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Catalyst::Manual::Tutorial::05_Authentication - Catalyst Tutorial - Chapter 5: Authentication


This is Chapter 5 of 10 for the Catalyst tutorial.

Tutorial Overview

  1. Introduction
  2. Catalyst Basics
  3. More Catalyst Basics
  4. Basic CRUD
  5. 05_Authentication
  6. Authorization
  7. Debugging
  8. Testing
  9. Advanced CRUD
  10. Appendices


Now that we finally have a simple yet functional application, we can focus on providing authentication (with authorization coming next in Chapter 6).

This chapter of the tutorial is divided into two main sections: 1) basic, cleartext authentication and 2) hash-based authentication.

You can checkout the source code for this example from the catalyst subversion repository as per the instructions in Catalyst::Manual::Tutorial::01_Intro.


This section explores how to add authentication logic to a Catalyst application.

Add Users and Roles to the Database

First, we add both user and role information to the database (we will add the role information here although it will not be used until the authorization section, Chapter 6). Create a new SQL script file by opening myapp02.sql in your editor and insert:

    -- Add users and role tables, along with a many-to-many join table
    PRAGMA foreign_keys = ON;
    CREATE TABLE users (
            id            INTEGER PRIMARY KEY,
            username      TEXT,
            password      TEXT,
            email_address TEXT,
            first_name    TEXT,
            last_name     TEXT,
            active        INTEGER
    CREATE TABLE role (
            id   INTEGER PRIMARY KEY,
            role TEXT
    CREATE TABLE user_role (
            PRIMARY KEY (user_id, role_id)
    -- Load up some initial test data
    INSERT INTO users VALUES (1, 'test01', 'mypass', '', 'Joe',  'Blow', 1);
    INSERT INTO users VALUES (2, 'test02', 'mypass', '', 'Jane', 'Doe',  1);
    INSERT INTO users VALUES (3, 'test03', 'mypass', '', 'No',   'Go',   0);
    INSERT INTO role VALUES (1, 'user');
    INSERT INTO role VALUES (2, 'admin');
    INSERT INTO user_role VALUES (1, 1);
    INSERT INTO user_role VALUES (1, 2);
    INSERT INTO user_role VALUES (2, 1);
    INSERT INTO user_role VALUES (3, 1);

Then load this into the myapp.db database with the following command:

    $ sqlite3 myapp.db < myapp02.sql

Add User and Role Information to DBIC Schema

Although we could manually edit the DBIC schema information to include the new tables added in the previous step, let's use the create=static option on the DBIC model helper to do most of the work for us:

    $ script/ model DB DBIC::Schema MyApp::Schema \
        create=static components=TimeStamp dbi:SQLite:myapp.db \
        on_connect_do="PRAGMA foreign_keys = ON"
     exists "/root/dev/MyApp/script/../lib/MyApp/Model"
     exists "/root/dev/MyApp/script/../t"
    Dumping manual schema for MyApp::Schema to directory /root/dev/MyApp/script/../lib ...
    Schema dump completed.
     exists "/root/dev/MyApp/script/../lib/MyApp/Model/"
    $ ls lib/MyApp/Schema/Result

Notice how the helper has added three new table-specific Result Source files to the lib/MyApp/Schema/Result directory. And, more importantly, even if there were changes to the existing result source files, those changes would have only been written above the # DO NOT MODIFY THIS OR ANYTHING ABOVE! comment and your hand-edited enhancements would have been preserved.

Speaking of "hand-editted enhancements," we should now add the many_to_many relationship information to the User Result Source file. As with the Book, BookAuthor, and Author files in Chapter 3, DBIx::Class::Schema::Loader has automatically created the has_many and belongs_to relationships for the new User, UserRole, and Role tables. However, as a convenience for mapping Users to their assigned roles (see Chapter 6), we will also manually add a many_to_many relationship. Edit lib/MyApp/Schema/Result/ add the following information between the # DO NOT MODIFY THIS OR ANYTHING ABOVE! comment and the closing 1;:

    # many_to_many():
    #   args:
    #     1) Name of relationship, DBIC will create accessor with this name
    #     2) Name of has_many() relationship this many_to_many() is shortcut for
    #     3) Name of belongs_to() relationship in model class of has_many() above
    #   You must already have the has_many() defined to use a many_to_many().
    __PACKAGE__->many_to_many(roles => 'user_roles', 'role_id');

The code for this update is obviously very similar to the edits we made to the Book and Author classes created in Chapter 3 with one exception: we only defined the many_to_many relationship in one direction. Whereas we felt that we would want to map Authors to Books AND Books to Authors, here we are only adding the convenience many_to_many in the Users to Roles direction.

