These values
   are mutually exclusive; that is, the header field MUST be set to
   exactly one of the three values.

      A browser receiving content with this header field MUST NOT
      display this content in any frame.

      A browser receiving content with this header field MUST NOT
      display this content in any frame from a page of different origin
      than the content itself.

      If a browser or plugin cannot reliably determine whether or not
      the origin of the content and the frame are the same, this MUST be
      treated as "DENY".

      Please note that current implementations vary on the
      interpretation of this criteria.  In some, it only allows a page
      to be framed if the origin of the top-level browsing context is
      identical to the origin of the content using the X-Frame-Options
      directive; in others, it may consider the origin of the framing
      page instead.  Also see Section for more details on the
      nesting of frames and variations in the handling of this header
      field by different browsers.  In addition, refer to Section 4,
      paragraph 2 for the resulting potential security problems.

   ALLOW-FROM  (followed by a serialized-origin [RFC6454])
      A browser receiving content with this header MUST NOT display this
      content in a frame from any page with a top-level browsing context
      of different origin than the specified origin.  While this can

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      expose the page to risks by the trusted origin, in some cases, it
      may be necessary to allow the framing by content from other

   The meaning of the term "serialized-origin" is given in [RFC6454].
   If the ALLOW-FROM value is used, it MUST be followed by a valid
   origin [RFC6454] (as a subset of the URI [RFC3986]).

   Any data beyond the domain address (i.e., any data after the "/"
   separator) is to be ignored.  The algorithm to compare origins from
   [RFC6454] SHOULD be used to verify that a referring page is of the
   same origin as the content (in the case of SAMEORIGIN) or that the
   referring page's origin is identical with the ALLOW-FROM serialized-
   origin (in the case of ALLOW-FROM).  Though in conflict with
   [RFC6454], current implementations do not consider the port as a
   defining component of the origin; i.e., existing implementations
   differ with [RFC6454] in that origins with the same protocol but
   different port values are considered equivalent.

   Wildcards or lists to declare multiple domains in one ALLOW-FROM
   statement are not permitted (see Section

2.2.   Augmented Backus-Naur Form (ABNF)

   The RFC 5234 [RFC5234] ABNF of the X-Frame-Options header field value
   is the following:

         X-Frame-Options = "DENY"
                   / "SAMEORIGIN"
                   / ( "ALLOW-FROM" RWS SERIALIZED-ORIGIN )

         RWS             = 1*( SP / HTAB )
                       ; required whitespace

   with serialized-origin as defined in [RFC6454] and required
   whitespace (RWS) as defined in [HTTPbis-P1].

   RWS is used when at least one linear whitespace octet is required to
   separate field tokens.  RWS SHOULD be generated as a single space
   (SP).  Multiple RWS octets that occur within field-content SHOULD
   either be replaced with a SP or transformed to all SP octets before
   interpreting the field value or forwarding the message downstream.

   SP and horizontal tab (HTAB) are as defined in Appendix B.1 of RFC
   5234 [RFC5234].

   The values are specified as ABNF strings; therefore, they are case-

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2.2.1.  Examples of X-Frame-Options

       X-Frame-Options: DENY

       X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN

       X-Frame-Options: ALLOW-FROM

2.3.  Design Issues

2.3.1.  Enable HTML Content from Other Domains

   There are a number of main direct vectors that enable HTML content
   from other domains, and browser implementations of X-Frame-Options
   cover all of them:

   o  IFRAME tag

   o  Frame tag

   o  Object tag (requires a redirect)

   o  Applet tag

   o  Embed tag

   Besides these, other ways to host HTML content can be possible.  For
   example, some plugins may host HTML views directly.  If these plugins
   appear essentially as frames (as opposed to top-level windows), the
   plugins must conform to the X-Frame-Options policy as specified in
   this document as well.

2.3.2.  Browser Behavior and Processing

   To allow secure implementations, browsers must behave in a consistent
   and reliable way.

   If an X-Frame-Options HTTP header field prohibits framing, the user
   agent of the browser MAY immediately abort downloading or parsing of
   the document.  Violation of X-Frame-Options

   When a browser discovers that loaded content with the X-Frame-Options
   header field would be displayed in a frame against the specified
   orders of the header, the browser SHOULD redirect to a "NOFRAME" page
   as soon as possible.  For example, this can be a noframe.html page
   that also states the full URL and hostname of the protected page.

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   The NOFRAME page could provide the user with an option to open the
   target URL in a new window.

   Implementations of this vary: some browsers will show a message that
   allows the user to safely open the target page in a new window,
   whereas other implementations will simply render an empty frame.  Variation in Current Browser Behavior

   There are currently variations in the implementation of the
   X-Frame-Options header.  For example, not all browsers support the
   "ALLOW-FROM" option.  "ALLOW-FROM" was initially an Internet Explorer
   extension and, at the time of writing, has not been uniformly
   implemented by other user agents.

