Web service proxy in ASP.NET MVC – how to avoid cross-site script warnings

In this article I will walk through the process of creation of web service proxy in ASP.NET MVC. This is specifically useful as a method of preventing cross-site scripting (XSS) warnings on web page. This is a feature of all modern web browsers and cannot be easily omitted as it enforces same origin policy. This sort of attack can happen when browser tries to download client script from outside of application domain – simply speaking when web browser downloads script from different location.

For the purpose of this demo I will use IP look-up web service available at http://ipinfodb.com/. This web service allows to obtain geodata for given IP address and can be extremely useful for in example centralizing map (i.e. Google maps or Bing maps) on user’s location.

Valid request should look like this: http://ipinfodb.com/ip_query.php?ip=213.180.146.27

Of course it is possible to call this web service at Ajax request level, by simply writing:

    var ipaddress = '213.180.146.27';
    $.get('http://ipinfodb.com/ip_query.php?ip=' + ipaddress + '&timezone=false',
        function(data) {...}
    );

although on all most recent web browsers (IE 8, FF 3.6, Chrome, Safari) user will get very ugly security warning every time browser executes this code. This is due to XSS vulnerability mentioned above and can be extremely annoying to user when application performs this operation on very first page load.

Thankfully ASP.NET provides set of mechanisms to overcome this problem. In simplest words there is an extra layer between web service and Ajax call needed, and this layer is web service proxy.

The core component of proposed solution is a HTTP handler class, in this example named LocationProxyHandler. This class will create and execute HTTP request to web service and return response to client. It needs to implement two interfaces: IHttpHandler and IRouteHandler. First interface guarantees that class can process HTTP request, second allows to use class in routing rule that will be required to redirect requests to the handler class. Implementation of class is as follows:

    public class LocaionProxyHandler : IHttpHandler, IRouteHandler
    {
        public bool IsReusable
        {
            get { return true; }
        }

        public void ProcessRequest(HttpContext context)
        {
            string ipAddress = context.Request.QueryString["ipaddress"];

            string str = string.Format(@"http://ipinfodb.com/ip_query.php?ip={0}",
                ipAddress);

            HttpWebRequest request = (HttpWebRequest)WebRequest.Create(str);
            request.Method = "GET";
            HttpWebResponse response = (HttpWebResponse)request.GetResponse();
            StreamReader reader = new StreamReader(response.GetResponseStream());

            HttpResponse res = context.Response;
            res.ContentType = "application/xml; charcode=utf8";
            res.StatusCode = 200;
            res.Write(reader.ReadToEnd());
        }

        public IHttpHandler GetHttpHandler(RequestContext requestContext)
        {
            return this;
        }
    }

The most important method in the class is ProcessRequest(). It takes current HttpContext as parameter and for this context it executes HTTP request to external web service and builds and returns response. Before it fires HTTP request, it takes IP address as parameter from URL.

There is one more thing that needs doing before this proxy can serve the purpose. It has to be registered in ASP.NET MVC routing table within the application. To accomplish this the following code is needed in RegisterRoutes() method inside Global.asax.cs:

    routes.Add(new Route("{action}.proxy", new SocialCitiProxy.LocaionProxyHandler()))

This makes calls like http://localhost:1431/myApp/Service.proxy understandable for MVC engine and ensures the request is redirected to LocationProxyHandler.

Very final step is Ajax request to LocationProxyHandler:

var ipaddress = '213.180.146.27';
$.ajax({
        url: 'GetUserLocation.proxy',
        data: 'ipAddress=' + ipaddress,
        dataType: 'xml',
        contentType: 'application/xml; charset=utf8',
        error: function (xhr, status, e) {...},
        success: function (data) {...}
});

No security warning messages appears now and this is exactly what we wanted to achieve.

Passing list as parameter from AJAX request to MVC controller

I came across this recently when needed to pass array of selected values into MVC controller during Ajax request. Scenario was that on the page I had set of checkboxes and button. User can then make multiple choice selection and submit form using button. Page could look like this:

<ul id="sampleList">
    <li><input type="checkbox" value="1" checked="checked" />text 1</li>
    <li><input type="checkbox" value="2" checked="checked" />test 2</li>
    <li><input type="checkbox" value="3" checked="checked" />test 3</li>
</ul>
<input type="button" id="submitButton" value="submit" />
<span id="spanResults"></span>

Also in the application I have, let’s say, “TestController”. Within this controller I have “GetValue” method, that I want to concatenate input data into a string:

public JsonResult GetValue (List<string> id)
{
return Json(id);
}

Then jQuery code to collect values of checked checkboxes and make Ajaxcall would be as following:

var items = new Array();
$('#sampleList li input:checkbox:checked').each(function() {
    items.push($(this).val());
});
$('#submitButton').click(function() {
    $.ajax({
        type: 'post',
        url: '/Test/GetValues',
        data: { id: items },
        contentType: 'application/json; charset=utf-8',
        dataType: 'json',
        success: function(data) {
            $('#spanResults').text(data.join(','));
        },
        error: function(e) {
            alert(e.message);
        }
});

This should hopefully put some light on “how on the earth do I pass list as parameters via Ajax to MVC”. Exactly the same mechanics applies to passing complex types and multiple parameters – just wrapp multiple parameters in complext type and you are done!