Note that we do not need to make any change to the lib/MyApp/ schema file. It simply tells DBIC to load all of the Result Class and ResultSet Class files it finds in below the lib/MyApp/Schema directory, so it will automatically pick up our new table information.

Sanity-Check of the Development Server Reload

We aren't ready to try out the authentication just yet; we only want to do a quick check to be sure our model loads correctly. Assuming that you are following along and using the "-r" option on, then the development server should automatically reload (if not, press Ctrl-C to break out of the server if it's running and then enter script/ to start it). Look for the three new model objects in the startup debug output:

    | Class                                                             | Type     |
    | MyApp::Controller::Books                                          | instance |
    | MyApp::Controller::Root                                           | instance |
    | MyApp::Model::DB                                                  | instance |
    | MyApp::Model::DB::Author                                          | class    |
    | MyApp::Model::DB::Book                                            | class    |
    | MyApp::Model::DB::BookAuthor                                      | class    |
    | MyApp::Model::DB::Role                                            | class    |
    | MyApp::Model::DB::User                                            | class    |
    | MyApp::Model::DB::UserRole                                        | class    |
    | MyApp::View::HTML                                                 | instance |

Again, notice that your "Result Class" classes have been "re-loaded" by Catalyst under MyApp::Model.

Include Authentication and Session Plugins

Edit lib/ and update it as follows (everything below StackTrace is new):

    # Load plugins
    use Catalyst qw/




Note: As discussed in MoreCatalystBasics, different versions of Catalyst::Devel have used a variety of methods to load the plugins, but we are going to use the current Catalyst 5.8X practice of putting them on the use Catalyst line.

The Authentication plugin supports Authentication while the Session plugins are required to maintain state across multiple HTTP requests.

Note that the only required Authentication class is the main one. This is a change that occurred in version 0.09999_01 of the Authentication plugin. You do not need to specify a particular Authentication::Store or Authentication::Credential plugin. Instead, indicate the Store and Credential you want to use in your application configuration (see below).

Make sure you include the additional plugins as new dependencies in the Makefile.PL file something like this:

    requires 'Catalyst::Plugin::Authentication';
    requires 'Catalyst::Plugin::Session';
    requires 'Catalyst::Plugin::Session::Store::File';
    requires 'Catalyst::Plugin::Session::State::Cookie';

Note that there are several options for Session::Store. Session::Store::Memcached is generally a good choice if you are on Unix. If you are running on Windows Session::Store::File is fine. Consult Session::Store and its subclasses for additional information and options (for example to use a database- backed session store).

Configure Authentication

There are a variety of ways to provide configuration information to Catalyst::Plugin::Authentication. Here we will use Catalyst::Authentication::Realm::SimpleDB because it automatically sets a reasonable set of defaults for us. Open lib/ and place the following text above the call to __PACKAGE__->setup();:

    # Configure SimpleDB Authentication
    __PACKAGE__->config->{'Plugin::Authentication'} = {
            default => {
                class           => 'SimpleDB',
                user_model      => 'DB::User',
                password_type   => 'clear',

We could have placed this configuration in myapp.conf, but placing it in lib/ is probably a better place since it's not likely something that users of your application will want to change during deployment (or you could use a mixture: leave class and user_model defined in lib/ as we show above, but place password_type in myapp.conf to allow the type of password to be easily modified during deployment). We will stick with putting all of the authentication-related configuration in lib/ for the tutorial, but if you wish to use myapp.conf, just convert to the following code:

            password_type clear
            user_model    DB::User
            class         SimpleDB

TIP: Here is a short script that will dump the contents of MyApp-config> to Config::General format in myapp.conf:

    $ CATALYST_DEBUG=0 perl -Ilib -e 'use MyApp; use Config::General;
        Config::General->new->save_file("myapp.conf", MyApp->config);'

HOWEVER, if you try out the command above, be sure to delete the "myapp.conf" command. Otherwise, you will wind up with duplicate configurations.

