Authentication integration

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Revision as of 21:58, 4 September 2010 by imported>Paulproteus
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The OpenHatch website is comprised of a few pieces. There's the OpenHatch codebase in Django, but there's also this wiki and we are choosing a forum. I'd like logins to be integrated.


Django code creates domain cookies within that contain the user's username and email address. The application (like the wiki) can read that information and verify it using HMAC-SHA1.


Application: redirect

If the wiki detects an OpenHatch session cookie, it redirects the user to

Django code: create_user_data cookies

The OpenHatch site creates some cookies. All cookies contain text. We encode it as UTF-8 and then wrap that in base64.

The "message" that we HMAC is the final, base64-encoded data.

  • user_data__email_address: This contains the user's email address.
  • user_data__email_address__hmac: This contains a HMAC-SHA1 to verify the authenticity of the email address.
  • user_data__username: This contains the user's username.
  • user_data__username__hmac: This contains a HMAC-SHA1 of the username.

Application: Read cookie data, then delete cookies

Now it's time for the application (e.g., the wiki) to read the user data and log the user in.

It should delete the user_data__* cookies that it read, to avoid keeping clutter in the user's browser.

That's up to the application. It MUST verify the user_data__* using HMAC-SHA1 before trusting it, as users can tamper with this data.

The application should make its own "logged in" status expire at the end of the session.

Known issues

There are some problems with this setup. Some security issues:

  • Email addresses and usernames travel along the network unencrypted. (In practice, this is no worse than the status quo, since session IDs already do that.)
  • Not all applications treat usernames as case-sensitive. This might allow an attacker to create a new username that is treated as equivalent to a different user, effectively stealing an account.
    • We can fix this by constraining usernames on the Django side to be case-insensitively unique.

Some usability issues:

  • The first time the user goes to the forum, the browser will redirect a few times. That'll be weird.

Missing features:

  • If an account gets deleted within the OpenHatch Django app, we don't have a way to ask downstream applications to delete their account of the same name.