Django Best Practices: Security

Django Best Practices: Security

This tutorial covers Django security best practices starting with the most important and working our way down the list.

Django is a mature, battle-tested web framework with a well deserved reputation for security over the past 15+ years. However the internet remains a dangerous place and web security is an evolving field. Like most web frameworks, Django defaults to local development settings when a new project is created. The onus is on the developer to effectively manage both local defaults and customized production settings.

Django comes with an excellent deployment checklist that can be run on the production version of your website before deployment. As well as copious notes on security in the official documentation.

This tutorial covers Django security best practices starting with the most important and working our way down the list.

Django Version

The number one security recommendation is to always be on the latest version of Django. Django has a new major release every 9 months or so (2.2, 3.0, 3.1, etc) and a minor release with security/bug fixes almost monthly (3.1.1, 3.1.2, etc). Take the time to update regularly to the latest version--there is an official guide in the documentation on upgrading to a newer version--run your test suite, and carry on with your Django project.

Note that writing comprehensive tests and implementing CI so that the tests are run on each commit is a topic for another tutorial or full-length book.

Environment Variables

There is a fundamental tension between settings intended for local development and production. Local development prizes speed, robust bug reports, and access to all features. Production requires locking down the website and minimizing access as much as possible. By default, new Django projects created with the startproject command have local development settings. The developer is responsible for updating them to production settings.

These days, the standard way to switch between local and production settings is with environment variables. Rather than having multiple settings.py files, a single settings.py file can be used with variables loaded in depending upon the environment: local or production.

There are multiple ways to implement environment variables and various third-party packages that can help. Personally, I like using environs, which has a Django-specific option that installs a number of additional packages that help with configuration.

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