NOTE: Because we are using SimpleDB along with a database layout that complies with its default assumptions: we don't need to specify the names of the columns where our username and password information is stored (hence, the "Simple" part of "SimpleDB"). That being said, SimpleDB lets you specify that type of information if you need to. Take a look at Catalyst::Authentication::Realm::SimpleDB|Catalyst::Authentication::Realm::SimpleDB for details.

Add Login and Logout Controllers

Use the Catalyst create script to create two stub controller files:

    $ script/ controller Login
    $ script/ controller Logout

You could easily use a single controller here. For example, you could have a User controller with both login and logout actions. Remember, Catalyst is designed to be very flexible, and leaves such matters up to you, the designer and programmer.

Then open lib/MyApp/Controller/, locate the sub index :Path :Args(0) method (or sub index : Private if you are using an older version of Catalyst) that was automatically inserted by the helpers when we created the Login controller above, and update the definition of sub index to match:

    =head2 index

    Login logic


    sub index :Path :Args(0) {
        my ($self, $c) = @_;

        # Get the username and password from form
        my $username = $c->request->params->{username};
        my $password = $c->request->params->{password};

        # If the username and password values were found in form
        if ($username && $password) {
            # Attempt to log the user in
            if ($c->authenticate({ username => $username,
                                   password => $password  } )) {
                # If successful, then let them use the application
            } else {
                # Set an error message
                $c->stash(error_msg => "Bad username or password.");
        } else {
            # Set an error message
            $c->stash(error_msg => "Empty username or password.")
                unless ($c->user_exists);

        # If either of above don't work out, send to the login page
        $c->stash(template => 'login.tt2');

Be sure to remove the $c->response->body('Matched MyApp::Controller::Login in Login.'); line of the sub index.

This controller fetches the username and password values from the login form and attempts to authenticate the user. If successful, it redirects the user to the book list page. If the login fails, the user will stay at the login page and receive an error message. If the username and password values are not present in the form, the user will be taken to the empty login form.

Note that we could have used something like "sub default :Path", however, it is generally recommended (partly for historical reasons, and partly for code clarity) only to use default in MyApp::Controller::Root, and then mainly to generate the 404 not found page for the application.

Instead, we are using "sub somename :Path :Args(0) {...}" here to specifically match the URL /login. Path actions (aka, "literal actions") create URI matches relative to the namespace of the controller where they are defined. Although Path supports arguments that allow relative and absolute paths to be defined, here we use an empty Path definition to match on just the name of the controller itself. The method name, index, is arbitrary. We make the match even more specific with the :Args(0) action modifier -- this forces the match on only /login, not /login/somethingelse.

Next, update the corresponding method in lib/MyApp/Controller/ to match:

    =head2 index

    Logout logic


    sub index :Path :Args(0) {
        my ($self, $c) = @_;

        # Clear the user's state

        # Send the user to the starting point

As with the login controller, be sure to delete the $c->response->body('Matched MyApp::Controller::Logout in Logout.'); line of the sub index.

Add a Login Form TT Template Page

Create a login form by opening root/src/login.tt2 and inserting:

    [% META title = 'Login' %]

    <!-- Login form -->
    <form method="post" action="[% c.uri_for('/login') %]">
          <td><input type="text" name="username" size="40" /></td>
          <td><input type="password" name="password" size="40" /></td>
          <td colspan="2"><input type="submit" name="submit" value="Submit" /></td>

Add Valid User Check

We need something that provides enforcement for the authentication mechanism -- a global mechanism that prevents users who have not passed authentication from reaching any pages except the login page. This is generally done via an auto action/method in lib/MyApp/Controller/

Edit the existing lib/MyApp/Controller/ class file and insert the following method:

