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Identity and Access Management


Identity and Access Management (short: IAM) provides secure authentication and authorization of users/clients. Further features of an IAM system are user and roles management as well as audit logging.

API Reference Implementation Service File

Technologies used

JWT JSON Web Token (JWT) is an open standard (RFC 7519) that defines a compact and self-contained way for securely transmitting information between parties as a JSON object. This information can be verified and trusted because it is digitally signed. JWTs can be signed using a secret (with the HMAC algorithm) or a public/private key pair using RSA. See JWT Introduction for more details.

OAuth 2.0 OAuth 2.0 is the industry-standard protocol for authorization.

OpenId Connect OpenID Connect is a simple identity layer on top of the OAuth 2.0 protocol, which allows computing clients to verify the identity of an end-user based on the authentication performed by an authorization server, as well as to obtain basic profile information about the end-user in an interoperable and REST-like manner.

How it works

Basic IAM setup

This approach aims at a very basic and simple operation of OIH using only a minimal set of services. We assume a scenario where an individual or a company uses OIH in the intranet without the need for external identity providers and using a simple authentication and authorization mechanisms.

The basic parameters of this setup are:

  • Authentication is a dedicated service (AuthService)
  • Authorization mechanisms are either part of the said AuthService or is a utility library integrated into a separate gateway or microservice
  • Use of HS256 or HS512 symmetric encryption with a strong secret key

We also assume that in a basic use case there isn’t necessary a user interface for the OIH. And although the OIH does provide a REST-API, the client is most likely to be curl, Postman or some other service interacting with the REST-API. The later could make use of an OAuth Library and thus have an easy way to use access and refresh tokens. But in the case of using curl or Postman, it would be more convenient and easy to have a long living JWT access token (e.g. with an expiration time of 1h) without the need to refresh the token every few minutes. This of course comes at the cost of risks when using long living tokens similar to those risks when using solely Basic Authentication.

The AuthService is intended to support both cookie and Authorization Header based authentication. In case of a browser, the AuthService will set the JWT as a cookie and automatically prolong it, if the user makes a HTTP request to the AuthServer before the JWT expires.

Identity Store

For a basic setup we will be using a MongoDB with Passport.js to store and authenticate users. Account management is done by the AuthService.

In a more advanced approach, one could use LDAP or Active Directory as an identity store.

If no other information except a unique identifier of the user (e.g. user_id) is needed, we can store all user data (e.g. Name, E-Mail) in the AuthService. Should this data also be required in other microservices as well, for example for data aggregation, performance, etc., then we will have to introduce an identity/user provisioning mechanism. This provisioning mechanism would allow synchronization and merging of user data in all affected services. A very simplified solution for user provisioning could be accomplished through the message queue – all subscribes are notified with new data set, when an account has been modified. The subscribers can then merge/import the data into their own system. Same goes for the de-provisioning.

Authorization and Roles

The precise role definitions of OIH may change at a later stage, for the sake of simplicity, we will use the current state of roles and privileges of platform, which are Admin, Organization-Guest and Organization-Admin.

  • A user can be part of more than one organization and can have different roles in each of her organizations
  • An Admin can manage organizations
  • Organization-User can create and start her own flows and organization flows (organization flows are accessible for all organization users, but each user may have their own private flows)
  • Organization-Admin can do everything what Organization-Users can do, plus manage her organization data and Organization-Users (invite, change role, remove from organization)

Users and Identities in OIH

User management

In contrast to a more tenant centric user management where a user can only be assigned to a single tenant, we propose a user centric IAM. This means that users can be created in OIH and can be assigned to more than one organization/tenant and have different roles in each organization. Every user can edit her personal data and password individually.

The Admin can create organizations, create/invite users and assign them to an organization, whereas an Organization-Admin can only invite users to her organization or exclude them from it.

Authentication and authorization flows

The following diagram visualizes a simple authentication flow from a client perspective.

Authentication in OIH

The client either has an access token (JWT) or will be redirected to the AuthService for authentication. The authentication can be a simple username + password process, returning the JWT token. The client has to save this token and use it in the Authorization Bearer header for all future requests.

