docassemble is designed with user privacy in mind.

Security features

Server-side information storage

User passwords are encrypted. Flask-Login is the basis for the username/password system.

Interview answers are stored in a SQL database in encrypted form, unless the multi_user variable is set to True, in which case the answers are not encrypted.

If users log in with external authentication methods or the phone login feature, interview answers are still encrypted (unless the multi_user variable is set to True), but a resourceful hacker could figure out the encryption key. Therefore, if server-side encryption is important to you, it is recommended that you do not enable external authentication methods or the phone login feature.

Uploaded and assembled documents are stored on the server (and on Amazon S3, if S3 is being used, or Microsoft Azure, if Azure blob storage is being used) without encryption. These documents cannot be accessed from the internet without an appropriate access key in the cookie. In some situations, the user is provided with a temporary URL to an S3 resource that allows anyone who has the URL to access the document. In other situations, the docassemble server retrieves the file from S3 and serves it.

When a user clicks an “Exit” button (or the /exit path is visited, or the /exit_logout path is visited, or command('exit') is run, or command('exit_logout') is run), docassemble will delete all of the information related to the interview from the server, including the database, uploaded documents, and assembled documents. See deleting user information for more information.

security

docassemble blocks brute-force password-guessing attacks.

docassemble also supports two-factor authentication.

By default, users do not need to verify their e-mail addresses, but you can require them to do so. See the documentation for the email confirmation privileges configuration directive.

Importance of using HTTPS

It is important for security purposes to deploy docassemble using HTTPS rather than HTTP. If you use HTTP, passwords and security keys will be sent over the network in plain text.

Separate development and production servers

Users with “developer” access can run arbitrary code on the server. For this reason, it is recommended that you not allow developer accounts on production servers, and that you only install docassemble add-on packages that you have carefully reviewed.

On a production server, you should make sure the Configuration contains the following:

debug: False
allow demo: False
enable playground: False

The debug directive will turn off the “Source” tab, so that users cannot see any source code of the interviews. This will also improve site performance.

The allow demo directive will prevent users from accessing any of the sample interviews in the docassemble.base and docassemble.demo packages. These are helpful on a development server because developers can access them from the Examples page of the Playground. However, on a production server there is no reason why users should be able to run such interviews.

The enable playground directive will make the Playground inoperable. Any attempt by a user to use a Playground interview will fail. Users with developer and administrator accounts will not see the Playground-related options in the menus.

Avoiding sharing session keys

Each session of a docassemble interview is uniquely identified by a session key, which is a series of randomly-generated characters. If server-side encryption is turned off (by setting multi_user to True), then anyone who possesses the encryption key can access the interview session. Thus there is a risk to e-mailing a user a link to an interview generated by interview_url(), since the URL will contain the session key. This URL is like the URL to a Google Docs file where “anyone with the link can edit.” You can mitigate this risk somewhat by using the temporary keyword argument or the once_temporary keyword argument to interview_url(). Then, the link that you share will not contain the actual interview session key, and the link will expire after a period of time.

Security in multi-user interviews

If you have a multi-user interview, you will set multi_user to True in order to turn off server-side encryption. Then anyone with the session key can access a session.

In the ordinary course of a multi-user interview, each user will only see the screens your interview expects them to see. For example, you could design a divorce mediation interview in which two parties to a divorce each share confidential information into the same session, and one spouse will not be able to see information entered by the other spouse.

However, docassemble’s front end interface is designed to be open and flexible, so that developers have the freedom to innovate. By default, the JavaScript function get_interview_variables() is available, which will retrieve all of the interview answers in JSON format from the server.

If one of the users who has access to the session key is not fully trusted, you may worry that they will teach themselves how docassemble works and take steps to “snoop around” in the interview and access information they shouldn’t, for example by running get_interview_variables() in the JavaScript console or visiting the /vars?i=... page (which is called by get_interview_variables() to obtain a JSON version of the interview answers for the current session).

You can take steps to “harden” your interview against such unauthorized snooping. You can include the following at the beginning of your interview:

mandatory: True
code: |

This will disable the get_interview_variables() feature.

