All About OAuth 2.0 Authentication & Its Significance
OAuth 2.0, which stands for "Open Authorization," is a standard that allows a website or application to access resources hosted by other web apps on behalf of a user. It took the place of OAuth 1.0 during the year 2012 and is now an industry standard for online authorization. Without ever sharing the user's credentials, OAuth 2.0 authentication provides consented access and limits what the client app can do on resources on behalf of the user.
Widely accepted, OAuth 2.0 is the industry-standard authorization protocol. OAuth 2.0 prioritises client developer convenience while providing distinct authorization flows for web applications, desktop applications, mobile phones, and home devices. IETF OAuth’s working collation is developing this specification and its allied extensions.
Although the web is the primary platform for OAuth 2, the specification also covers how to handle delegated access to other client types (browser-based applications, server-side web applications, native/mobile apps, connected devices, and so on).
Base Principles of OAuth 2.0
OAuth 2.0 authentication is, however, not an authentication protocol, but rather an authorization protocol, as they both seem to have some observable differences. As such, it is intended primarily to grant access to a set of resources, such as remote APIs or user data.
Access tokens are used for OAuth 2.0 authentication. An access token is a piece of data that represents the end-authorization user's right to access resources. OAuth 2.0 authentication does not specify an Access Token format. However, the JSON Web Token (JWT) format is frequently used in some contexts. Token issuers can now include data in the token itself. Access Tokens may also have an expiration date for security reasons.
OAuth 2.0 Roles
The concept of roles is part of the OAuth 2.0 authorization framework's core specification. The following are the essential components of an OAuth 2.0 authentication system:
Resource Owner: The user or system that owns the protected resources and can grant access to them.
Client: The client is the system that requires access to the protected resources. To access resources, the Client must have the appropriate Access Token.
Authorization Server: This server receives requests for Access Tokens from the Client and issues them upon successful authentication and consent by the Resource Owner. The authorization server exposes two endpoints: the Authorization endpoint, which handles the user's interactive authentication and consent, and the Token endpoint, which is involved in machine-to-machine interaction.
The server that protects the user's resources and receives access requests from the Client is known as a resource server. It accepts and validates the Client's Access Token and returns the appropriate resources to it.
Scopes of OAuth 2.0 Authentication
The concept of scopes is critical in OAuth 2.0 authentication. They are used to specify the precise reason for which resources may be granted access. Acceptable scope values and the resources to which they apply are determined by the Resource Server.
OAuth 2.0 authentication Access Tokens and Authorization Code
After the resource owner has authorised access, the OAuth 2 Authorization server may not immediately return an access token. To improve security, an authorization code may be returned instead, which is then exchanged for an access token. Furthermore, the authorization server may issue a refresh token along with the access token. Refresh Tokens, unlike Access Tokens, typically have long expiry times and can be exchanged for new Access Tokens when the latter expires. Clients must securely store Refresh Tokens because they have these properties.
How Does OAuth 2.0 Authentication Work?
At the most basic level, before using OAuth 2.0 authentication, the client must obtain its own credentials from the Authorization Server in order to identify and authenticate itself when requesting an access token.
The client, for example, a mobile app, website, smart TV app, desktop application, etc., initiates access requests using OAuth 2.0 authentication. This is the general flow of the token request, exchange, and response:
The Client requests authorization (authorization request) from the Authorization server, providing the client id and secret as identification, as well as the scopes and an endpoint URI (redirect URI) to which the Access Token or the Authorization Code should be sent.
The Authorization server verifies the requested scopes and authenticates the Client.
To grant access, the Resource owner communicates with the Authorization server.
Depending on the grant type, the Authorization server returns to the Client with either an Authorization Code or an Access Token, as explained in the following section. In addition, a Refresh Token may be returned.
The Client uses the Access Token to request access to the resource from the Resource server.
Grant Types in OAuth 2.0 Authentication
Grants are the steps that a client must take in order to gain resource access authorization in OAuth 2.0 authentication. To address various scenarios, the authorization framework provides several grant types:
Grant of Authorization Code: The Authorization server returns to the Client a single-use Authorization Code, which is then exchanged for an Access Token. This is the best option for traditional web apps where the exchange can take place securely on the server. Single Page Apps (SPA) and mobile/native apps may use the Authorization Code flow. However, because the client secret cannot be securely stored in this case, authentication during the exchange is limited to the use of the client id alone. The Authorization Code with PKCE grant, shown below, is a better option.
Implicit Grant: A simplified flow in which the Access Token is returned to the Client directly. The authorization server may return the Access Token as a parameter in the callback URI or as a response to a form post in the Implicit flow. Due to the possibility of token leakage, the first option is now deprecated.
Grant of Authorization Code with Proof Key for Code Exchange (PKCE): This authorization flow is similar to the Authorization Code grant, but with additional steps that make mobile/native apps and SPAs more secure.
Resource Owner Credentials Grant Type: The Client must first obtain the resource owner's credentials, which are then passed to the Authorization server. As a result, it is restricted to Clients who can be completely trusted. It has the advantage of not requiring a redirect to the Authorization server, making it suitable for use cases where a redirect is impractical.
Client References Grant Type: For non-interactive applications such as automated processes, microservices, and so on. The application is authenticated in this case by using its client id and secret.
Device Authorization Flow: A grant that allows apps to run on input-restricted devices such as smart TVs.
Grant Refresh Token: The flow that involves exchanging a Refresh Token for a new Access Token.
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