   Furthermore, the criteria for the SAMEORIGIN (and ALLOW-FROM)
   directive may not be evaluated unanimously either: the known
   implementations in Appendix A evaluate the SAMEORIGIN directive based
   on the origin of the framed page and the top-level browsing context,
   while other implementations might evaluate it based on the framed
   page and the framing page, or the whole chain of nested frames in

   To illustrate the difference between the comparison of the "framing
   page" and the "top-level browsing context", consider the following
   scenario: web pages may embed frames with other pages that, in turn,
   embed frames with other pages as well, and so on.  In theory, this
   can result in an infinite nesting of framed pages.  For example, web
   page A may contain web page B in a frame, and web page B may contain
   web page C in a frame.

   Web page A
   <frame src="https://URI_of_web_page_B" />

   Web page B
   <frame src="https://URI_of_web_page_C" />

   and so forth.

   In this example, for the nested frames with the inner-framed web page
   C, the most outer web page A would be the "top-level browsing
   context", and web page B would be the "framing page".

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   These potential variations in the evaluation of the header by
   different implementations impair the usage and reliability of this
   HTTP header and have security implications as described in Section 4.
   A revised version of X-Frame-Options in the form of a Frame-Options
   directive in CSP 1.1 [CSP-1-1] will unify the behavior, and it is
   expected that newer implementations will use it rather than the
   mechanisms documented here.  Usage Design Pattern and Example Scenario for the ALLOW-FROM

   As the "ALLOW-FROM" field only supports one serialized-origin, in
   cases when the server wishes to allow more than one resource to frame
   its content, the following design pattern can fulfill that need:

   1.  A page that wants to render the requested content in a frame
       supplies its own origin information to the server providing the
       content to be framed via a query string parameter.

   2.  The server verifies that the hostname meets its criteria, so that
       the page is allowed to be framed by the target resource.  This
       may, for example, happen via a lookup of a whitelist of trusted
       domain names that are allowed to frame the page.  For example,
       for a Facebook "Like" button, the server can check to see that
       the supplied hostname matches the hostname(s) expected for that
       "Like" button.

   3.  The server returns the hostname in "X-Frame-Options: ALLOW-FROM"
       if the proper criteria was met in step #2.

   4.  The browser enforces the "X-Frame-Options: ALLOW-FROM" header.  No Caching of the X-Frame-Options Header

   Caching the X-Frame-Options header for a resource is not recommended.
   Caching the X-Frame-Options response could result in problems

   1.  For every http-request of the resource, the browser has to check
       whether the X-Frame-Options header has been set and then act
       accordingly, as a resource itself might be created dynamically
       and the header could change with it, too.

   2.  Also, as outlined in Section, servers may generate
       X-Frame-Options header responses depending on the request.
       Example case: Considering that we have only one serialized-origin
       in the ALLOW-FROM directive, imagine a user has multiple pages
       open in his browser tabs with web page 1 from domain A and web

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       page 2 from domain B, and both frame the same page from domain C
       with the ALLOW-FROM directive.  In that case, the page needs to
       reply to both requests with different X-Frame-Options headers,
       with the first pointing to origin A and the second pointing to
       origin B.

   However, we found that none of the major browsers listed in
   Appendix A cache the responses.

3.  IANA Considerations

   IANA has included the specified HTTP header in the "Permanent Message
   Header Field Name" registry as outlined in "Registration Procedures
   for Message Header Fields" [RFC3864].

3.1.  Registration Template

   Permanent Message Header Field Names Template:

   Header field name: X-Frame-Options

   Applicable protocol: http [RFC2616]

   Status: Informational

   Author/change controller: IETF

   Specification document(s): RFC 7034

   Related information: None

4.  Security Considerations

   The introduction of the X-Frame-Options HTTP header field improves
   the protection against clickjacking.  However, it is not self-
   sufficient enough to protect against all kinds of these attack
   vectors.  It must be used in conjunction with other security measures
   like secure coding (e.g., input validation, output encoding, etc.)
   and the Content Security Policy version 1.0 [CSP].

   It is important to note that current implementations do not check the
   origins of the framing resources' entire ancestor tree of frames, and
   this may expose the resource to attack in multiple-nested scenarios.

   The browser implementations evaluate based on the origin of the
   framed page and the top-level browsing context (i.e., the most outer

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   If a resource from origin A embeds untrusted content from origin B,
   that untrusted content can embed another resource from origin A with
   an "X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN" policy, and that check would pass
   when the user agent only verifies the top-level browsing context.
   Therefore, web developers should be aware that embedding content from
   other sites can leave their web pages vulnerable to clickjacking even
   if the X-Frame-Options header is used.

   Furthermore, X-Frame-Options must be sent as an HTTP header field and
   is explicitly ignored by user agents when declared with a meta
   http-equiv tag.

