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README.md

Got Cred?

Cred is a flexible authentication and authorization middleware for express apps which uses JSON Web Tokens. It is meant to be unobtrusive and let you decide where data is stored, how cred(entials) are determined to be valid, and what the structure of the JWT's payload looks like.

All you need to do is give Cred a function which takes parameters from the request's body, validates them, and then returns an object literal which will become the payload of the JWTs returned by the system.

Install

npm install cred

Usage

See cred-auth-manager for a non-trivial reference implementation of Cred. It is an example app that can act as a central authentication hub for an optionally distributed system. You can use it out of the box directly, modify it, or simply refer to it as an example.


The two most important things you need to do to use this is initialize the module, and then provide it with at least one authentication "strategy" (a function you define which determines if someone provided the right credentials) which should simply return an object containing the payload you want to include in all tokens created using that strategy.

So, for example, if you wanted to implement a simple username + password strat, you could initialize the module like this (this is assuming you have, in this case, a mongoose model called 'User' which has a function called verifyPassword which returns a boolean if the credentials matched or not):

const gotCred = require('cred');
const User = require('./models/User');

const cred = gotCred({
  issuer: 'my-issuer-name',
  accessOpts: {
    secret: 'my-super-secret-secret',
    expiresIn: '1 hour'
  },
  refreshOpts: {
    secret: 'my-other-super-secret-secret',
    expiresIn: '1 week'
  }
});

cred.use('basic', req => {
  return User.findOne({ username: req.body.username })
    .then(user => user.verifyPassword(req.body.password))
    .then(isMatch => {      
      if (!isMatch) throw 'Unauthorized: username or password do not match.'

      return {
        name: 'My name',
        id: '12345',
        anotherAttribute: 'some-value'
      };
    });
});

The way credentials are verified is totally up to you. Throw, if the credentials don't match, and return an object for the token payload if they do. That's all this function needs to do.

You can throw an error message in this function as it is part of another Promise chain inside Cred which will handle outputting an error message with a 401 error code as part of an Express middleware. As a result, you also don't need to catch those error right here ;) But you could override Cred's behaviour in your own catch if you prefer, and respond to the error in your own way.

Later, you can use the cred.authenticate(stratName) as a middleware in your routes to require the above credentials before proceeding to the next middleware in your chain like this (just remember to use the same name you defined in the above function; here we called it 'basic'):

const router = require('express').Router();

router.route('/login')
  .post(cred.authenticate('basic'), (req, res, next) => {
    // Do authenticated stuff here.
    res.json({
      message: 'Login successful.',
      tokens: req.cred.tokens
    })
  });

What happens when you use the above middleware is that Cred will add an attribute to the Express request object called "cred" (you can override this with a different name if you like) which will contain two new JSON Web Tokens using the payload you defined in your strat.

These tokens can then be used to gain authorization to other parts of your app which can be set up to only accept valid JWTs. These tokens can also be stored in your front-end apps to be re-used each time they need to make a request to your server. This is a lot simpler than using something like Oauth, or managing a session store and opening yourself up to the problems associated with cookies (for example). To read more about JWTs, check out the /docs folder, especially What is a JSON Web Token?.

The two tokens that get generated are 1) an "access" token, and 2) a "refresh" token. The difference is, an "access" token is used for regularly "doing stuff" with your api (getting access to resources), whereas the "refresh" token is used to simply "get a new access token". The reason for the two is that the access token is very short lived (up to you, the default is 1 hour) whereas the refresh token is longer lived (again, up to you, but the default is 1 week). This ensures that any access token that is issued will "die on its own" and become invalid without doing anything else. But users have 1 week to "refresh" their token with a new one. When this is done, the refresh token is checked against an internal whitelist store which tracks all currently active (and valid) refresh tokens. This way you have control over all refresh tokens issued and can revoke them as needed to prevent someone from getting new access tokens. When a user logs out, you simply need to revoke their refresh token (their access token will become invalid on its own). If the user's refresh token was revoked, or if it expired on its own, the user will be required to provide authentic credentials once again through the login process in order to get new tokens.

You can revoke and refresh a token like this:

router.route('/logout')
  .delete(cred.requireRefreshToken, (req, res, next) => {
    cred.revoke(req.cred.token)
      .then(revokedToken => res.json({
        message: 'Logged out.',
        token: revokedToken
      }))
      .catch(next);
  });

router.route('/refresh')
  .post(cred.requireRefreshToken, (req, res, next) => {
    cred.refresh(req.cred.token)
      .then(freshTokens => res.json({
        message: 'Tokens refreshed.',
        tokens: freshTokens
      }))
      .catch(next);
  });

When using either cred.requireRefreshToken or cred.requireAccessToken as middleware, these will attach a single token attribute to the cred attribute on the request object being either the refresh token or access token respectively. This is different from the cred.authenticate() method which attaches both tokens as a tokens attribute.

cred.refresh returns an object containing two attributes: 1) accessToken and 2) refreshToken. You can return those to the user/front-end for use to continue accessing resources.

cred.revoke removes the refresh token that was used in cred.requireRefreshToken and returns the revoked token. You can return that if you want, or do nothing.

Last, you can setup any of your authorized routes to require a valid access token like this:

router.route('/resources')
  .all(cred.requireAccessToken)
  .post(postStuff)
  .put(putStuff)
  .delete(deleteStuff)
  .get(getStuff);

Full API docs can be found in /docs in API Docs.

For more advanced usage with specific "roles" or "permissions", check out the Using Permissions doc.

License

MIT

Acknowledgements

I'm using the jsonwebtoken library created by Auth0 which is based on jws and jwa for handling the JSON web token verification and generation.

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