In this article, you'll learn the ‘Why’, ‘What’ and ‘How’ for Authentication in Web App using JWT (JSON Web Token)
In this article, you'll learn the ‘Why’, ‘What’ and ‘How’ for Authentication in Web App using JWT (JSON Web Token)
When making a website, you may have come across an array of problems. Among which, authentication while logging in a User, comes as a major headache to developers, primarily to those who are just starting out. Tokens and Sessions were created to ease with this very problem.
A Token is a piece of data that has no meaning or use on its own, but when combined with the correct Tokenization system(a process of replacing sensitive data with unique identification symbols that retain all the essential information about the data without compromising its security) becomes a powerful tool for authentication. Whereas, a Session is a system to manage the duration after which a user is logged out automatically.
Usually, we use HTTP protocols while developing and browsing web applications. For proper implementation of tokenization, we need the server to retain some information or status about the user for the duration of multiple requests, but HTTP is stateless protocol, meaning HTTP does not require the server to store information. If you login for one request, the server will have already forgotten you and you will need to login again to make another request. As you can imagine, this can get pretty annoying when performed repeatedly.
To overcome the stateless nature of HTTP requests, we could use either a session-based or token-based authentication.
So, how is session-based authentication implemented for overcoming the stateless nature of HTTP? Session-Based authentication is implemented in two parts:
Now you might be wondering how token based authentication helps to overcome the stateless nature of HTTP?
With token based authentication whenever the user sends a request to a server, each request is accompanied by a signed token which the server verifies for authenticity and only then responds to the request.
Most people will prefer token-based authentication(like JWT) for two major reasons; scalability and flexibility. With session-based authentication, the sessions are stored in the server’s memory so scaling becomes an issue when there is a huge number of users using the system at the same time. But with token-based authentication, there is no issue with scaling because the token is stored on the client side. Also, token generation is decoupled from token verification, allowing you the option to handle the signing of tokens on a separate server or even through a different company such us Auth0 and within the token payload you can easily specify user roles and permissions as well as resources that the user can access.What is JWT?
JSON Web Token (JWT) as the name suggests is token based authentication which is an open, industry standard (RFC 7519) method for representing claims securely between two parties. "Open" meaning anybody can use it. In JWT, the token is encoded from a data payload using a secret. Since the token is encoded you should avoid keeping sensitive information on the payload. The token, when generated, is passed to the client. Whenever the client sends a request to the server, the token is passed along with a request, then the server validates the token and sends back the response. The following diagram shows how JWT works:
The summarization of the above picture is given below:
If you want to know more about JWT and its structure please refer to its official documentation https://jwt.io/introduction/How to use JWT?
There are many libraries available for JWT. The main function of any of these libraries is to generate JWT and validate JWT. You may use any one of these libraries.
Firstly, let's start by installing jsonwebtoken.
After installing jsonwebtoken we need to import it to start using it.
The above code generates a JWT token which is encoded but not encrypted, so be careful not to include any sensitive information. The jwt.sign function takes the payload, secret and options, as its arguments. The payload contains information about the user and can be used to find out which user is the owner of the token. Options can have an expire time, until which, a token is deemed as valid. The generated JWT token is a string, which may look something like this:
After generating JWT token, it is returned to the client and it must be passed in Authorization header in order to make any request, access resources or to verify that client. The server must always verify the token before giving any success response or an error response.
Since JWT token is encoded it can be easily decoded and hence, easily altered. This may come as a disadvantage to most people, but when some changes are made to token, the signature of the token also changes. A Signature is the function of encoded payload, secret, and algorithm. Which is already being used for the validation of the JWT, so you need not worry about it.
All of this technical jargon is to show you how JWT is better than using a Session-based authentication, and why JWT has become an essential tool for authentication in the privacy-stricken world of today, where data is becoming more and more valuable.
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Originally published by David Gilbertson at https://medium.com
Also known as “no, you’re thinking of Service Workers”.
Before I get into the meat of the article, please sit for a lesson in how computers work:
For the red/green colourblind, let me explain. While a CPU is doing one thing, it can’t be doing another thing, which means you can’t sort a big array while a user scrolls the screen.
This is bad, if you have a big array and users with fingers.
Enter, Web Workers. These split open the atomic concept of a ‘CPU’ and allow us to think in terms of threads. We can use one thread to handle user-facing work like touch events and rendering the UI, and different threads to carry out all other work.
Check that out, the main thread is green the whole way through, ready to receive and respond to the gentle caress of a user.
You’re excited (I can tell), if we only have UI code on the main thread and all other code can go in a worker, things are going to be amazing (said the way Oprah would say it).
But cool your jets for just a moment, because websites are mostly about the UI — it’s why we have screens. And a lot of a user’s interactions with your site will be tapping on the screen, waiting for a response, reading, tapping, looking, reading, and so on.
So we can’t just say “here’s some JS that takes 20ms to run, chuck it on a thread”, we must think about where that execution time exists in the user’s world of tap, read, look, read, tap…
I like to boil this down to one specific question:Is the user waiting anyway?