    =head2 auto

    Check if there is a user and, if not, forward to login page


    # Note that 'auto' runs after 'begin' but before your actions and that
    # 'auto's "chain" (all from application path to most specific class are run)
    # See the 'Actions' section of 'Catalyst::Manual::Intro' for more info.
    sub auto :Private {
        my ($self, $c) = @_;

        # Allow unauthenticated users to reach the login page.  This
        # allows unauthenticated users to reach any action in the Login
        # controller.  To lock it down to a single action, we could use:
        #   if ($c->action eq $c->controller('Login')->action_for('index'))
        # to only allow unauthenticated access to the 'index' action we
        # added above.
        if ($c->controller eq $c->controller('Login')) {
            return 1;

        # If a user doesn't exist, force login
        if (!$c->user_exists) {
            # Dump a log message to the development server debug output
            $c->log->debug('***Root::auto User not found, forwarding to /login');
            # Redirect the user to the login page
            # Return 0 to cancel 'post-auto' processing and prevent use of application
            return 0;

        # User found, so return 1 to continue with processing after this 'auto'
        return 1;

As discussed in "CREATE A CATALYST CONTROLLER" in Catalyst::Manual::Tutorial::03_MoreCatalystBasics, every auto method from the application/root controller down to the most specific controller will be called. By placing the authentication enforcement code inside the auto method of lib/MyApp/Controller/ (or lib/, it will be called for every request that is received by the entire application.

Displaying Content Only to Authenticated Users

Let's say you want to provide some information on the login page that changes depending on whether the user has authenticated yet. To do this, open root/src/login.tt2 in your editor and add the following lines to the bottom of the file:

       # This code illustrates how certain parts of the TT
       # template will only be shown to users who have logged in
    [% IF c.user_exists %]
        Please Note: You are already logged in as '[% c.user.username %]'.
        You can <a href="[% c.uri_for('/logout') %]">logout</a> here.
    [% ELSE %]
        You need to log in to use this application.
    [% END %]
       Note that this whole block is a comment because the "#" appears
       immediate after the "[%" (with no spaces in between).  Although it
       can be a handy way to temporarily "comment out" a whole block of
       TT code, it's probably a little too subtle for use in "normal"

Although most of the code is comments, the middle few lines provide a "you are already logged in" reminder if the user returns to the login page after they have already authenticated. For users who have not yet authenticated, a "You need to log in..." message is displayed (note the use of an IF-THEN-ELSE construct in TT).

Try Out Authentication

The development server should have reloaded each time we edited one of the Controllers in the previous section. Now try going to http://localhost:3000/books/list and you should be redirected to the login page, hitting Shift+Reload or Ctrl+Reload if necessary (the "You are already logged in" message should not appear -- if it does, click the logout button and try again). Note the ***Root::auto User not found... debug message in the development server output. Enter username test01 and password mypass, and you should be taken to the Book List page.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are having issues with authentication on Internet Explorer, be sure to check the system clocks on both your server and client machines. Internet Explorer is very picky about timestamps for cookies. You can quickly sync a Debian system by installing the "ntpdate" package:

    sudo aptitude -y install ntpdate

And then run the following command:

    sudo ntpdate-debian

Or, depending on your firewall configuration:

    sudo ntpdate-debian -u

Note: NTP can be a little more finicky about firewalls because it uses UDP vs. the more common TCP that you see with most Internet protocols. Worse case, you might have to manually set the time on your development box instead of using NTP.

Open root/src/books/list.tt2 and add the following lines to the bottom (below the closing </table> tag):

      <a href="[% c.uri_for('/login') %]">Login</a>
      <a href="[% c.uri_for(c.controller.action_for('form_create')) %]">Create</a>

Reload your browser and you should now see a "Login" and "Create" links at the bottom of the page (as mentioned earlier, you can update template files without a development server reload). Click the first link to return to the login page. This time you should see the "You are already logged in" message.

Finally, click the You can logout here link on the /login page. You should stay at the login page, but the message should change to "You need to log in to use this application."


In this section we increase the security of our system by converting from cleartext passwords to SHA-1 password hashes that include a random "salt" value to make them extremely difficult to crack with dictionary and "rainbow table" attacks.

Note: This section is optional. You can skip it and the rest of the tutorial will function normally.