The access token is a JWT token which contains at least the following data:

  • user_id
  • username
  • firstname
  • lastname
  • roles – an array of objects, containing organization_id and the role name within that organization

As mentioned earlier, a user can be part of more than one organization, which is why we propose the use of context, similar to the context of kubernetes. Upon authentication, the client can fetch all contexts which it has, e.g.:

curl -i \
  -H "Authorization: Bearer mytoken123"

This will return the list of contexts the client/user is assigned to, e.g.:

    org: 'some-org-id-1',
    role: 'ORG_ADMIN',
    org: 'some-org-id-2',
    role: 'USER',

The cient an then choose the desired role and will receive a new JWT containing the claims for that specific context:

curl -X POST -i \
  -H "Authorization: Bearer mytoken123"

Corresponsing JWT payload:

  "sub": "1234567890",
  "name": "John Doe",
  "role": "ORG_ADMIN",
  "org_id": "some-org-id-1"

The advantage of setting a context is that, the underlying services can focus on the current user role and her current tenant/ogranization without knowledge of 1 to n relationsgip between a user and organizations.

The Gateway in this diagram is representative for any other gatekeeper module or service. Due to the fact that OIH consists of many services, it would be an obvious choice to have the authentication and authorization validation in one module or service and limited to one distrinct location instead of distributing it accross many services and thus requiring the synchronization/updates at many points. We will view the alternatives in the advanced examples.

The core idea of this basic approach is to validate the token at gateway level and pass the token as an HTTP-Header to the services behind the gateway. These service can react to the claims, assuming that these cannot have been tampered with if the request has passed the gateway. Different approaches are possible in order for the gateway to validate the token:

  • Gateway and AuthService share a secret
    • Gateway does not have to communicate with the AuthService
      • Changing the secret must be propagated to AuthService and Gateway
  • Gateway uses the public JWS key from AuthService to validate the tokens
    • See the JWS documentation for details
  • Gateway calls the AuthService to validate a token and caches that token (or the “jti”-Id of a JWT) for a short time

For a very simple and basic scenario, we will be using the first approach with a shared secret.

This basic scenario does not deal with token revocation, which is why the tokens might be long living (at least 1 hour). Upon expiry, the user needs to re-authenticate to receive a new access token.

List of supported Methods and Routes

endpoint method description comments
/healthcheck GET Returns 200 OK when Service is up Could be used for Kubernetes and liveliness checks
/login POST Returns 200 and a JWT.
JWT ist returned and additionally set as a cookie. The JWT Token is used to authenticate to other Services
JWT can have role information in it
/logout POST Returns a 200 OK and will remove the corresponding cookie(s)  

Connectors and external services

Specific connectors like Adapters can have read/write access to the Smart Data Framework API (short: SDF). The OIH is a multi-tenant environment, which is why there should also be means to limit the data a connector can access.

Given the fact that a separate Docker container is launched for each component of an integration flow, we could generate an access token for each connector on start-up. Such access tokens will contain the current tenant/organization id and allow the SDF to enforce it’s authorization mechanisms.

Important notice We refrain from generating refresh tokens and create the access tokens for connectors without an expiration time.

Typically, refresh tokens are stored by an AuthService permanently and do not change. This would mean, that we would need to create a separate refresh token for each connector on start-up and to delete that refresh token when the connector shuts down. Any given connector may crash, hang, be manually or atomatically restarted, the OIH plattform could have an unexpected outage, etc. If the AuthService should store refresh tokens, there there should be a mechanism or a dedicated daemon in the OIH, which instructs the AuthService to remove old refresh tokens.

From a security perspective, the sole purpose of this connector access token is to access OIH internal services like SDF. In this environment, we do not see the risk of leaking a long-living access token greater than the risk of leaking a long-living refresh token.

Advanced setup

In a more complex scenario we will make use of an external identity provider on OpenId Connect basis (e.g. Basaas Marketplace) to authenticate with the OIH.

Other mentionable difference to the basic setup are:

  • Use of RS265 or RS512 for assymetric encryption
  • JWT is signed using the private key from AuthService
  • Gateway can validate the authenticity of the JWT signature using the public from AuthService

IAM in context of OIH and microservices

In a microservice architecture like the OIH a client (or a service on behalf of a user) can communicate to multiple other services. In terms of multi-tenancy, we require a sophisticated authorization, for example allowing access only to those integration flows and credentials the current user is actually eligibile for. As described in the basic scenario, our approach is to make use of signed JWT tokens containing the claims/grants of the user/client. The following example illustrates the access to credentials store.

