Michael Schout > Apache-AuthCookie > Apache2::AuthCookie



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Module Version: 3.25   Source  


Apache2::AuthCookie - Perl Authentication and Authorization via cookies


version 3.25


Make sure your mod_perl is at least 2.0.0-RC5, with StackedHandlers, MethodHandlers, Authen, and Authz compiled in.

 # In httpd.conf or .htaccess:
 PerlModule Sample::Apache2::AuthCookieHandler
 PerlSetVar WhatEverPath /
 PerlSetVar WhatEverLoginScript /login.pl

 # use to alter how "require" directives are matched. Can be "Any" or "All".
 # If its "Any", then you must only match Any of the "require" directives. If
 # its "All", then you must match All of the require directives. 
 # Default: All
 PerlSetVar WhatEverSatisfy Any
 # The following line is optional - it allows you to set the domain
 # scope of your cookie.  Default is the current domain.
 PerlSetVar WhatEverDomain .yourdomain.com

 # Use this to only send over a secure connection
 PerlSetVar WhatEverSecure 1

 # Use this if you want user session cookies to expire if the user
 # doesn't request a auth-required or recognize_user page for some
 # time period.  If set, a new cookie (with updated expire time)
 # is set on every request.
 PerlSetVar WhatEverSessionTimeout +30m

 # to enable the HttpOnly cookie property, use HttpOnly.
 # this is an MS extension.  See:
 # http://msdn.microsoft.com/workshop/author/dhtml/httponly_cookies.asp
 PerlSetVar WhatEverHttpOnly 1

 # Usually documents are uncached - turn off here
 PerlSetVar WhatEverCache 1

 # Use this to make your cookies persistent (+2 hours here)
 PerlSetVar WhatEverExpires +2h

 # Use to make AuthCookie send a P3P header with the cookie
 # see http://www.w3.org/P3P/ for details about what the value 
 # of this should be
 PerlSetVar WhatEverP3P "CP=\"...\""

 # These documents require user to be logged in.
 <Location /protected>
  AuthType Sample::Apache2::AuthCookieHandler
  AuthName WhatEver
  PerlAuthenHandler Sample::Apache2::AuthCookieHandler->authenticate
  PerlAuthzHandler Sample::Apache2::AuthCookieHandler->authorize
  require valid-user

 # These documents don't require logging in, but allow it.
 <FilesMatch "\.ok$">
  AuthType Sample::Apache2::AuthCookieHandler
  AuthName WhatEver
  PerlFixupHandler Sample::Apache2::AuthCookieHandler->recognize_user

 # This is the action of the login.pl script above.
 <Files LOGIN>
  AuthType Sample::Apache2::AuthCookieHandler
  AuthName WhatEver
  SetHandler perl-script
  PerlResponseHandler Sample::Apache2::AuthCookieHandler->login


This module is for mod_perl version 2. If you are running mod_perl version 1, you should be using Apache::AuthCookie instead.

Apache2::AuthCookie allows you to intercept a user's first unauthenticated access to a protected document. The user will be presented with a custom form where they can enter authentication credentials. The credentials are posted to the server where AuthCookie verifies them and returns a session key.

The session key is returned to the user's browser as a cookie. As a cookie, the browser will pass the session key on every subsequent accesses. AuthCookie will verify the session key and re-authenticate the user.

All you have to do is write a custom module that inherits from AuthCookie. Your module is a class which implements two methods:


Verify the user-supplied credentials and return a session key. The session key can be any string - often you'll use some string containing username, timeout info, and any other information you need to determine access to documents, and append a one-way hash of those values together with some secret key.


Verify the session key (previously generated by authen_cred(), possibly during a previous request) and return the user ID. This user ID will be fed to $r->user() to set Apache's idea of who's logged in.

By using AuthCookie versus Apache's built-in AuthBasic you can design your own authentication system. There are several benefits.

