NPM Security Mess

David Peter

July 14, 2023





NPM Security Mess

NPM Security Mess: Vulnerabilities In the Node.js/npm

We love you NPM. But we gotta talk.

The software development industry is expanding exponentially. Modern technologies and trends have changed the tech world forever. One game-changer to emerge in this ever-changing environment is Node.js. It has many benefits, like quick delivery, multi-platform support, scalability, and flexibility. Node.js allows developers to take their applications to the next level. But despite its benefits, this powerhouse has some drawbacks.

While Node.js doesn’t lack in many areas, security is not its strongest suit. It has many vulnerabilities that can threaten an application. This guide will explore the insecure areas in the Node.js/npm ecosystem with npm packages. Let’s get started!

Security Vulnerabilities in Node.js/npm

NPM (Node Package Manager) simplifies Node.js’s code sharing and dependency management. It increases the scripting capabilities and efficiency of applications. That is why developers prefer using NPM for its ease of sharing. Although this combination is effective, it has some significant security drawbacks. That is why this ecosystem is often called a “plague.”

What are these vulnerabilities? Let’s look at that in detail.

Pre/Post Install Script and Injections

This simple security risk works by injecting malicious code into a target project and stealing data. The pre/post install scripts became a major vulnerability after an incident in 2018. A npm package called left-pad attacked thousands of projects. It was a piece of code for stealing user data from projects. It was downloaded over 10 million times before its intent was discovered. 


Typosquatting refers to an attack that exploits user mistakes. As you may expect, its name derives from the word ‘typo.’ Attackers use typosquatting to fetch user credentials. Node.js/npm allows access to any package that has global variables. Thus, potential attackers publish malicious modules with similar names to popular modules. This way, they can trick people into opening this threat. 

NPM Package Hijacking

Package hijacking is quite common in npm. Typically, it works like typosquatting because an attacker publishes a package with the same name as an existing package. However, installing it can lead to data loss. Node.js/npm hijacking can also happen in other ways, like email. 

According to a study in 2021, 2818 maintainer email addresses with expired domains allow attackers to hijack over 8,000 packages. It was found that 44.3% of those maintainers and 58.7% were inactive in the npm registry. 

Manifest Confusion

Manifest confusion is a security vulnerability in the NPM. It happens when someone modifies the manifest file. This particular file has information about the package, like its version, dependencies, and name. This problem can lead to a malicious actor removing certain scripts or dependencies from the NPM registry.

Manifest confusion can lead to other development issues, like cache poisoning, unknown script execution, malicious dependency installation, and downgrade attacks.

Blind Packages Updates

A blind package upgrade means updating all the dependencies to their latest versions. While it has benefits, these updates can include security threats. It can lead to bigger problems, like a dependency confusion attack. This simple mistake can give attackers access to your private packages, caches, proxies, and code libraries.

Arbitrary Command Execution

Another security vulnerability is arbitrary command execution. Some dependencies can include harmful commands. You might have heard of the node-ipc package attack. It allows attackers to create files on your desktop. That can lead to them stealing your credentials and other information.

Moreover, command execution can also cause permanent data loss. That’s because some attacks can fetch access to your hard drive. It allows malicious attackers to steal or wipe out entire drives clean.

How to Stay Secure?

If you want superior security, opt for a Node.js/npm alternative. One of the best options is Deno with its cutting-edge features. It offers a sandboxed execution environment with more coding efficiency. It has more protective security protocols, including explicit permission requirements. 

Deno is one of the most secure solutions with added protection layers against malware and attacks. It keeps your code safe while protecting your sensitive files and network connection simultaneously. 

With Deno, no rogue scripts can sneak in and affect your work. It provides a centralized package entry to only fetch resources from trusted sources. 


Node.js/npm is one of the best technologies to have come out in recent years. It changed the world of web development. But with its endless benefits, it has many security downsides. You always have to look out for script injections, malicious updates, dependency attacks, and hijacking attempts. 

But that’s not a problem with a powerhouse alternative like Deno. It fortifies user data and codes with multiple security protocols. Now, you do not have to worry about malware, hackers, and attackers. Try Deno today and bring out your true coding potential!

At Type Driven we exclusively use Deno over Node.js to achieve the best in class security while being able to leverage the NPM ecosystem when needed.

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