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This repository contains code for the above session at the 2014 BCS SPA Conference.

The session will will explain how the OAuth security protocol allows developers to offer cloud services to users without requiring them to provide their usernames and passwords. It uses Dropbox as an example cloud service.


Complete Implementation

The demo directory contains two complete implementations of the code needed for the session, one in Python and one in Java. They are functionally equivalent, so you can use whichever language you prefer. Each of these directories has its own README with instructions on running the demo and unit tests.

The demo code should run on Windows, Mac and Linux (not extensively tested on Linux).

Skeleton Code for Today's Exercise

The exercise directory contains code skeletons created from the demo directory. This is the code you will be editing. The code contains comments which guide you to the various API calls you need to make. If you ever get stuck, you can refer to the corresponding code in the demo directory.

App Key and Secret

Your code will need to initialise the Dropbox OAuth 'app key' and 'app secret' where indicated. The values to use are:

  • OAuth app key: "3i8xil7ewl5d4el"
  • OAuth app secret: "0cf79q7jwrp5sjx"



Sign up to Dropbox at if you don't already have an account. You do not need to install the Dropbox desktop software onto your computer (if you do, to will also be able to view the demo files in your local Dropbox directory Dropbox/apps/bcs_spa_2014).

There are a number of Python and Java-specific prerequities too, which are described in their respective demo directories.


Create a user-owned and writeable directory into which you will install the software, eg C:\OAUTH_SESSION or ~/oauth_session.

Download the files in my git repository into this directory. You can download the files directly from the website (click Download Zip) or clone the repository using a git tool.

You also need to download the Dropbox library and perform other setup tasks for your chosen language. The READMEs in the demo/python and demo/maven directories have detailed installation instructions .

Running the Unit Tests

Once you have completed all the installation tasks, you should then run the unit tests for your chosen language to make sure everything is working correctly.

Viewing the Demo Documentation

The python/doc and maven/target/site/apidocs directories contain documentation for the demo code. You can open the HTML files in a web browser or view them from the home page of the demo HTTP server.


The demo has two parts:

  1. Authorise with Dropbox using OAuth;
  2. Run various commands to display or manipulate Dropbox files (to demonstrate that authorisation was successful).

You will need to run two console sessions:

  • one console for the client (which controls the demo);
  • a second console to run an HTTP server (which is only used to complete the OAuth "redirect" authorisation).

Authorisation Modes

The demo client authorises with Dropbox in one of two modes.

  • In no-redirect mode, the Dropbox authorisation webpage displays an authorisation code which the user copies and pastes into the client when prompted. It does not redirect the client to a URL after authorisation.

  • In redirect mode, the Dropbox authorisation webpage automatically redirects the client back to another webpage after authorisation (or for client-side apps, to a URI scheme which invokes a program). No authorisation code is displayed (it is returned as part of the redirect URL).

No-redirect mode is simpler (it does not require a URI handler) but pasting a long code is awkward for the user. Most real applications which use the OAuth "authorisation token" workflow use redirect mode.

Authorising with Dropbox

Once you have authorised with Dropbox, the access token is saved to a file on disk and used in subsequent calls to Dropbox functions.

Note: when you authorise with Dropbox, you will have to enter your Dropbox login and password in your browser if you are not currently logged in.

If you have configured Dropbox two-factor authentication, you may also have to enter a code which will have been sent to your mobile phone.

This is all part of the Dropbox authentication process, not the OAuth protocol. The information is only passed between you and Dropbox, and is not visible to the OAuth client program.

De-Authorising with Dropbox

To de-authorise with Dropbox, run the Python command or select the Java menu option to delete the access token file. You will then have to run through either of the authorisation workflows again.

You can authorise and de-authorise any number of times.

HTTP Server

The demo includes an HTTP server which listens on the local host. This is used to simulate redirection to a URI scheme.

You need to start the HTTP server before running "the redirect" authorisation workflow. The HTTP server is only needed while you are authorising with Dropbox in redirect mode.

Nick Rozanski
June 2014


This repository contains code and documentation for the "Keeping Passwords Private with OAuth" session at BCS SPA 2014.



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