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Sakai OAuth

Sakai OAuth allows any external application to connect to Sakai as any user thanks to the OAuth system 1.0.

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The project is divided in five modules similar to the structure of many Sakai projects:

  • api contains a basic API for OAuth login, such as DAO for accessors and consumers, and mandatory services.
  • assembly gathers the content of every other modules in one assembly file which can easily be deployed.
  • impl contains the actual code of the default OAuth implementation.
  • pack is the module defining the Spring configuration.
  • tool is a simple web tool allowing users to remove an authorised consumer and and let administrators add new consumers to the system.


The OAuth terminology isn't really strict and may vary depending the libraries you're working with. Here is what is used in this project:

  • Accessor, also known as token (see note).
    Two kinds of accessors are used:

    • Request, temporary credentials authorised manually by the user. This accessor allows a consumer to generate one Access Accessor.
      The request accessor goes through three states before being revoked:

      • new, the accessor has been created by the OAuth service on the request of a consumer and is not yet bound to a specific user.
      • authorising, it's the part during which the consumer waits for a user to grant it an access to the resources.
      • authorised, the accessor can be used to generate one (and only one) Access Accessor.
    • Access, used by a consumer to directly access some protected resources without requiring the user to log in.

    note: a token is actually the unique identifier of an accessor.
    Request accessor states are specific to Sakai OAuth.

  • Consumer, also known as client or third party application.
    It's the application the user will allow to access Sakai on his behalf. Consumers have to be declared in the OAuth service by an administrator first.

  • Consumer secret
    Secret password shared only between one consumer and the OAuth service.
    It will allow the consumer to sign its requests to the OAuth Service to check the validity of every request.

  • Access token secret also known as signature or simply token secret.
    Secret password generated for each accessor, based on the consumer secret, it allows to exchange messages without using directly the actual consumer secret which is really sensitive, while allowing to check the validity of the request.

  • Accessor Secret.
    Secret independant from the Consumer secret and the Access token secret, it can be defined in advance (the same way a Consumer secret is) or during the creation of the request accessor.
    It is used to replace the consumer secret during the generation of the Access token secret for an access accessor. This avoids using the consumer secret too much and increase the security.
    It is not mandatory

  • Callback URL
    During the authorisation procedure, a message is sent from the OAuth service to the consumer. This message is initated by the OAuth service and is sent on the callback URL which has been specified beforehand or during the creation of the Request accessor.

  • User, also known as resource owner. He is the actual Sakai user.


The API relies on three different parts:

  • The DAO, used to create new ways to store informations about accessors and consumers
  • The service, allowing to specify an implementation respecting the OAuth 1.0 workflow
  • The filters, that will be applied on different parts of Sakai that should be accessible through OAuth eg: access and entity-broker

API workflow

This is step by step which method and how they're supposed to be called.

Creation of the Request accessor
  • OAuthHttpService.handleRequestToken(), the customer sends a direct request to the OAuthProvider on /request_token, asking for a Request accessor, the content of this http request is extracted to obtain a Consumer.
  • OAuthService.createRequestAccessor(), is called by the OAuthHttpService in order to generate a valid Request accessor.
    If a callback URL or accessor secret was defined during the request, they are included in the Request accessor settings.
  • A reply containing, the token, the Accessor token secret is sent back.

The request accessor is new, isn't linked to any user yet and cannot generate an access accessor.

Authorisation by the user
  • The consumers sends the user on /authorize page of Sakai with the request token in parameter.
  • AuthorisationServlet will determine if the user is already logged in Sakai or not, and redirect him to the login screen if needed. The login screen redirects to /authorize with the request token in parameter.
  • /authorize starts the "authorisation procedure" (specific to Sakai OAuth).
    • The request accessor is now in the authorising step.
    • A verifier code is generated and stored with the request accessor, this verifier allows to check that the result of the authorisation is a choice by the user (as the consumer can't possibly know about this code).
    • A form allowing the user to either grant or deny the permission to the consumer to access the protected resources on his behalf.
      The verifier is sent with the form
  • Whether the user accepts or refuses, OAuthHttpService.handleRequestAuthorisation() is called with the answer of the user, the token, the verifier and the current userId.
  • If the user accepted, OAuthHttpService calls OAuthService.authoriseAccessor()
    • The request accessor is now in the authorised step.
    • The verifier is checked and the user ID is verified (superusers can't use OAuth)

The default implementation

  • Any administrator is not permitted authenticate via OAuth.


The OAuth service can be configured through

The OAuth service is enabled by default. To disable OAuth on all requests this in the oauth.enabled=false


To test that OAuth is setup correctly you need a tool which will make HTTP requests with OAuth headers. There is a small Java utility called oacurl which can make OAuth requests.

Sakai Setup

  • Login to your Sakai instance as admin and go to the Administration Workspace.
  • Using the Sites tool edit the Administration Workspace (!admin), add a page, on the page put the OAuth Administration Tool that allows you to manage OAuth consumers (tool ID: sakai.oauth.admin) and save the site.
  • Also using the Sites tool edit the My Workspace template (!user), add a page, on the page put the OAuth Trusted Applications tool which allows end users to manage their autorized applications (tool ID: sakai.oauth).
  • Refresh the browser on the Administration Workspace and you should see the oAuth Admin page appear.
  • In the oAuth Admin tool add a new consumer.
  • The consumer key should be unique and meaningful. Eg: oacurl-test.
  • The consumer name is displayed to the users when they are allowing it access to their account. Eg oacurl.
  • The description should be used to describe what the consumer is doing or used for, again this is shown to end users.
  • The secret is the password for the consumer and should be secure. Eg: ooWaebai2Aep
  • Save the new consumer, then enable record mode which will set the permission filter to record permissions requested and allow them.

oacurl Setup

  • Download the oacurl .jar file and put if somewhere sensible.
  • Create a properties file (eg configured with the consumer you have just created.
  • Launch the oacurl login: java -cp oacurl-1.3.0.jar
  • Your browser should popup now and ask you to login.
  • After logging in as a non-admin user you should be asked to allow the oacurl consumer access to your account.
  • After accepting it, a token will be save for later use.
  • To test login create a text file in the users My Workspace and save it (eg: test.txt).
  • Test the download using oacurl: java -cp oacurl-1.3.0.jar http://localhost:8080/access/content/user/21096/test.txt