Cybersecurity policy

Note: docassemble is licensed under the MIT License. This policy does not modify that license or create any contract.

Since docassemble is in no way a “software as a service” product, cybersecurity is largely the responsibility of the implementer. However, there are cybersecurity risks to docassemble as an open-source project.

Risk of accidental inclusion of faulty code

There is a risk that a new version of docassemble could introduce a defect that could compromise security and reliability. The software is provided with an “as is” license; no warranty is made that the software is free of defects.

The following techniques are used to to mitigate this risk:

  • The entire source code is available to the public for inspection.
  • git diff is used to carefully inspect all changes made to the code. Individual commits can be inspected on GitHub.
  • Any pull requests are scrutinized heavily before being accepted.
  • Whenever possible, popular libraries are used rather than homegrown code. The skeleton of the web app is based on Flask and widely used Flask plugins. Bootstrap is used for the user interface. While docassemble itself may not be widely tested, these libraries are much more widely used, and defects are thus more likely to surface.
  • Before a new version is pushed, a comprehensive suite of behave tests is performed to ensure that the software works as expected.

Open-source infrastructure attacks

A malicious hacker could break into the jhpyle/docassemble GitHub account, Docker Hub account, PyPI account, CloudFlare account, or DNS provider.

These risks are mitigated by the use of two-factor authentication on all of these accounts.

If any of these accounts were to be compromised, Jonathan Pyle would immediately inform the docassemble community and work with the hosting provider to disable the unauthorized access.

There is a risk of unauthorized access to Jonathan Pyle’s computers, which could possibly expose SSL encryption keys to a bad actor. Personal computers are secured by passwords and cloud computers are not accessible with passwords alone, but require SSL certificates or two-factor authentication.

If Jonathan Pyle discovers unauthorized access to any of his computers, he will notify the docassemble community via Slack and e-mail and change all encryption keys on remote servers (such as GitHub).

If Docker Hub becomes unavailable, will be used to distribute Docker images.

If GitHub becomes unavailable, Bitbucket will be used.

If PyPI becomes unavailable, a PyPI mirror will be created, unless a widely-used public mirror becomes available, in which case that server will be used instead.

Compromised dependencies

Even if the docassemble code base is never compromised, since it depends on many other pieces of software, there is a risk that one of these pieces of software could become infected, and then the infection would pass down to all implementers of the software through the software update mechanism.

The following techniques are employed to mitigate this risk:

  • The Dockerfile depends on a specific, stable distribution of Debian Linux (buster), which only receives security updates.
  • Python dependencies are pinned to specific versions. Dependencies of dependencies and their versions are specified in the files of docassemble. Once a specific version is posted to PyPI, it is the policy of PyPI that it cannot be changed.
  • Because of the “pinning” of versions of dependencies, the software inside the docassemble container is not automatically upgraded when new versions become available. This increases the likelihood that the code will be well-tested and thoroughly scanned for vulnerabilities.
  • GitHub scans the code to identify vulnerabilities.
  • As part of docassemble’s normal development process, the code is scanned using Clair.
  • The stable branch on GitHub (version 1.0.x) receives only bug fixes, not feature enhancements. Thus, upgrading to a new 1.0.x version will not install any new software dependencies in to a server.

Development practices

docassemble has been developed with awareness and understanding of the security vulnerabilities including the OWASP Top Ten.


docassemble code mitigates against injection attacks by using SQLAlchemy to form SQL statements, by sanitizing input such as file names.


docassemble uses Flask packages for user authentication rather than homegrown packages.

Sensitive data

docassemble protects data privacy by using server-side encryption and other techniques.

XML External Entities

docassemble rarely uses XML but when it does, it uses up-to-date XML processing libraries.


docassemble contains an authorization system based on Flask so that ordinary users cannot access parts of the system that only administrators should be able to access.

Security configuration

docassemble is a platform rather than a product. It is possible to implement it in an insecure way, for example by opening S3 to the public. However, if implementers know what they are doing and follow the documentation, they can configure the system with full security.

Cross-site scripting

docassemble contains features to avoid cross-site attacks, such as CSRF and cookie flags.


docassemble contains a number of dependencies, and to the extent that any of them have known vulnerabilities, countermeasures have been taken. The code is scanned and CVEs on dependencies have been reviewed and acted upon if necessary.


docassemble makes extensive use of serialization (YAML, JSON, and pickle). The YAML and JSON methods are secure. Python’s pickle feature has security implications, but docassemble only unpickles data that it has pickled itself. If the SQL and Redis databases are not kept secure, then it is conceivable that malicious pickled data could be injected into the databases and that data could be processed by the application.


docassemble’s logs are sufficiently detailed that they can be used as a tool for discovering errors and intrusion attempts. docassemble can be configured to send error messages via e-mail.

Incident reporting

If Jonathan Pyle becomes aware of a issue with the docassemble software or its dependencies that could compromise the security of users’ systems, he will notify the docassemble community over Slack and e-mail and attempt to patch the software as soon as possible. Once a fix is found, a message will be posted to Slack and e-mail recommending that users install the new Docker image.


docassemble is an open-source project, not an entity. There is no insurance. The code is provided under an “as-is” license.