Explore our platform and learn how it can help your application shine.
Learn about modern authentication techniques and best practices.
Learn about access management practices and technologies.
Learn to manage user accounts and access at scale.
Understand multi-tenancy, a foundation of shared computing.
Learn how to design and build successful SaaS applications.
Understand what is required to provide an enterprise-ready product.
Understand the uses and benefits of Attribute-Based Access Control.
Learn how Single Sign On (SSO) can improve security and UX.
Learn about OpenID Connect, an open authentication protocol.
Learn about SAML, a popular SSO protocol.
Learn about our history, our team, and our mission.
OAuth is mentioned in many SaaS circles when it comes to identity management and access control. But what’s it all about? Check out this detailed guide to learn more about the ins and outs of this authorization protocol.
OAuth is an open-standard authorization protocol. It allows servers and services, which are not directly integrated, to provide authenticated access to their assets. OAuth uses tokens to share authorization data, without requiring applications to share actual logon credentials. This is known as secure, third-party, delegated authorization.
OAuth allows users to authorize one application to interact with another on their behalf, without giving away their password. Users can also specify exactly which permissions the application should have, which creates transparency and enhances security.
The OAuth framework gives application owners the ability to grant cross-domain access control. It manages authentication and authorization separately, which enables easier interoperability. It supports multiple use-cases, including server-to-server and application-to-server, and can be used in combination with other protocols for more complex user cases.
In this article:
OAuth consists of various key elements that together ensure the secure transfer of authorization data:
OAuth scopes provide a way for a client to limit the amount of access they have to a user’s data. When requesting a token for access, a client can specify the scope of access required. Consequently, the user can clearly understand what they are permitting the client to do during the process of authorization.
OAuth scopes influence the client’s access level to the user’s protected information. A ‘read’ access scope, for instance, permits the client to visualize data but not modify it. Alternatively, a ‘write’ access scope allows the client to both view and modify the data.
However, note that OAuth scopes aren’t used for security, but for transparency with users. They cannot prevent a malicious client from accessing an access token, but help the user comprehend what they’re authorizing an application to do with their data.
Several entities participate in the OAuth workflow. These include the Resource Owner, Client, Authorization Server, and Resource Server:
The OAuth protocol uses tokens, which allow a client to access the Resource Owner’s data. OAuth has two token types:
OAuth flows or grant types illustrate how a client can receive an access token. The OAuth protocol defines four different grant types:
OAuth has evolved over the years, and it is important to understand its different versions.
OAuth 1.0 was the first version of OAuth, and was a major step towards more convenient, secure authorization. However, it was a bit complex for developers to use and customize, due to its requirement for cryptographic signatures.
OAuth 2.0 focused on simplifying work for developers while maintaining high security standards. OAuth 2.0 dropped cryptographic signatures in favor of SSL/TLS, thereby simplifying the protocol. It also introduced scopes and tokens, providing more refined access control.
However, while OAuth 2.0 is believed to be an improvement over OAuth 1.0, it does invite some criticism. Some security experts suggest that OAuth 2.0’s reliance on SSL/TLS for security makes it more susceptible to specific attack types.
Let’s examine how OAuth compares to other well-known authentication and authorization protocols.
SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language) and OAuth both ensure the secure exchange of information. However, they work differently. SAML mainly operates in the context of enterprise single sign-on (SSO), whereas OAuth is optimized for allowing third-party applications to access user data without sharing a password.
Whereas SAML uses XML for data formatting, OAuth employs JSON. Therefore, OAuth is lightweight and ideal for mobile applications. However, SAML’s capabilities are more extensive, offering complex assertions about a user’s authentication and authorization status.
OpenID is a protocol for single sign-on that, unlike SAML, focuses on federated identity, thereby allowing users to rely on the same credentials across different sites. In contrast, OAuth is about authorization, not authentication. It’s about enabling one application to get access to another application on behalf of a user.
However, OAuth and OpenID work together. OpenID Connect is an identity layer constructed atop the OAuth 2.0 protocol, which lets clients verify the identity of an end-user based on authentication facilitated by an authorization server.
JWT (JSON Web Token) is a compact, URL-safe way of representing claims to be communicated between two parties. The JSON structure includes assertions that are digitally signed with a Message Authentication Code (MAC) and/or encrypted.
OAuth 2.0 is a protocol that allows a user to grant limited access to their resources on one site, to another site, without having to expose their credentials. When compared to JWT, OAuth is a protocol that uses JWT as a means to maintain and transfer information between parties.
Here are a few ways you can ensure your OAuth implementation is a success.
The security of your OAuth implementation heavily relies on how well you protect your client credentials. These are the keys to your kingdom, and if they get into the wrong hands, your kingdom is at risk. Here are a few ways to protect your credentials:
OAuth provides several different flows for different types of applications. Choosing the right flow is crucial to the security and usability of your application.
Redirect URIs are a critical part of the OAuth process. They’re the locations where the authorization server sends the user after they’ve authenticated. Therefore, it’s important to protect them:
Access and refresh tokens are the keys to your user’s data. Therefore, it’s important to validate them:
User consent is a critical part of the OAuth process. It’s what gives your application permission to access the user’s data. Therefore, it’s important to implement it in a secure and user-friendly way:
Related content: Read our guide to OAuth grant types
Frontegg’s end-to-end and self-served authentication infrastructure is based on JSON Web Tokens. Our JWTs have been designed to adhere to the highest security standards. Therefore, our user management solution is also fully compliant with the OAuth protocol, along with OpenID Connect 1.0 (OIDC) as well. We cover all important bases that are required in the modern SaaS space.
START FOR FREE
The Complete Guide to SaaS Multi-Tenant Architecture
Looking to take your User Management to the next level?
Rate this post
0 / 5. 0
No reviews yet