How To Get Csrf Token in Django

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In the world of web development, ensuring the security of user data is paramount. Among various security measures, the Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) token plays a crucial role, especially in web frameworks like Django. This token ensures that the requests made to your web application are genuine and not malicious. Not familiar with the CSRF token or unsure about how to implement it in Django? This tutorial is crafted just for you. We will delve into the intricacies of CSRF in Django, guiding you through the process of obtaining and using this token to bolster your application’s security.

  1. What Is CSRF and Why Is It Important
  2. How Django Handles CSRF Protection
  3. Why You Should Always Use CSRF Tokens in Forms
  4. How to Implement CSRF Middleware in Django
  5. Examples of CSRF Token Usage in Django Views and Templates
  6. Troubleshooting Common CSRF Issues in Django
  7. Real World Consequences of Ignoring CSRF Protection
  8. Common Errors Encountered with CSRF in Django

What Is CSRF and Why Is It Important

CSRF, or Cross-Site Request Forgery, is a type of cyberattack wherein attackers trick users into performing unwanted actions on a web application in which they’re currently authenticated. This can lead to actions like changing the user’s email address, password, or even transferring money without the user’s knowledge.

Let’s break this down with a simple analogy. Imagine a postal worker (the browser) who delivers a letter (request) from a resident (the user) to a bank. If the bank doesn’t verify if the letter truly came from the resident, a malicious actor can send fake letters. Similarly, if the web application doesn’t validate the authenticity of requests, it’s prone to CSRF attacks.

Why is CSRF Protection Vital?

  1. User Data Protection: CSRF attacks can compromise user data, causing privacy breaches.
  2. Maintaining User Trust: A secured website ensures user trust, vital for retaining customers.
  3. Avoid Financial Losses: Without CSRF protection, applications handling financial transactions are at risk.
AspectImpact without CSRF Protection
User DataPossible exposure and manipulation
TrustDecreased user trust in the platform
Financial TransactionsUnauthorized transactions and money loss

Always remember: Protecting against CSRF attacks is not just about securing your application; it’s about preserving the trust and safety of its users.

How Django Handles CSRF Protection

Django, a popular web framework, is renowned for its built-in security measures. One of its standout features is its robust CSRF protection mechanism. By default, Django mitigates the risks associated with Cross-Site Request Forgery attacks. Here’s how Django takes care of it:

  1. Middleware: At the core of Django’s CSRF protection is the CSRF middleware. Once enabled, this middleware ensures every POST request is accompanied by a CSRF token, verifying the authenticity of the request.
  2. CSRF Token: Django generates a unique CSRF token for every user’s session. This token is embedded in forms as a hidden field and must be included in every POST request. When a form is submitted, Django checks the token’s value against the one stored in the user’s session.
  3. csrf_token Template Tag: In Django templates, you can use the {% csrf_token %} template tag to automatically insert the CSRF token into your forms.
  4. Exempting Views: While it’s crucial to have CSRF protection across the platform, there are instances where you might need to exempt certain views. Django provides a @csrf_exempt decorator for such cases. However, it should be used judiciously.
  5. Cookie-to-Header Token Matching: Django stores the CSRF token in the client’s cookie and expects the same token to be returned in the HTTP header (X-CSRFToken) of POST requests. This ensures that the request is only accepted if the token in the cookie matches the token in the header.
  6. AJAX Requests: For AJAX requests, you must manually set the X-CSRFToken header to the value of the CSRF token, which can be retrieved from the CSRF cookie (csrftoken).
FeaturePurpose in Django
CSRF MiddlewareValidates presence and authenticity of CSRF tokens.
csrf_token Template TagAutomates insertion of CSRF token in forms.
@csrf_exempt DecoratorExempts specific views from CSRF checks.
Cookie-to-Header MatchingEnsures token consistency between cookie and header.

Django’s approach to CSRF protection is both comprehensive and user-friendly. Developers are strongly encouraged to utilize these built-in tools and always be cautious when considering bypassing any security measures.

