Monday, April 27, 2015

Flask user authentication using SecureDB's user management service

A week ago, our hackathon team won some nice hover drones for using SecureDB's user management service as part of our app. Since their service completely eliminated the need to create and manage a secure user database (which is going to be very helpful for future rapid prototyped projects) I thought I'd document how it is done in Flask.

Once you've signed up and followed their Quick Start, you'll have created a user and can test the authentication REST API.

I've written a small Python module that shows how it is done. It's extremely simple. The only trick is that you have to set the Content-Type header the request to application/json. The code below is much longer than it need be, due to the explanatory comments:


import requests
import json

# Load SecureDB credentials from a separate file (
from credentials import credentials

# Store strings for forming API request URLs here:
base_url = ''
authenticate_url = '/authenticate'

def authenticate(username, password):
  """Authenticate a user given the username and password.

  Returns the response from the authentication request. Since the
  authentication request is performed using Python Requests, the
  response format follows that of a response returned by See the following documentation for details:

  If provided a response, response.content will contain JSON
  from SecureDB with information like a response string ("message") and, if
  authenticated, user ID ("data"). See the SecureDB documentation for the 
  Authenticate API call:
  # Form the URL by combining base url, cust id, dir id, and auth path:
  url = ( base_url +
          credentials['customer_id'] + '/' +
          credentials['directory_id'] +
          authenticate_url )

  # Specify application/json as the content type in the header:
  headers = {'Content-Type':'application/json'}

  # Provide the API key and Secret key as user/pass for API authentication
  auth = ( credentials['api_key'],
           credentials['secret_key'] ) 

  # Create the POST data containing the username and password passed to us:
  data = ( '{"userName": "' + username + '","password":"' + password + '"}' )

  # Make the request:
  return, data=data, auth=auth, headers=headers)


I've wrapped a Flask server around this to make it easy to enter a username/password and see the response. The source code is posted on Github.

A form provided for easy entering of username and password
The response message from SecureDB is a JSON object that provides a useful message and, if authentication was successful, the user ID:

Successful authentication. Note that the "data" key has the user ID as its value.

Failed authentication. The username entered was not one stored in the user database.

Failed authentication. The password was entered incorrectly.


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