Add-ons

Sharing objects with page scripts

The techniques described in this section are only available in Firefox, and only from Firefox 49 onwards.

As an extension developer you should consider that scripts running in arbitrary web pages are hostile code whose aim is to steal the user's personal information, damage their computer, or attack them in some other way.

The isolation between content scripts and scripts loaded by web pages is intended to make it more difficult for hostile web pages to do this.

Since the techniques described in this section break down that isolation, they are inherently dangerous and should be used with great care.

As the content scripts guide notes, content scripts don't see changes made to the DOM by scripts loaded by web pages. This means that, for example, if a web page loads a library like jQuery, content scripts won't be able to use it, and have to load their own copy. Conversely, scripts loaded by web pages can't see changes made by content scripts.

However, Firefox provides some APIs that enable content scripts to:

  • access JavaScript objects created by page scripts
  • expose their own JavaScript objects to page scripts.

Xray vision in Firefox

In Firefox, part of the isolation between content scripts and page scripts is implemented using a feature called "Xray vision". When a script in a more-privileged scope accesses an object that's defined in a less-privileged scope it sees only the "native version" of the object. Any expando properties are invisible, and if any properties of the object have been redefined, it sees the original implementation, not the redefined version.

The purpose of this feature is to make it harder for the less-privileged script to confuse the more-privileged script by redefining the native properties of objects.

So for example, when a content script accesses the page's window, it won't see any properties the page script added to the window, and if the page script has redefined any existing properties of the window, the content script will see the original version.

For the full story on Xray vision, see the articles on Xray vision and Script security.

Accessing page script objects from content scripts

In Firefox, DOM objects in content scripts get an extra property wrappedJSObject. This is an "unwrapped" version of the object, which includes any changes made to that object by any page scripts.

Let's take a simple example. Suppose a web page loads a script:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
  <head>
    <meta charset="UTF-8">
  </head>
  <body>
    <script type="text/javascript" src="main.js"></script>
  </body>
</html>

The script adds an expando property to the global window:

// main.js

var foo = "I'm defined in a page script!";

Xray vision means that if a content script tries to access foo, it will be undefined:

// content-script.js

console.log(window.foo); // undefined

In Firefox, content scripts can use window.wrappedJSObject to see the expando property:

// content-script.js

console.log(window.wrappedJSObject.foo); // "I'm defined in a page script!"

Note that once you do this, you can no longer rely on any of this object's properties or functions being, or doing, what you expect. Any of them, even setters and getters, could have been redefined by untrusted code.

Also note that unwrapping is transitive: when you use wrappedJSObject, any properties of the unwrapped object are themselves unwrapped (and therefore unreliable). So it's good practice, once you've got the object you need, to rewrap it, which you can do like this:

XPCNativeWrapper(window.wrappedJSObject.foo);

See the document on Xray vision for much more detail on this.

Sharing content script objects with page scripts

Firefox also provides APIs enabling content scripts to make objects available to page scripts. There are several approaches here:

  • exportFunction(): export a function to page scripts.
  • cloneInto(): export an object to page scripts.
  • constructors from the page context

exportFunction

Given a function defined in the content script, exportFunction() exports it to the page script's scope, so the page script can call it.

For example, let's consider an extension which has a background script like this:

/*
Execute content script in the active tab.
*/
function loadContentScript() {
  browser.tabs.executeScript({
    file: "/content_scripts/export.js"
  });
}

/*
Add loadContentScript() as a listener to clicks
on the browser action.
*/
browser.browserAction.onClicked.addListener(loadContentScript);

/*
Show a notification when we get messages from
the content script.
*/
browser.runtime.onMessage.addListener((message) => {
  browser.notifications.create({
    type: "basic",
    title: "Message from the page",
    message: message.content
  });
});

This does two things:

  • execute a content script in the current tab, when the user clicks a browser action
  • listen for messages from the content script, and display a notification when the message arrives.

The content script looks like this:

/*
Define a function in the content script's scope, then export it
into the page script's scope.
*/
function notify(message) {
  browser.runtime.sendMessage({content: "Function call: " + message});
}

exportFunction(notify, window, {defineAs:'notify'});

This defines a function notify(), which just sends its argument to the background script. It then exports the function to the page script's scope. Now the page script can call this function:

window.notify("Message from the page script!");

For the full story, see Components.utils.exportFunction.

cloneInto

Given an object defined in the content script, this creates a clone of the object in the page script's scope, thereby making the clone accessible to page scripts. By default, this uses the structured clone algorithm to clone the object, meaning that functions in the object are not included in the clone. To include functions, pass the cloneFunctions option.

For example, here's a content script that defines an object that contains a function, then clones it into the page script's scope:

/*
Create an object that contains functions in
the content script's scope, then clone it
into the page script's scope.

Because the object contains functions,
the cloneInto call must include
the `cloneFunctions` option.
*/
var messenger = {
  notify: function(message) {
    browser.runtime.sendMessage({
      content: "Object method call: " + message
    });
  }
};

window.wrappedJSObject.messenger = cloneInto(
  messenger,
  window,
  {cloneFunctions: true});

Now page scripts will see a new property on the window, messenger, which has a function notify():

window.messenger.notify("Message from the page script!");

For the full story, see Components.utils.cloneInto.

Constructors from the page context

On the xrayed window object pristine constructors for some built-in javascript objects such as Object, Function or Proxy and various DOM classes are available. XMLHttpRequest does not behave in this way, see the XHR and fetch section for details. They will create instances belonging to the page global's object hierarchy and then return an xray wrapper.

Since objects created this way already belong to the page and not the content script passing them back to the page will not require additional cloning or exporting.

/* javascript built-ins */

const objA = new Object();
const objB = new window.Object();

console.log(
  objA instanceof Object,                        // true
  objB instanceof Object,                        // false
  objA instanceof window.Object,                 // false
  objB instanceof window.Object,                 // true
  'wrappedJSObject' in objB                      // true; xrayed
);

objA.foo = "foo";
objB.foo = "foo";                                // xray wrappers for plain javascript objects pass through property assignments
objB.wrappedJSObject.bar = "bar";                // unwrapping before assignment does not rely on this special behavior

window.wrappedJSObject.objA = objA;
window.wrappedJSObject.objB = objB;              // automatically unwraps when passed to page context

window.eval(`
  console.log(objA instanceof Object);           // false
  console.log(objB instanceof Object);           // true

  console.log(objA.foo);                         // undefined
  objA.baz = "baz";                              // Error: permission denied
  
  console.log(objB.foo, objB.bar);               // "foo", "bar"
  objB.baz = "baz";      
`);

/* other APIs */

const ev = new Event("click");

console.log(
  ev instanceof Event,                           // true
  ev instanceof window.Event,                    // true; Event constructor is actually inherited from the xrayed window
  'wrappedJSObject' in ev                        // true; is an xrayed object
);

ev.propA = "propA"                                // xray wrappers for native objects do not pass through assignments
ev.propB = "wrapper";                             // define property on xray wrapper
ev.wrappedJSObject.propB = "unwrapped";           // define same property on page object
Reflect.defineProperty(ev.wrappedJSObject,        // privileged reflection can operate on less privileged objects
  'propC', {
     get: exportFunction(function() {             // getters must be exported like regular functions
       return 'propC';
     }
  }
);

window.eval(`
  document.addEventListener("click", (e) => {
    console.log(e instanceof Event, e.propA, e.propB, e.propC);
  });
`);

document.dispatchEvent(ev); // true, undefined, "unwrapped", "propC"

Document Tags and Contributors

 Contributors to this page: hellosct1, wbamberg
 Last updated by: hellosct1,