Why You Should Always Use CSRF Tokens in Forms

Using CSRF tokens in web forms is akin to adding a unique, secret handshake to every interaction between the user and the server. This extra layer of security ensures that the server recognizes and trusts the incoming request. Here’s a detailed look at why incorporating CSRF tokens in forms is non-negotiable:

  1. Authentication vs. Authorization: While authentication confirms the identity of a user, it doesn’t ensure that the user’s actions are genuine. CSRF tokens serve as a double-check mechanism, ensuring that not only is the user who they claim to be, but their actions are also legitimate and intended.
  2. Protection Against Malicious Sites: A key threat in the digital landscape is malicious sites that try to execute unwanted actions using the credentials of authenticated users. With CSRF tokens in place, these actions would be halted since the malicious sites wouldn’t have access to the unique token associated with each form.
  3. State Changing Operations: Forms often drive state-changing operations—like updating profiles, changing passwords, or making purchases. Without CSRF tokens, these critical functions could be triggered unintentionally or maliciously, leading to unwanted consequences.
  4. Maintaining Data Integrity: Ensuring the validity and consistency of user data is paramount. By requiring a CSRF token for form submissions, you’re adding a layer that guards against inadvertent or malicious changes to user data.

How to Implement CSRF Middleware in Django

Integrating CSRF middleware in Django is a straightforward process that amplifies your project’s security against Cross-Site Request Forgery attacks.

Firstly, ensure the 'django.middleware.csrf.CsrfViewMiddleware' is present in the MIDDLEWARE setting of your Django project:

    # ... other middlewares ...
    # ... other middlewares ...

In any form within your Django templates, you’ll want to include the {% csrf_token %} template tag right inside the <form> element:

<form method="post">
    {% csrf_token %}
    <!-- rest of your form fields go here -->
    <input type="submit" value="Submit">

For AJAX POST requests, it’s vital to set the CSRF token in the request header. This token can be accessed from the csrftoken cookie:

let csrfToken = getCookie('csrftoken');
    url: "/your-endpoint/",
    type: "POST",
    headers: {
        "X-CSRFToken": csrfToken
    data: { /* your data goes here */ },
    //... other AJAX settings ...

In rare cases where you might need to exempt specific views from CSRF checks, Django offers a @csrf_exempt decorator:

from django.views.decorators.csrf import csrf_exempt

def my_exempted_view(request):
    # Your view logic here

Django’s CSRF protection relies on the csrftoken cookie, so ensure that no client-side script blocks or removes this cookie. If you’re looking to customize CSRF error responses, set the CSRF_FAILURE_VIEW to your desired view. For those who’d like the CSRF token to change with every request for heightened security, set the CSRF_USE_SESSIONS to True.

By adhering to these guidelines and diligently implementing Django’s CSRF middleware, your web application remains fortified against CSRF vulnerabilities. Always prioritize security in your web development practices.

Examples of CSRF Token Usage in Django Views and Templates

CSRF tokens play a pivotal role in Django’s defense mechanism against Cross-Site Request Forgery attacks. Understanding how to use these tokens in both views and templates is key to maintaining a secure application. Let’s dive into some concrete examples:

Django Templates:

In a typical Django form, the CSRF token is embedded to ensure the POST request is secure and originates from the right source.

<form method="post" action="/submit-data/">
    {% csrf_token %}
    <!-- Your form fields here, e.g., -->
    <label for="username">Username:</label>
    <input type="text" id="username" name="username">
    <input type="submit" value="Submit">

By using the {% csrf_token %} template tag, Django will automatically populate the correct CSRF token value as a hidden input field within the form.

Django Views with AJAX:

When working with AJAX, particularly with libraries like jQuery, you need to include the CSRF token in the headers of your POST requests.

function getCookie(name) {
    let cookieValue = null;
    if (document.cookie && document.cookie !== '') {
        let cookies = document.cookie.split(';');
        for (let i = 0; i < cookies.length; i++) {
            let cookie = cookies[i].trim();
            if (cookie.substring(0, name.length + 1) === (name + '=')) {
                cookieValue = decodeURIComponent(cookie.substring(name.length + 1));
    return cookieValue;

let csrfToken = getCookie('csrftoken');

    url: "/ajax-endpoint/",
    type: "POST",
    headers: {
        "X-CSRFToken": csrfToken
    data: {
        'key': 'value'
    success: function(response) {

In this example, the getCookie function retrieves the CSRF token from the browser’s cookies, and it’s then added to the AJAX request header.