  1. The client doesn't *have* to pass the user credentials on every subsequent access. If you're using passwords, this means that the password can be sent on the first request only, and subsequent requests don't need to send this (potentially sensitive) information. This is known as "ticket-based" authentication.
  2. When you determine that the client should stop using the credentials/session key, the server can tell the client to delete the cookie. Letting users "log out" is a notoriously impossible-to-solve problem of AuthBasic.
  3. AuthBasic dialog boxes are ugly. You can design your own HTML login forms when you use AuthCookie.
  4. You can specify the domain of a cookie using PerlSetVar commands. For instance, if your AuthName is WhatEver, you can put the command
     PerlSetVar WhatEverDomain .yourhost.com

    into your server setup file and your access cookies will span all hosts ending in .yourhost.com.

  5. You can optionally specify the name of your cookie using the CookieName directive. For instance, if your AuthName is WhatEver, you can put the command
     PerlSetVar WhatEverCookieName MyCustomName

    into your server setup file and your cookies for this AuthCookie realm will be named MyCustomName. Default is AuthType_AuthName.

  6. By default users must satisfy ALL of the require directives. If you want authentication to succeed if ANY require directives are met, use the Satisfy directive. For instance, if your AuthName is WhatEver, you can put the command
     PerlSetVar WhatEverSatisfy Any

    into your server startup file and authentication for this realm will succeed if ANY of the require directives are met.

This is the flow of the authentication handler, less the details of the redirects. Two HTTP_MOVED_TEMPORARILY's are used to keep the client from displaying the user's credentials in the Location field. They don't really change AuthCookie's model, but they do add another round-trip request to the client.

 (-----------------------)     +---------------------------------+
 ( Request a protected   )     | AuthCookie sets custom error    |
 ( page, but user hasn't )---->| document and returns            |
 ( authenticated (no     )     | HTTP_FORBIDDEN. Apache abandons |      
 ( session key cookie)   )     | current request and creates sub |      
 (-----------------------)     | request for the error document. |<-+
                               | Error document is a script that |  |
                               | generates a form where the user |  |
                 return        | enters authentication           |  |
          ^------------------->| credentials (login & password). |  |
         / \      False        +---------------------------------+  |
        /   \                                   |                   |
       /     \                                  |                   |
      /       \                                 V                   |
     /         \               +---------------------------------+  |
    /   Pass    \              | User's client submits this form |  |
   /   user's    \             | to the LOGIN URL, which calls   |  |
   | credentials |<------------| AuthCookie->login().            |  |
   \     to      /             +---------------------------------+  |
    \authen_cred/                                                   |
     \ function/                                                    |
      \       /                                                     |
       \     /                                                      |
        \   /            +------------------------------------+     |
         \ /   return    | Authen cred returns a session      |  +--+
          V------------->| key which is opaque to AuthCookie.*|  |
                True     +------------------------------------+  |
                                              |                  |
               +--------------------+         |      +---------------+
               |                    |         |      | If we had a   |
               V                    |         V      | cookie, add   |
  +----------------------------+  r |         ^      | a Set-Cookie  |
  | If we didn't have a session|  e |T       / \     | header to     |
  | key cookie, add a          |  t |r      /   \    | override the  |
  | Set-Cookie header with this|  u |u     /     \   | invalid cookie|
  | session key. Client then   |  r |e    /       \  +---------------+
  | returns session key with   |  n |    /  pass   \               ^    
  | successive requests        |    |   /  session  \              |
  +----------------------------+    |  /   key to    \    return   |
               |                    +-| authen_ses_key|------------+
               V                       \             /     False
  +-----------------------------------+ \           /
  | Tell Apache to set Expires header,|  \         /
  | set user to user ID returned by   |   \       /
  | authen_ses_key, set authentication|    \     /
  | to our type (e.g. AuthCookie).    |     \   /
  +-----------------------------------+      \ /
         (---------------------)              ^
         ( Request a protected )              |
         ( page, user has a    )--------------+
         ( session key cookie  )

 *  The session key that the client gets can be anything you want.  For
    example, encrypted information about the user, a hash of the
    username and password (similar in function to Digest
    authentication), or the user name and password in plain text
    (similar in function to HTTP Basic authentication).

