Heroic::SNS, Rack middleware for Amazon SNS endpoints

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Heroic::SNS provides secure, lightweight Rack middleware for AWS Simple Notification Service (SNS) endpoints.

Any SNS messages POSTed by Amazon to your web application are intercepted, parsed, verified, and then passed along via the sns.message environment key. (In case you need it, the original, unparsed message is also available in the body of the request.)

If something goes wrong, the error will be passed along via the sns.error environment key. Heroic::SNS::Endpoint does not log any messages itself.

Heroic::SNS aims to be secure. All message signatures are verified (to avoid forgeries) and stale messages are rejected (to avoid replay attacks).

Heroic::SNS aims to be lightweight. Beside Ruby standard libraries there are no dependencies besides json and rack. Specifically, Heroic::SNS does not depend on aws-sdk. They will be friendly to each other, however, if you include both in a project.


  1. gem install heroic-sns
  2. require 'heroic/sns'
  3. Install Heroic::SNS::Endpoint in your Rack app's middleware stack
  4. Get SNS messages from env['sns.message']
  5. Get errors from env['sns.error']

How to use it

Once you have installed the gem, simply add the following to your config.ru file:

use Heroic::SNS::Endpoint, :topics => /:aws-ses-bounces$/

On Rails, you could also install it in /config/initializers/sns_endpoint.rb:

Rails.application.config.middleware.use Heroic::SNS::Endpoint, :topic => ...

The Endpoint class takes an options hash as an argument, and understands these options:


:topic is required, and provides a filter that defines what SNS topics are handled by this endpoint. A message is considered either "on-topic" or "off-topic". You can supply any of the following:

  • a String containing a single topic ARN

  • an Array of String representing a list of topic ARNs

  • a RegExp which matches on-topic ARNs

  • a Proc which accepts an ARN as an argument and returns true or false for on-topic and off-topic ARNs, respectively.

The key :topics is also supported.


:auto_confirm affects how on-topic subscription confirmations are handled.

  • If true, they are confirmed by retrieving the URL in the SubscribeURL field of the SNS message, and your app is NOT notified. This is the default.

  • If false, they are ignored; your app is NOT notified.

  • If nil, there is no special handling and the message is passed along to your app.


:auto_resubscribe affects how on-topic unsubscribe confirmations are handled.

  • If false, they are ignored and your app is NOT notified. This is the default.

  • If true, they topic is automatically re-subscribed by retrieving the URL in the SubscribeURL field of the SNS message, and your app is NOT notified.

  • If nil, there is no special handling and the message is passed along to your app.

If you are a control-freak and want no special handling whatsoever, use these options:

use Heroic::SNS::Endpoint, :topics => Proc.new { true }, :auto_confirm => nil, :auto_resubscribe => nil

Then the object will simply parse and verify SNS messages it finds and pass them along to your app, taking no action.

Once the middleware is set up, any notifications will be made available in your Rack environment under the sns.message key. If you are using Rails, your controller would have a method like this:

skip_before_filter :verify_authenticity_token, :only => [:handle_notification]

def handle_notification
  if message = request.env['sns.message']
    # message is an instance of Heroic::SNS::Message
    payload = JSON.parse(message.body)
  elsif error = request.env['sns.error']
    raise error # let the warning be logged
  head :ok

You must skip the authenticity token verification to allow Amazon to POST to the controller action. Be careful not to disable it for more actions than you need. Be sure to disable any authentication checks for that action, too.

Multiple endpoint URLs

If you are receiving multiple notifications at multiple endpoint URLs, you should only include one instance of the Endpoint in your middleware stack, and ensure that its topic filter allows all the notifications you are interested in to pass through.

Endpoint does not interact with the URL path at all; if you want your subscriptions to go to different URLs, simply set them up that way.

Off-topic notifications

As a security measure, Endpoint requires you to set up a topic filter. Any notifications that do not match this filter are not passed along to your application.

All off-topic messages are ignored with one exception: if the message is a regular notification (meaning your app has an active subscription) and the message can be verified as authentic (by checking its signature), Endpoint will cancel the subscription by visiting the URL in the UnsubscribeURL field of the message.

If you would rather make decision about on-topic and off-topic notifications in your own code, simply pass Proc.new { true } as the topic filter, and all messages will be treated as on topic. Be aware that it is dangerous to leave :auto_confirm enabled with a permissive topic filter, as this will allow anyone to subscribe your web app to any SNS notification.


  • Fork the project.
  • Make your feature addition or bug fix and include tests.
  • Update CHANGELOG.md.
  • Send a pull request.

Copyright 2013, 2016, 2020, Benjamin Ragheb and Contributors.

This project is licensed under the Apache license.

Direct correspondence to Benjamin Ragheb via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @benzado.