Exempting Views from CSRF Checks:

While it’s essential to secure most views with CSRF tokens, there might be scenarios where you intentionally want to bypass this check.

from django.views.decorators.csrf import csrf_exempt
from django.http import JsonResponse

def csrf_exempt_view(request):
    if request.method == "POST":
        # Your logic here
        return JsonResponse({'status': 'success'})

Remember, it’s crucial to use the @csrf_exempt decorator judiciously as it makes the view vulnerable to CSRF attacks.

These examples should help you effectively integrate CSRF protection in various components of your Django application. Always ensure your forms and views are adequately secured against potential CSRF threats.

Troubleshooting Common CSRF Issues in Django

Even with Django’s robust security mechanisms, developers can sometimes encounter issues related to CSRF protection. Let’s explore some of these common problems and how to address them:

1. CSRF token missing or incorrect Error:

  • Cause: This error typically surfaces when a POST request is made without the CSRF token, or the provided token doesn’t match the one on the server.
  • Solution:
    • Ensure that your form has the {% csrf_token %} template tag if you’re using Django templates.
    • For AJAX requests, ensure that the CSRF token is added to the request header.

2. CSRF Token Cookie Not Set:

  • Cause: Sometimes, the csrftoken cookie might not be set, especially if the CSRF middleware is not activated.
  • Solution:
    • Ensure 'django.middleware.csrf.CsrfViewMiddleware' is added to the MIDDLEWARE settings of your Django project.

3. Session Cookies and CSRF Cookies Mismatch:

  • Cause: If your application uses session-based CSRF tokens (CSRF_USE_SESSIONS = True), you might encounter issues if the session cookie and CSRF token are out of sync.
  • Solution:
    • Confirm that the session cookie exists and hasn’t expired.
    • Check the consistency between CSRF tokens stored in session and the token sent in forms or headers.

4. Using @csrf_exempt Unintentionally:

  • Cause: The @csrf_exempt decorator, when used, exempts a view from CSRF checks, which can lead to unexpected CSRF vulnerabilities.
  • Solution:
    • Review your views and limit the use of the @csrf_exempt decorator. Remove it from views where CSRF protection is needed.

5. CSRF Failures in AJAX Requests:

  • Cause: AJAX requests, particularly with frameworks like jQuery or Axios, might not automatically include the CSRF token.
  • Solution:
    • Manually add the CSRF token to the request headers. Ensure the token is correctly fetched from the csrftoken cookie.

6. Mismatched Referer Headers:

  • Cause: Django checks the Referer header in certain situations to prevent attacks. If it’s missing or mismatched, it could lead to CSRF errors.
  • Solution:
    • Make sure your site’s domain name matches between actual requests and the Referer header. If you’re behind a proxy or load balancer, ensure it’s not stripping or altering the Referer header.

7. Issues After Domain or Scheme Changes:

  • Cause: If you’ve recently switched from HTTP to HTTPS or changed your domain, the existing CSRF cookies might become invalid.
  • Solution:
    • Clear your browser cookies or implement a mechanism to reset CSRF cookies for all users.

Remember, while troubleshooting, it’s always beneficial to check Django’s documentation or relevant logs for any hints. CSRF issues, when unresolved, can compromise the security of your application, so address them promptly and methodically.

Real World Consequences of Ignoring CSRF Protection

Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) might seem like just another jargon-filled security concern. Still, its implications in the real world can be disastrous for businesses, end-users, and the reputation of digital platforms. Let’s explore some of the potential consequences of neglecting CSRF protection:

Unauthorized Actions on Behalf of Users

CSRF attacks trick victims into executing unwanted actions on a web application where they’re authenticated. If your site lacks CSRF protection, a malicious actor could:

  • Modify User Settings: Change the email, password, or other crucial settings of a user.
  • Initiate Financial Transactions: Execute unauthorized bank transfers, purchases, or change billing details.
  • Post Content: Create, modify, or delete content on platforms, e.g., making unsolicited posts on social media.