    The only requirement is that the authen_ses_key function that you
    create must be able to determine if this session_key is valid and
    map it back to the originally authenticated user ID.


Apache2::AuthCookie has several methods you should know about. Here is the documentation for each. =)


For an example of how to use Apache2::AuthCookie, you may want to check out the test suite, which runs AuthCookie through a few of its paces. The documents are located in t/eg/, and you may want to peruse t/real.t to see the generated httpd.conf file (at the bottom of real.t) and check out what requests it's making of the server (at the top of real.t).


You will need to create a login script (called login.pl above) that generates an HTML form for the user to fill out. You might generate the page using a ModPerl::Registry script, a HTML::Mason component, an Apache handler, or perhaps even using a static HTML page. It's usually useful to generate it dynamically so that you can define the 'destination' field correctly (see below).

The following fields must be present in the form:

  1. The ACTION of the form must be /LOGIN (or whatever you defined in your server configuration as handled by the ->login() method - see example in the SYNOPSIS section).
  2. The various user input fields (username, passwords, etc.) must be named 'credential_0', 'credential_1', etc. on the form. These will get passed to your authen_cred() method.
  3. You must define a form field called 'destination' that tells AuthCookie where to redirect the request after successfully logging in. Typically this value is obtained from $r->prev->uri. See the login.pl script in t/eg/.

In addition, you might want your login page to be able to tell why the user is being asked to log in. In other words, if the user sent bad credentials, then it might be useful to display an error message saying that the given username or password are invalid. Also, it might be useful to determine the difference between a user that sent an invalid auth cookie, and a user that sent no auth cookie at all. To cope with these situations, AuthCookie will set $r->subprocess_env('AuthCookieReason') to one of the following values.


The user presented no cookie at all. Typically this means the user is trying to log in for the first time.


The cookie the user presented is invalid. Typically this means that the user is not allowed access to the given page.


The user tried to log in, but the credentials that were passed are invalid.

You can examine this value in your login form by examining $r->prev->subprocess_env('AuthCookieReason') (because it's a sub-request).

Of course, if you want to give more specific information about why access failed when a cookie is present, your authen_ses_key() method can set arbitrary entries in $r->subprocess_env.


If you want to let users log themselves out (something that can't be done using Basic Auth), you need to create a logout script. For an example, see t/htdocs/docs/logout.pl. Logout scripts may want to take advantage of AuthCookie's logout() method, which will set the proper cookie headers in order to clear the user's cookie. This usually looks like $r->auth_type->logout($r);.

Note that if you don't necessarily trust your users, you can't count on cookie deletion for logging out. You'll have to expire some server-side login information too. AuthCookie doesn't do this for you, you have to handle it yourself.


Unlike the sample AuthCookieHandler, you have you verify the user's login and password in authen_cred(), then you do something like:

    my $date = localtime;
    my $ses_key = MD5->hexhash(join(';', $date, $PID, $PAC));

save $ses_key along with the user's login, and return $ses_key.

Now authen_ses_key() looks up the $ses_key passed to it and returns the saved login. I use Oracle to store the session key and retrieve it later, see the ToDo section below for some other ideas.



Originally written by Eric Bartley <bartley@purdue.edu>

versions 2.x were written by Ken Williams <ken@forum.swarthmore.edu>


Copyright (c) 2000 Ken Williams. All rights reserved.

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself.


perl(1), mod_perl(1), Apache(1).


The development version is on github at http://github.com/mschout/apache-authcookie and may be cloned from git://github.com/mschout/apache-authcookie.git


Please report any bugs or feature requests to bug-apache-authcookie@rt.cpan.org or through the web interface at: http://rt.cpan.org/Public/Dist/Display.html?Name=Apache-AuthCookie


Michael Schout <mschout@cpan.org>


This software is copyright (c) 2000 by Ken Williams.

This is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as the Perl 5 programming language system itself.

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