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Scope querys in multi-tenant django applications

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Many of us use Django to build multi-tenant applications where every user only ever gets access to a small, separated fraction of the data in our application, while at the same time having some global functionality that makes separate databases per client infeasible. While Django does a great job protecting us from building SQL injection vulnerabilities and similar errors, Django can't protect us from logic errors and one of the most dangerous types of security issues for multi-tenant applications is that we leak data across tenants.

It's so easy to forget that one .filter call and it's hard to catch these errors in both manual and automated testing, since you usually do not have a lot of clients in your development setup. Leaving radical, database-dependent ideas aside, there aren't many approaches available in the ecosystem to prevent these mistakes from happening aside from rigorous code review.

We'd like to propose this module as a flexible line of defense. It is meant to have little impact on your day-to-day work, but act as a safeguard in case you build a faulty query.


There's nothing required apart from a simple

pip install django-scopes


This library is tested against Python 3.5-3.7 and Django 2.1-2.2.


Let's assume we have a multi-tenant blog application consisting of the three models Site, Post, and Comment:

from django.db import models

class Site(models.Model):
	name = models.CharField()

class Post(models.Model):
	site = models.ForeignKey(Site, )
	title = models.CharField()

class Comment(models.Model):
	post = models.ForeignKey(Post, )
	text = models.CharField()

In this case, our application will probably be full of statements like Post.objects.filter(site=current_site), Comment.objects.filter(post__site=current_site), or more complex when more flexible permission handling is involved. With django-scopes, we engourage you to still write these queries with your custom permission-based filters, but we add a custom model manager that has knowledge about posts and comments being part of a tenant scope:

from django_scopes import ScopedManager

class Post(models.Model):
	site = models.ForeignKey(Site, )
	title = models.CharField()

	objects = ScopedManager(site='site')

class Comment(models.Model):
	post = models.ForeignKey(Post, )
	text = models.CharField()

	objects = ScopedManager(site='post__site')

The keyword argument site defines the name of our scope dimension, while the string 'site' or 'post__site' tells us how we can look up the value for this scope dimension in ORM queries.

You could have multi-dimensional scopes by passing multiple keyword arguments to ScopedManager, e.g. ScopedManager(site='post__site', user='author') if that is relevant to your usecase.

Now, with this custom manager, all queries are banned at first:

>>> Comment.objects.all()
ScopeError: A scope on dimension "site" needs to be active for this query.

The only thing that will work is Comment.objects.none(), which is useful e.g. for Django generic view definitions.

Activate scopes in contexts

You can now use our context manager to specifically allow queries to a specific blogging site, e.g.:

from django_scopes import scope

with scope(site=current_site):

This will automatically add a .filter(post__site=current_site) to all of your queries. Again, we recommend that you still write them explicitly, but it is nice to know to have a safeguard.

Of course, you can still explicitly enter a non-scoped context to access all the objects in your system:

with scope(site=None):

This also works correctly nested within a previously defined scope. You can also activate multiple values at once:

with scope(site=[site1, site2]):

Sounds cumbersome to put those with statements everywhere? Maybe not at all: You probably already have a middleware that determines the site (or tenant, in general) for every request based on URL or logged in user, and you can easily use it there to just automatically wrap it around all your tenant-specific views.

Functions can opt out of this behavior by using

from django_scopes import scopes_disabled

with scopes_disabled():

# OR

def fun():

Custom manager classes

If you were already using a custom manager class, you can pass it to a ScopedManager with the _manager_class keyword like this: from django.db import models

from django.db import models

class SiteManager(models.Manager):

	def get_queryset(self):
		return super().get_queryset().exclude(name__startswith='test')

class Site(models.Model):
	name = models.CharField()

	objects = ScopedManager(site='site', _manager_class=SiteManager)


We want to enforce scoping by default to stay safe, which unfortunately breaks the Django test runner as well as pytest-django. For now, we haven't found a better solution than to monkeypatch it:

from django.test import utils
from django_scopes import scopes_disabled

utils.setup_databases = scopes_disabled()(utils.setup_databases)

When using model forms, Django will automatically generate choice fields on foreign keys and many-to-many fields. This won't work here, so we supply helper field classes SafeModelChoiceField and SafeModelMultipleChoiceField that use an empty queryset instead:

from django.forms import ModelForm
from django_scopes.forms import SafeModelChoiceField

class PostMethodForm(ModelForm):
    class Meta:
        model = Comment
        field_classes = {
            'post': SafeModelChoiceField,

We noticed that django-filter also runs some queries when generating filtersets. Currently, our best workaround is this:

from django_scopes import scopes_disabled

with scopes_disabled():
    class CommentFilter(FilterSet):

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