OAuth 2.0

OAuth 2.0 is an industry-standard authorization protocol. Users can seamlessly share select credentials from your Liferay-based website with various clients. You’ve seen this before: any time you see a “This site wants to access:” button (followed by a list of things like email address, friends list, etc.) from Google or Facebook, or you authorize a third-party Twitter client, that’s OAuth 2.0 in action. It works by authorizing password-less access to portions of user-owned resources (such as an email address, a user profile picture, or something else from your account) and other permissioned resources.

OAuth 2.0’s design encrypts all authorization transport through HTTPS, which prevents data passed between the systems from being intercepted.

Flow of OAuth 2.0

OAuth 2.0 takes advantage of web standards wherever possible: transport is encrypted with HTTPS; tokens are implemented as HTTP headers; data is passed via web services.

Here’s how OAuth 2.0 works:

Figure 1: OAuth 2.0 takes advantage of web standards.

Figure 1: OAuth 2.0 takes advantage of web standards.

  1. A user accesses a third-party application that supports authorization via credentials from a Liferay-based website. In the application (web or mobile), the user requests authorization via OAuth, sending the browser or app to the Liferay-based website. When using PKCE (explained below), the application also generates a code verifier and sends a code challenge that is created by applying a transformation to it.

  2. The user authenticates and is shown the resources the application wants permission to access. When the user gives permission by clicking Allow, Liferay generates an authorization code that’s sent to the application over HTTPS.

  3. The application then requests a more permanent authorization token and sends the code with the request (along with the PKCE code verifier).

  4. If the authorization code matches (and the transformed PKCE code verifier matches the previously sent code challenge), Liferay cryptographically generates an authorization token for this user and application combination. It sends the token to the application over HTTPS. Initial authorization is now complete!

  5. When the application must retrieve data, it sends the token with the request to prove it’s authorized to have that data.

  6. Provided the token matches what Liferay has for that user and application, access is granted to retrieve the data.

That description throws around a lot of terms. Definitions provided below.

OAuth 2.0 Terminology

Authentication: Providing credentials so a system can verify who you are by matching those credentials with what it has stored. OAuth is not an authentication protocol.

Authorization: Granting access to resources stored on another system. OAuth is an authorization protocol.

Application: Any client (web, mobile, etc.) that must be authorized to have access to resources. Applications must be registered by administrators before users can authorize access to their resources.

Client: Almost synonymous with application, except that applications can have variants, such as web and mobile. These variants are clients.

Client ID: An identifier given to a client so it can be recognized.

Client Secret: A previously agreed-upon text string that identifies a client as a legitimate client.

Access Token: A cryptographically generated text string that identifies a user/client combination for access to that User’s resources.

Response Type: OAuth 2.0 supports several response types. Pictured and described above is the most common: the authorization code. Other response types are password (logging in with a user name and password), and client credentials (headless predefined application access).

Scope: A list of items that define what the application wants to access. This list is sent during the initial authorization request (or otherwise defaults to scopes selected in the application registration) so users can grant or deny access to their resources.

Callback URI: Also called a Redirection Endpoint URI. After authorization is complete, the authorization server (i.e., Liferay) sends the client to this location.

Creating an Application

When you have an application that can use OAuth 2.0 for authorization, you must register that application so Liferay DXP can recognize it. Do this by accessing Control PanelConfigurationOAuth2 Administration:

  1. Click the Add (add) button.

  2. Fill out the form (description below).

  3. Click Save to save the application.

Figure 2: Adding an application registers it so users can authorize access to their data.

Figure 2: Adding an application registers it so users can authorize access to their data.

Name: Give the application a recognizable title.

Website URL: Add a link to the application’s website.

Callback URIs: Enter at least one (line-separated) URI where users should be redirected after they authorize (or refuse to authorize) access to their accounts. This should link to a handler for whichever Allowed Authorization Types you support (see below).

Client Profile: Choose a template that filters the authorization types that are appropriate (secure) for that profile. For example, if your application is a web application, choose Web Application, and these authorization types are available and selected automatically: Authorization Code, Client Credentials, Refresh Token, and Resource Owner Password Credentials. These are OAuth 2 “flows” documented in the OAuth2 RFC 6749 Standards Document. If you want to select authorization types manually, select Other.

Allowed Authorization Types: Select the defined OAuth 2 protocol flows your application supports. Several common combinations are defined for you in the various Client Profiles above.

After you save the form, it reappears with additional fields:

Client ID: The system generates this for you; it’s an identifier for your application, so that Liferay DXP knows what application is being authorized to access user data.

Client Secret: Click the pencil icon to generate a client secret. The secret identifies the client during the authorization process (see figure 1 above). Not all client profiles require a client secret, because some are incapable of keeping it secret! This is when the aforementioned PKCE code challenge and verifier is needed.

Icon: Upload an icon that your application’s users identify with your application. This is displayed on the authorization screen.

Privacy Policy URL: Add a link to your application’s privacy policy.

Token Introspection: Allow your application to retrieve metadata from the token by requesting it from Liferay DXP. This implements RFC 7662.

Excellent! Now you know how to add OAuth2 authorization for your application to Liferay DXP! Next, you must define scopes of user data the application can access.

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