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Allows login sessions from your app to persist in NodeBB
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README.md

Session Sharing for NodeBB

In a nutshell, this plugin allows you to share sessions between your application and NodeBB. You'll need to set a special cookie with a common domain, containing a JSON Web Token with user data. If sufficient, this plugin will handle the rest (user registration/login).

How is this related to SSO?

Single Sign-On allows a user to log into NodeBB through a third-party service. It is best (and most securely) achieved via OAuth2 provider, although other alternatives exist. An example of a single sign-on plugin is nodebb-plugin-sso-facebook.

Single sign-on does not allow a session to become automatically created if a login is made to another site. This is the one misconception that people hold when thinking about SSO and session sharing.

This session sharing plugin will allow NodeBB to automatically log in users (and optionally, log out users) if the requisite shared cookie is found (more on that below).

You can use this plugin and single sign-on plugins together, but they won't be seamlessly integrated.

Compatibility

This plugin is compatible with NodeBB v1.0.0 and up. As of 27 January 2016, v1.0.0 has not been released yet, so you will need to be running the master branch of a NodeBB installation via GitHub.

How does this work?

This plugin checks incoming requests for a shared cookie that is saved by your application when a user logs in. This cookie contains in its value, a specially crafted signed token containing unique identifying information for that user.

If the user can be found in NodeBB, that user will be logged in. If not, then a user is created, and that unique indentifier is saved for future reference.

How can I integrate my site with this plugin?

When a user logs in, you'll need to save a cookie in their browser session for NodeBB. This cookie needs to have a couple special attributes:

  • The HttpOnly flag should be set for security, otherwise the shared cookie can be read by via AJAX/XHR
  • The domain should be set to the naked domain. That is, if your site is at app.example.com, and your forum is at talk.example.com, the cookie domain should be set to example.com.
  • The cookie name is up to you, and can be configured in this plugin's settings. (Default: token)
  • The cookie value is a JSON Web Token. See below.

Generating the JSON Web Token

A list of compatible libraries can be obtained on the main website for JSON Web Tokens.

You'll be encoding a payload that looks something like this...

{
	"id": 123,
	"username": "foobar"
}

... into this JSON Web Token (using a secret of secret)...

eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpZCI6MTIzLCJ1c2VybmFtZSI6ImZvb2JhciJ9.b45U-9GfCZ203-pMAtIgTbTm0PfKRZwpI_cpugtDWVM

Note: Don't use secret as your secret!

You are required to pass in at least id and username.

You can also add email, firstName, lastName, picture to the payload if you'd like. If you specify firstName or lastName, username is no longer required. These values don't have to match exactly, you can customise the property names in the plugin settings.

Additionally, if group syncing is enabled, you can specify groups and list groups that the user is in. They will be joined (or left) automatically based on what is found in the payload.

Continuing on... Encode the payload with a secret of your choice, and configure the plugin by specifying the secret, so it can properly decode and verify the JWT signature.

Note: In some libraries, the payload is encoded like so:

{
	"d": {
		"email": "bob@example.com",
		"uid": "123",
		"username": "cheddar"
	},
	"exp": 1454710044,
	"iat": 1452118044
}

In which case, you can set the "Parent Key" setting in this plugin to d.

Security

Please note that according to the JWT spec, the payload itself is not encrypted, only signed. That is, the Base64 Url Encoded payload is appended to the header. It can be decoded trivially (as base64 is not meant to be cryptographically secure), so do not put any private information in the payload. The header and payload themselves are signed against the secret, and NodeBB will only allow a JWT through if it has not been tampered with. That is, NodeBB will only continue with a login if the signature can be independently generated by the received payload and the secret.

Use secure cookies transmitted via HTTPS if at all possible.

Testing

If you need to generate a fake token for testing, you can GET /debug/session while NodeBB is in development mode. NodeBB will then log in or create a user called "testUser", with the email "testUser@example.org".

Warning: If you've configured the plugin to "revalidate" instead of "trust" (normally the default), you might accidentally lock yourself out of the administrative account as you won't have a proper cookie to authenticate with. To reset the plugin settings, delete the "settings:session-sharing" hash/document in your data store. In a pinch, running ./nodebb reset -p nodebb-plugin-session-sharing will work to disable the plugin so you can log back in.

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