Be aware that even with the techniques shown in this section, the browser still transmits the passwords in cleartext to your application. We are just avoiding the storage of cleartext passwords in the database by using a salted SHA-1 hash. If you are concerned about cleartext passwords between the browser and your application, consider using SSL/TLS, made easy with the Catalyst plugin Catalyst::Plugin:RequireSSL.

Re-Run the DBIC::Schema Model Helper to Include DBIx::Class::PassphraseColumn

Next, we can re-run the model helper to have it include DBIx::Class::PassphraseColumn in all of the Result Classes it generates for us. Simply use the same command we saw in Chapters 3 and 4, but add ,PassphraseColumn to the components argument:

    $ script/ model DB DBIC::Schema MyApp::Schema \
        create=static components=TimeStamp,PassphraseColumn dbi:SQLite:myapp.db \
        on_connect_do="PRAGMA foreign_keys = ON"

If you then open one of the Result Classes, you will see that it includes PassphraseColumn in the load_components line. Take a look at lib/MyApp/Schema/Result/ since that's the main class where we want to use hashed and salted passwords:

    __PACKAGE__->load_components("InflateColumn::DateTime", "TimeStamp", "PassphraseColumn");

Modify the "password" Column to Use PassphraseColumn

Open the file lib/MyApp/Schema/Result/ and enter the following text below the "# DO NOT MODIFY THIS OR ANYTHING ABOVE!" line but above the closing "1;":

    # Have the 'password' column use a SHA-1 hash and 20-byte salt
    # with RFC 2307 encoding; Generate the 'check_password" method
        'password' => {
            passphrase       => 'rfc2307',
            passphrase_class => 'SaltedDigest',
            passphrase_args  => {
                algorithm   => 'SHA-1',
                salt_random => 20.
            passphrase_check_method => 'check_password',

This redefines the automatically generated definition for the password fields at the top of the Result Class file to now use PassphraseColumn logic, storing passwords in RFC 2307 format (passphrase is set to rfc2307). passphrase_class can be set to the name of any Authen::Passphrase::* class, such as SaltedDigest to use Authen::Passphrase::SaltedDigest, or BlowfishCrypt to use Authen::Passphrase::BlowfishCrypt. passphrase_args is then used to customize the passphrase class you selected. Here we specified the digest algorithm to use as SHA-1 and the size of the salt to use, but we could have also specified any other option the selected passphrase class supports.

Load Hashed Passwords in the Database

Next, let's create a quick script to load some hashed and salted passwords into the password column of our users table. Open the file in your editor and enter the following text:


    use strict;
    use warnings;

    use MyApp::Schema;

    my $schema = MyApp::Schema->connect('dbi:SQLite:myapp.db');

    my @users = $schema->resultset('User')->all;

    foreach my $user (@users) {

PassphraseColumn lets us simply call $user-check_password($password)> to see if the user has supplied the correct password, or, as we show above, call $user-update($new_password)> to update the hashed password stored for this user.

Then run the following command:

    $ DBIC_TRACE=1 perl -Ilib

We had to use the -Ilib argument to tell perl to look under the lib directory for our MyApp::Schema model.

The DBIC_TRACE output should show that the update worked:

    $ DBIC_TRACE=1 perl -Ilib
    SELECT, me.username, me.password, me.email_address,
    me.first_name, me.last_name, FROM users me:
    UPDATE users SET password = ? WHERE ( id = ? ):
    '{SSHA}esgz64CpHMo8pMfgIIszP13ft23z/zio04aCwNdm0wc6MDeloMUH4g==', '1'
    UPDATE users SET password = ? WHERE ( id = ? ):
    '{SSHA}FpGhpCJus+Ea9ne4ww8404HH+hJKW/fW+bAv1v6FuRUy2G7I2aoTRQ==', '2'
    UPDATE users SET password = ? WHERE ( id = ? ):
    '{SSHA}ZyGlpiHls8qFBSbHr3r5t/iqcZE602XLMbkSVRRNl6rF8imv1abQVg==', '3'

But we can further confirm our actions by dumping the users table:

    $ sqlite3 myapp.db "select * from users"

As you can see, the passwords are much harder to steal from the database (not only are the hashes stored, but every hash is different even though the passwords are the same because of the added "salt" value). Also note that this demonstrates how to use a DBIx::Class model outside of your web application -- a very useful feature in many situations.