4.1.  Privacy Considerations

   There are two kinds of potential data leakage to consider:

   1.  Using X-Frame-Options with the parameter ALLOW-FROM allows a page
       to guess or infer information about who is framing it.  A web
       server may answer requests with the "X-Frame-Options: ALLOW-FROM"
       header and thus determine which other page is framing it.  This
       is inherent by design, but it may lead to data-leakage or data-
       protection concerns.

   2.  The web server using the ALLOW-FROM directive effectively
       discloses the origin specified in the header.  If a web server
       wishes to reduce this leakage, it is recommended to generate the
       ALLOW-FROM header for each request based on the design pattern as
       described in Section

5.  References

5.1.  Normative References

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.

   [RFC3986]  Berners-Lee, T., Fielding, R., and L. Masinter, "Uniform
              Resource Identifier (URI): Generic Syntax", STD 66,
              RFC 3986, January 2005.

   [RFC5234]  Crocker, D. and P. Overell, "Augmented BNF for Syntax
              Specifications: ABNF", STD 68, RFC 5234, January 2008.

   [RFC6454]  Barth, A., "The Web Origin Concept", RFC 6454,
              December 2011.

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5.2.  Informative References

              Lawrence, E., "IE8 Security Part VII: Clickjacking
              Defenses", Microsoft Developer Network Blogs,
              January 2009, <

   [CSP]      Sterne, B. and A. Barth, "Content Security Policy 1.0",
              W3C Candidate Recommendation CR-CSP-20121115,
              November 2012,

   [CSP-1-1]  Barth, A. and M. West, "Content Security Policy 1.1", W3C
              Working Draft WD-CSP11-20130604, June 2013,

   [CSRF]     OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project), "Top-10
              2013-A8-Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)", June 2013,

              OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project),
              "Clickjacking", April 2013,

              Stanford Web Security Research, "Busting frame busting: a
              study of clickjacking vulnerabilities at popular sites",
              July 2010,

              Fielding, R. and J. Reschke, "Hypertext Transfer Protocol
              (HTTP/1.1): Message Syntax and Routing", Work in Progress,
              September 2013.

              Lawrence, E., "Combating ClickJacking With X-Frame-
              Options", Microsoft Developer Network Blogs, March 2010,

              Mozilla Developer Network, "The X-Frame-Options response
              header", August 2013, <

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   [RFC2616]  Fielding, R., Gettys, J., Mogul, J., Frystyk, H.,
              Masinter, L., Leach, P., and T. Berners-Lee, "Hypertext
              Transfer Protocol -- HTTP/1.1", RFC 2616, June 1999.

   [RFC3864]  Klyne, G., Nottingham, M., and J. Mogul, "Registration
              Procedures for Message Header Fields", BCP 90, RFC 3864,
              September 2004.

   [RFC6648]  Saint-Andre, P., Crocker, D., and M. Nottingham,
              "Deprecating the "X-" Prefix and Similar Constructs in
              Application Protocols", BCP 178, RFC 6648, June 2012.

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Appendix A.  Browsers That Support X-Frame-Options

   o  Internet Explorer 8+

   o  Firefox 3.6.9+

   o  Opera 10.5+

   o  Safari 4+

   o  Chrome 4.1+

Appendix B.  Description of a Clickjacking Attack

   A more detailed explanation of clickjacking scenarios follows.

B.1.  Shop

   An Internet marketplace/shop offering a feature with a link/button to
   "Buy this" gadget wants their affiliates (who could be malicious
   attackers) to be able to stick the "Buy such and such from XYZ"
   IFRAMES into their pages.  There is a possible clickjacking threat
   here, which is why the marketplace/online shop needs to then
   immediately navigate the main browsing context (or a new window) to a
   confirmation page that is protected by anti-clickjacking protections.

B.2.  Online Shop Confirm Purchase Page

   The "Confirm Purchase" page of an online shop must be shown to the
   end-user without the risk of an overlay or misuse by an attacker.
   For that reason, the confirmation page uses a combination of
   anti-CSRF (Cross Site Request Forgery [CSRF]) tokens and the
   X-Frame-Options HTTP header field, mitigating clickjacking attacks.

B.3.  Flash Configuration

   Macromedia Flash configuration settings are set by a Flash object
   that can run only from a specific configuration page on Macromedia's
   site.  The object runs inside the page and thus can be subject to a
   clickjacking attack.  In order to prevent clickjacking attacks
   against the security settings, the configuration page uses the
   X-Frame-Options directive.

Appendix C.  Acknowledgements

   This document was derived from input from specifications published by
   various browser vendors such as Microsoft (Eric Lawrence and David
   Ross), Mozilla, Google, Opera, and Apple.

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Authors' Addresses

   David Ross


   Tobias Gondrom
   Thames Stanley