Another way that a user could snoop around is by using the JavaScript function url_action() to access screens they are not supposed to see. For example, if your two users are represented by two Individuals in your interview answers called petitioner and respondent, the respondent might try to call url_action("petitioner.ssn") from the JavaScript console.

You can provide security over the actions mechanism by calling process_action() manually inside of a code block that has initial set to True. By default, docassemble will run process_action() for you, but if it sees that you have a code block that calls process_action(), it will refrain from calling it automatically. You can use the action_argument() function to obtain the action being requested.

initial: True
code: |
  if action_argument() in ['revisit_income', 'revisit_expenses']:

Deleting user information

By default, interview sessions are deleted after 90 days of inactivity. This period can be modified using the interview delete days directive in the Configuration.

Users who are logged in can delete their interview sessions by going to My Interviews and clicking the “Delete All” button or by deleting individual interviews. The interview session can also be deleted through the use of an exit button, an exit_logout button, a call to command() with 'exit' or 'exit_logout' as the parameter, or if the user visits /exit or /exit_logout.

Users who are logged in can delete their entire account by going to Profile, “Other settings,” “Manage account.” A URL for the “Manage account” page can be obtained by calling url_of('manage'). When a user deletes their account, this has same effect as “Delete All” on the My Interviews page, and it also deletes other information, such as the user profile data. By default, account deletion does not delete multi-user interview sessions that have been entered by another user. However, if you want users to have the power to delete multi-user interview sessions, you can set delete account deletes shared in the Configuration to True.

Users who are not logged in can also delete their data by going to the /user/manage page (the URL for which can be obtained by calling url_of('manage')).

Administrators can delete user accounts on the User List page by editing an individual user. Administrators have the option to delete the account but leave shared interviews alone, or delete the account and all of its shared interviews.

When docassemble deletes an interview session, it deletes:

  • All steps of the interview answers (from SQL).
  • All files associated with the interview session (e.g., uploaded files, generated files) except for files with the persistent attribute set.
  • Cached speech-to-text audio files.
  • E-mail addresses generated by interview_email().
  • E-mails sent to addresses generated by interview_email().
  • Live Help chat logs from the session.

When docassemble deletes an interview session, it does not delete:

  • Records created during the session using DAStore, DARedis, or write_record().
  • Records created in the machine learning system from the session.
  • Files with the persistent attribute set to true.

When docassemble deletes a user account, it deletes:

  • All interview sessions started by the user (except for shared interview sessions joined by another user, which are not deleted unless the administrator chooses to include them in the deletion process).
  • Records stored by the user with DAStore.
  • The name, organization, and other information in the user’s Profile.
  • The contents of the user’s Playground.
  • Other information associated with the user, such as authentication tokens for integration with the GitHub API and authentication tokens created for the user’s e-mail address with DAOAuth.

When docassemble deletes a user account, it does not delete:

  • Records created by the user using DARedis or write_record().
  • Records created by the user in the machine learning system.
  • Files containing user data that set the persistent attribute set to true.

If you are using a multi-server arrangement with cloud storage, then when you delete a file, copies of the file in a cache directory on /tmp on some servers may persist until cleaned out by a cron job. The Docker hourly cron job deletes files from the cache if they have not been accessed in the past two hours.

Issues to look out for

docassemble makes extensive use of eval and exec, including to process information supplied by the user. There are protections in place to prevent code injection, but more work could be done to harden docassemble against such threats.

The options for allowing users to log in with Google, Facebook, Twitter, Azure, and mobile phone numbers are provided for convenience, but you may wish not to enable these features because the encryption of interview answers on the server is less effective when users log in without a password. This is because the password is used as the encryption key, which is advantageous because it is not stored anywhere on the server; the user remembers it and it is stored in a cookie in the user’s browser. When users log in with something other than a password, however, there is no such key available. As a result, the key for encrypting user answers on the server is constructed based on information that is stored on the server. As a result, an intruder with access to the server could reverse-engineer the encrpytion key for an interview belonging to a user who logs in with something other than a password.