Monday, March 16, 2015

APEX ReadOnly Pages - The easy way

If your Oracle APEX Application requires different types of access - full access or readonly - for different types of users, you can specify a Read Only Condition on Page level (or Region, Item, Button, etc.). 
You can set an Authorization Scheme on Application level, so it'll be applied to all pages. So if you have an Authorization Scheme named 'User Can Access Page' defined by a PL/SQL function like this:

return apex_authorization.user_can_access_page
( p_app_id  => :APP_ID
, p_page_id => :APP_PAGE_ID
, p_user    => :APP_USER

then you can code all the logic in the database using the APEX Repository, your own tables or a combination to define whether a user has access to that page or not.
But alas it is not possible to define something similar Application wide for a Read Only condition. You can specify an Authorization Scheme 'User has Read Only Access' using a similar signature as the one above and use that on each and every page in the Read Only Condition using the APEX API:

apex_util.check_authorization( p_security_scheme => 'User has Read Only Access');

that way you still hide the PL/SQL logic. But you have to apply that to every Page ... and that's not very developer friendly. Another downside is that the Page is actually really rendered as readonly: It looks very different to the same page in regular updatable mode. So your layout may be screwed. The advantage is, it is (almost) impossible to hack a page rendered like that to make an illegal update to your database.

So can we achieve a similar / better result with less effort?
Yes, we can. Let's define a Dynamic Action (DA) on Page 0 that'll only run when our previously defined "ReadOnly" Authorization Scheme is met. That DA will run a snippet of JavaScript "On Page Load" :

// Remove Delete, Save, Create buttons and the Popup LOV and Calendar icon
$('a').has('.fa-trash-o, .fa-floppy-o, .fa-plus, img.uPopupLOVIcon').remove();
// Switch off input fields within div.uRegionContent 
$('input, select, textarea', 'div.uRegionContent').prop('readonly', true).prop('disabled',true);

So this is removing a number of "update" buttons and set all items to readonly and disabled. Be aware the selectors - especially for the buttons - may be different on your own environment depending on template settings etc.
But although the initial result looks good, as the layout isn't changed and all the items are not updatable, it isn't very secure. The buttons are removed - which is already a tad safer than just disabling them - but I can re-enable all the Page Items with just one line of JavaScript. And also a page submit doesn't require a lot of JavaScript knowledge. So if I can open up my browser console, it is easy to conquer this carefully crafted Read Only Page...
And of course we can add a Condition or Authorization Scheme to every page process to make sure they only run for users with full access, but that would require a lot work again!
So we have to close down the backend as well. And preferably not by adding triggers on every table.... But we can interfere with the PL/SQL that's executed when the page is submitted: There is a section called "Initialization PL/SQL Code" under Security Settings. Although that sounds like it runs only when you "initialise" a page .... it also runs when you initialise a submit!
So if we enter something like this piece of PL/SQL in that section:

if apex_authorization.user_has_read_only_access
   ( p_app_id  => :APP_ID
   , p_page_id => :APP_PAGE_ID
   , p_user    => :APP_USER
   ) and :REQUEST in ('SAVE', 'DELETE', <and a lot more>)
  raise_application_error( -20000, 'You are trying to make some changes with Read Only privileges' );
end if; 

a user with Read Only access who tries to fire an illegal SAVE or DELETE request, will be blocked (although that message isn't shown). If you look in the (standard) DML Processes you can see there are quite a lot of requests that should be in that list. Be aware that other - especially unconditional request - are not protected by this!

But with just one snippet of JavaScript and one piece of PL/SQL we implemented a Read Only feature on each and every page of our application - and the pages still look exactly the same!

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