Authentication in OIH


  1. Client authenticates
  2. Client receive the JWT containing the claims and current context
  3. Client accesses the credentials for org1 in OIH. Gateway validates, that the JWT is valid.
  4. Credentials Service can either use
    1. a middleware/library to verify that the client is authorized to access the ressource (business logic within credentials service)
    2. or make a request to the authorization service, which maps all authorization policies

TODO > Our preferred version ist the use of middleware for authorization and a model which allows adding attriibute based access control (ABAC) to role based (RBAC). Our preferred version ist the use of middleware for authorization and a model which allows adding attriibute based access control (ABAC) to role based (RBAC). See the AccessControl documentation for more details.

The validation of JWT can be done by the Gateway, but also by any service/module, which has access to the JWS public key of the AuthService.

Authentication/Authorization Middleware

The authentication middleware is a depedency, e.g. node module, which can be used by any (micro)-service, in order to validate the JWT. For this, the middleware would only require the endpoint uri of the AuthService to fetch the public JWS key. This can be done on startup of the service and be automatically refreshed with a configurable TTL.

TODO > Define a scenario with rotating public keys and a fault tolerant approach, to refresh the public key on-demand.


For the OIH, we consider the authorization within each service as the best alternative:

  • We have a very limited set of roles and applying rules and also a low number of APIs accessible from outside (currently only two: Integration Framework and Smart Data Framework)
  • A seperate authorization policy service would require much coordination within different working groups
  • Each service could have their own interpretation of what an specific combination of user role and attributes mean

All these points could lead to inconsistent policies when managing them all at one point instead of doing it in the dedicated services.

Single Sign-On

There are scenarios, for example in context of the Basaas marketplace, where we want the identity provider to be outside of OIH and allow the users to login into OIH using their external credentials. We will use OpenId Connect to achieve this.

Authentication in the context of a generic ecosystem

In this section we will define a concept for user authentication to OIH inside a generic ecosystem. It utilizes OpenID Connect ( which extends the OAuth2 protocol ( The core idea is to just authenticate the user and separate this process from authorization.

Authentication Flow

Authentication in OIH

This abstract flow illustrates the interaction between the three roles and includes the following steps:

(precondition) A registered account containing a valid OIH-uid is required.

(A) A User requests access to OIH in order to interact via interface. Since OIH is Relying Party ( it is initializing OpenID Connect flow.

(B) OIH sends an authentication request (AuthN) to specified OpenID Provider (OP). The HTTP request parameter “response_type” holds “id_token token”, so it corresponds to implicit flow according to the specifications (

Example request

(values need to be url encoded)

(C) If this auth request is verified by OP, the User will be forwarded to login page. After he entered sufficient credentials, OP authenticates him.

(D) Once he is logged in and has been authenticated locally, the OP creates id token (JWT) and request token. Thereafter OP signs the id token and redirects the User back to OIH with both tokens stored in redirect URIs fragment (

Example redirect URI #

Decoded id token


  "alg": "RS256",
  "typ": "JWT",
  "kid": "r1LkbBo3925Rb2ZFFrKyU3MVex9T2817Kx0vbi6i_Kc"


  "sub": "5ab918f2044254ccb3623444",
  "email": "",
  "nonce": "ea0da03dddf7453f9ad1e3c01c01df2e",
  "sid": "e09b267a-096b-4ac1-8660-5547679a6bf4",
  "at_hash": "4BN-XOTvW7mHdCRwS93jIQ",
  "s_hash": "LcwXmsD3Yom4oftfK2lIqQ",
  "aud": "react",
  "exp": 1523285992,
  "iat": 1523282392,
  "iss": "http://localhost:3002"

(E*) After the signature of id token has been verified or userinfo has been obtained (, the User authentication succeeded.

This authentication flow brings several benefits. It relies on established standards, so an implementation will be covered by detailed documentation. In addition, Users get an interface that should already be known to them, since large providers (e. g. maintained by Google or Facebook) have been around for a couple of years.