September 20, 2018

Collaboration of OAuth and LDAP

The goal

Almost everyone knows OAuth, it is widely used online and has a good reputation. In company where I work we have decided to integrate OAuth2 into our platform (based on microservice architecture, I'll be saying platform from now on). The trick was that it had to be integrated with existing LDAP server storing user data. User requesting the token had to input his LDAP username and password in order to receive the token. Looking for existing solutions was fruitless and new code had to be written. At that point I didn't know how this could be achieved. In addition to LDAP I had to use Django as a base of this for providing REST API endpoints. The limitations were clear at this point, risks were unknown. This is not an unusual thing when working as a programmer.

The stack

As I mentioned earlier Django was chosen as the framework. Having decided on the framework it narrowed down number of libraries to use. Fortunately there was already an library adding OAuth to the Django, Django OAuth Toolkit. DOT integrates nicely with Django REST framework and allows you to write your plugins for validating token requests. It supports much more but those two features were the main selling points. Talking to LDAP required a library to do the heavy lifting. There is not much choice here to be honest and I stuck with python-ldap. It is different from what you would expect in terms of python library. Messages are not very useful, docs not very clear but it works and is reliable.

The solution

At the beginning the task seemed really difficult to me. I have only played with OAuth without understanding how it works. It was similar with LDAP. After diving into details it stopped looking that hairy as it turned out I only had to plug into process of authorising the user request. Putting this simply the process of issuing the token would not be started until the user provides credentials that are valid to LDAP.

Django OAuth Toolkit

DOT (Django OAuth Toolkit) is pretty flexible, it provides a setting OAUTH2_VALIDATOR_CLASS where you can define your own validator. This allows to control each step of OAuth2 process. Fortunately I was only concerned with user validation. In order to achieve it I had to write my own validator. Easiest way was to read the default class which has been provided by DOT, namely oauth2_provider.oauth2_validators.OAuth2Validator. It is nicely written, each step has it's own method that can be replaced. Just had to find a proper one. Proper like validate_user.

def validate_user(self, username, password, client, request, *args, **kwargs):

Signature of the method pictures exactly what needs to be done and lists all the required ingredients. We were connecting to LDAP so this method had to do everything required to validate the user and return bool depending on the result of validation.


Having all the parts connected together the only thing left was to replace the validator class so our new one is used. After doing this all the requests coming in to our OAuth2 server had to conform to our rules which is provide login and password stored in LDAP. It took me longer than expected to grasp the concept and to design the solution. I have created few prototypes each of them with lesser number of CLOCs, until this simple solution came to my mind.

Still don't fancy LDAP.

Tags: ldap oauth python