Financial Loss

  • For Businesses: Direct financial loss can occur if attackers leverage CSRF vulnerabilities to make unauthorized transactions or steal sensitive data that leads to fraud.
  • For End-users: Personal funds might be compromised if attackers execute unauthorized financial actions on banking platforms or e-commerce sites.

Data Breach and Loss of Sensitive Information

Lack of CSRF safeguards might facilitate the unauthorized extraction of sensitive data, which can include:

  • Personal user details (addresses, phone numbers).
  • Financial data (credit card details, bank account numbers).
  • Business-critical information.

Legal Repercussions

Companies might face legal challenges if they fail to protect users from CSRF attacks, especially if they lead to:

  • Non-compliance with data protection regulations, such as GDPR or CCPA.
  • Lawsuits from affected users or partners.

Reputation Damage

  • Loss of Trust: Users trust platforms to keep their data safe. A CSRF attack can lead to a severe breach of this trust, which is hard to regain.
  • Negative Publicity: Security breaches, especially those leading to financial loss or data leakage, can attract negative media attention.

Unintended Resource Consumption

In cases where CSRF attacks trigger resource-intensive operations, it can lead to:

  • Strain on server resources, leading to slower response times or crashes.
  • Increased costs, especially if there’s a scale-based billing for resources.

Remediation Costs

Post-attack, the costs for remediation can be substantial:

  • Investigating the breach.
  • Implementing security enhancements.
  • Recovering lost data or rolling back unauthorized actions.
  • External audits or consulting to ensure future protection.

Common Errors Encountered with CSRF in Django

Django’s CSRF protection is a vital security measure, but developers often encounter a few common errors while working with it. Understanding these errors can speed up debugging and ensure a secure application. Here’s a list of frequently observed CSRF-related issues in Django:

1. CSRF token missing or incorrect:

This is perhaps the most common error message related to CSRF in Django.

  • Reasons:
    • The {% csrf_token %} template tag is missing in the form.
    • The CSRF cookie (csrftoken) isn’t being sent with the request.
    • Misconfigured AJAX calls that don’t include the CSRF token.

2. Referer checking failed:

This error surfaces when Django’s CSRF protection doesn’t find a correct “Referer” header in the request.

  • Reasons:
    • The application is accessed via different subdomains or protocols without proper configuration.
    • Proxy configurations or some browser settings might strip or modify the “Referer” header.

3. 403 Forbidden errors:

While this HTTP status code is generic, in Django, it often points to CSRF verification failures.

  • Reasons:
    • Making POST requests to views without providing the correct CSRF token.
    • The CSRF middleware is not properly installed or configured.
    • Misuse of the @csrf_exempt decorator.

4. CSRF cookie not set:

This error means that the CSRF token isn’t present in the cookies.

  • Reasons:
    • The CsrfViewMiddleware might be missing or misconfigured in Django’s MIDDLEWARE setting.
    • The browser’s security settings or extensions block the setting of the csrftoken cookie.

5. Mismatched CSRF Token:

The server’s CSRF token and the client’s token don’t match.

  • Reasons:
    • Stale or expired session data, which may mean the CSRF token in the session doesn’t match the one in the form or cookie.
    • Potential man-in-the-middle attacks or session tampering.

6. SuspiciousOperation Exception:

This generic Django security error can sometimes relate to CSRF issues, especially if its message mentions CSRF.

  • Reasons:
    • A mismatch between the expected token format and the received token.
    • Unexpected manipulations or tampering attempts with the CSRF token.

7. Issues with AJAX and CSRF:

While making AJAX requests, developers might face issues in getting CSRF tokens to work correctly.

  • Reasons:
    • Failure to set the X-CSRFToken header in AJAX requests.
    • AJAX calls being made across domains or subdomains without proper configurations.

Addressing these common errors requires a combination of understanding Django’s CSRF protection mechanisms and maintaining a diligent approach to web security. Always refer to Django’s official documentation and update to the latest versions to benefit from the most recent security enhancements.

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