Cross-site Scripting (XSS) Affecting handlebars package, versions <4.0.0



    Attack Complexity Low

    Threat Intelligence

    EPSS 0.14% (48th percentile)
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6.1 medium

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  • Snyk ID npm:handlebars:20151207
  • published 14 Dec 2015
  • disclosed 7 Dec 2015
  • credit Matias P. Brutti


handlebars provides the power necessary to let you build semantic templates.

When using attributes without quotes in a handlebars template, an attacker can manipulate the input to introduce additional attributes, potentially executing code. This may lead to a Cross-site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability, assuming an attacker can influence the value entered into the template. If the handlebars template is used to render user-generated content, this vulnerability may escalate to a persistent XSS vulnerability.


Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks occur when an attacker tricks a user’s browser to execute malicious JavaScript code in the context of a victim’s domain. Such scripts can steal the user’s session cookies for the domain, scrape or modify its content, and perform or modify actions on the user’s behalf, actions typically blocked by the browser’s Same Origin Policy.

These attacks are possible by escaping the context of the web application and injecting malicious scripts in an otherwise trusted website. These scripts can introduce additional attributes (say, a "new" option in a dropdown list or a new link to a malicious site) and can potentially execute code on the clients side, unbeknown to the victim. This occurs when characters like < > " ' are not escaped properly.

There are a few types of XSS:

  • Persistent XSS is an attack in which the malicious code persists into the web app’s database.
  • Reflected XSS is an which the website echoes back a portion of the request. The attacker needs to trick the user into clicking a malicious link (for instance through a phishing email or malicious JS on another page), which triggers the XSS attack.
  • DOM-based XSS is an that occurs purely in the browser when client-side JavaScript echoes back a portion of the URL onto the page. DOM-Based XSS is notoriously hard to detect, as the server never gets a chance to see the attack taking place.


Assume handlebars was used to display user comments and avatar, using the following template: <img src={{avatarUrl}}><pre>{{comment}}</pre>

If an attacker spoofed their avatar URL and provided the following value: onload=alert(document.cookie)

The resulting HTML would be the following, triggering the script once the image loads: <img src= onload=alert(document.cookie)><pre>Gotcha!</pre>