Imagine we have created some sort of git-repository-hosting website that shows all sorts of things about a repository. We have a cool feature called ‘issues’. A user can even click an ‘issues’ tab in our website to see a list of all issues relating to the repository. Groundbreaking!
When our users click this issues tab, the site is going to fetch the issue data, process it in some way — perhaps sort, or format dates, or work out which icon to show — then render the UI.
Inside the user’s computer, that’ll look exactly like this.
Look at that processing stage, locking up the main thread even though it has nothing to do with the UI! That’s terrible, in theory.
But think about what the human is actually doing at this point. They’re waiting for the common trio of network/process/render; just sittin’ around with less to do than the Bolivian Navy.
Because we care about our users, we show a loading indicator to let them know we’ve received their request and are working on it — putting the human in a ‘waiting’ state. Let’s add that to the diagram.
Now that we have a human in the picture, we can mix in a Web Worker and think about the impact it will have on their life:
First thing to note is that we’re not doing anything in parallel. We need the data from the network before we process it, and we need to process the data before we can render the UI. The elapsed time doesn’t change.
(BTW, the time involved in moving data to a Web Worker and back is negligible: 1ms per 100 KB is a decent rule of thumb.)
So we can move work off the main thread and have a page that is responsive during that time, but to what end? If our user is sitting there looking at a spinner for 600ms, have we enriched their experience by having a responsive screen for the middle third?
I’ve fudged these diagrams a little bit to make them the gorgeous specimens of graphic design that they are, but they’re not really to scale.
When responding to a user request, you’ll find that the network and DOM-manipulating part of any given task take much, much longer than the pure-JS data processing part.
Chucking the data processing over to a worker thread sounds sensible, but the idea struck me as a little, umm, academic.
First, let’s split instances of ‘updating a store’ into two categories:
If the first scenario, a user taps a button on the screen — perhaps to change the sort order of a list. The store updates, and this results in a re-rendering of the DOM (since that’s the point of a store).
Let me just delete one thing from the previous diagram:
In my experience, it is rare that the store-updating step goes beyond a few dozen milliseconds, and is generally followed by ten times that in DOM updating, layout, and paint. If I’ve got a site that’s taking longer than this, I’d be asking questions about why I have so much data in the browser and so much DOM, rather than on which thread I should do my processing.
So the question we’re faced with is the same one from above: the user tapped something on the screen, we’re going to work on that request for hopefully less than a second, why would we want to make the screen responsive during that time?
OK what about the second scenario, where a store update isn’t in response to a user interaction? Performing an auto-save, for example — there’s nothing more annoying than an app becoming unresponsive doing something you didn’t ask it to do.
Actually there’s heaps of things more annoying than that. Teens, for example.
Anyhoo, if you’re doing an auto-save and taking 100ms to process data client-side before sending it off to a server, then you should absolutely use a Web Worker.
In fact, any ‘background’ task that the user hasn’t asked for, or isn’t waiting for, is a good candidate for moving to a Web Worker.The matter of value
Complexity is expensive, and implementing Web Workers ain’t cheap.
If you’re using a bundler — and you are — you’ll have a lot of reading to do, and probably npm packages to install. If you’ve got a create-react-app app, prepare to eject (and put aside two days twice a year to update 30 different packages when the next version of Babel/Redux/React/ESLint comes out).
Also, if you want to share anything fancier than plain data between a worker and the main thread you’ve got some more reading to do (comlink is your friend).
What I’m getting at is this: if the benefit is real, but minimal, then you’ve gotta ask if there’s something else you could spend a day or two on with a greater benefit to your users.
This thinking is true of everything, of course, but I’ve found that Web Workers have a particularly poor benefit-to-effort ratio.Hey David, why you hate Web Workers so bad?
This is a doweling jig:
I own a doweling jig. I love my doweling jig. If I need to drill a hole into the end of a piece of wood and ensure that it’s perfectly perpendicular to the surface, I use my doweling jig.
But I don’t use it to eat breakfast. For that I use a spoon.
Four years ago I was working on some fancy animations. They looked slick on a fast device, but janky on a slow one. So I wrote fireball-js, which executes a rudimentary performance benchmark on the user’s device and returns a score, allowing me to run my animations only on devices that would render them smoothly.
Where’s the best spot to run some CPU intensive code that the user didn’t request? On a different thread, of course. A Web Worker was the correct tool for the job.
Fast forward to 2019 and you’ll find me writing a routing algorithm for a mapping application. This requires parsing a big fat GeoJSON map into a collection of nodes and edges, to be used when a user asks for directions. The processing isn’t in response to a user request and the user isn’t waiting on it. And so, a Web Worker is the correct tool for the job.
It was only when doing this that it dawned on me: in the intervening quartet of years, I have seen exactly zero other instances where Web Workers would have improved the user experience.
Contrast this with a recent resurgence in Web Worker wonderment, and combine that contrast with the fact that I couldn’t think of anything else to write about, then concatenate that combined contrast with my contrarian character and you’ve got yourself a blog post telling you that maybe Web Workers are a teeny-tiny bit overhyped.
Thanks for reading ❤
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