Enable Hashed and Salted Passwords

Edit lib/ and update it to match the following text (the only change is to the password_type field):

    # Configure SimpleDB Authentication
    __PACKAGE__->config->{'Plugin::Authentication'} = {
            default => {
                class           => 'SimpleDB',
                user_model      => 'DB::User',
                password_type   => 'self_check',

The use of self_check will cause Catalyst::Plugin::Authentication::Store::DBIC to call the check_password method we enabled on our password columns.

Try Out the Hashed Passwords

The development server should restart as soon as your save the lib/ file in the previous section. You should now be able to go to http://localhost:3000/books/list and login as before. When done, click the "logout" link on the login page (or point your browser at http://localhost:3000/logout).


As discussed in the previous chapter of the tutorial, flash allows you to set variables in a way that is very similar to stash, but it will remain set across multiple requests. Once the value is read, it is cleared (unless reset). Although flash has nothing to do with authentication, it does leverage the same session plugins. Now that those plugins are enabled, let's go back and update the "delete and redirect with query parameters" code seen at the end of the Basic CRUD chapter of the tutorial to take advantage of flash.

First, open lib/MyApp/Controller/ and modify sub delete to match the following (everything after the model search line of code has changed):

    =head2 delete

    Delete a book


    sub delete :Chained('object') :PathPart('delete') :Args(0) {
        my ($self, $c) = @_;

        # Use the book object saved by 'object' and delete it along
        # with related 'book_authors' entries

        # Use 'flash' to save information across requests until it's read
        $c->flash->{status_msg} = "Book deleted";

        # Redirect the user back to the list page

Next, open root/src/wrapper.tt2 and update the TT code to pull from flash vs. the status_msg query parameter:

    <div id="content">
        [%# Status and error messages %]
        <span class="message">[% status_msg || c.flash.status_msg %]</span>
        <span class="error">[% error_msg %]</span>
        [%# This is where TT will stick all of your template's contents. -%]
        [% content %]
    </div><!-- end content -->

Although the sample above only shows the content div, leave the rest of the file intact -- the only change we made to replace "|| c.request.params.status_msg" with "c.flash.status_msg" in the <span class="message"> line.

Try Out Flash

Authenticate using the login screen and then point your browser to http://localhost:3000/books/url_create/Test/1/4 to create an extra several books. Click the "Return to list" link and delete one of the "Test" books you just added. The flash mechanism should retain our "Book deleted" status message across the redirect.

NOTE: While flash will save information across multiple requests, it does get cleared the first time it is read. In general, this is exactly what you want -- the flash message will get displayed on the next screen where it's appropriate, but it won't "keep showing up" after that first time (unless you reset it). Please refer to Catalyst::Plugin::Session for additional information.

Switch To Flash-To-Stash

Although the a use of flash above works well, the status_msg || c.flash.status_msg statement is a little ugly. A nice alternative is to use the flash_to_stash feature that automatically copies the content of flash to stash. This makes your controller and template code work regardless of where it was directly access, a forward, or a redirect. To enable flash_to_stash, you can either set the value in lib/ by changing the default __PACKAGE__->config setting to something like:

            name    => 'MyApp',
            # Disable deprecated behavior needed by old applications
            disable_component_resolution_regex_fallback => 1,
            'Plugin::Session' => { flash_to_stash => 1 },

or add the following to myapp.conf:

        flash_to_stash   1

The __PACKAGE__->config option is probably preferable here since it's not something you will want to change at runtime without it possibly breaking some of your code.

Then edit root/src/wrapper.tt2 and change the status_msg line to match the following:

    <span class="message">[% status_msg %]</span>

Now go to http://localhost:3000/books/list in your browser. Delete another of the "Test" books you added in the previous step. Flash should still maintain the status message across the redirect even though you are no longer explicitly accessing c.flash.


Kennedy Clark,

Please report any errors, issues or suggestions to the author. The most recent version of the Catalyst Tutorial can be found at

Copyright 2006-2010, Kennedy Clark, under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License Version 3.0 (

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