OAuth (formally specified by RFC 5849) provides a means for users to grant third-party applications access to their data without exposing their password to those applications.

The protocol greatly improves the security of web applications, in particular, and OAuth has been important in bringing attention to the potential dangers of exposing passwords to external services.

While OAuth 1.0 is still widely used, it has been superseded by OAuth 2.0. It is recommended to base new implementations on OAuth 2.0.

When using OAuth to protect API endpoints, there are three distinct steps that that must be performed:

  1. The application requests permission from the user for access to protected resources.
  2. A token is issued to the application, if permission is granted by the user.
  3. The application authenticates using the token to access protected resources.

Issuing Tokens

OAuthorize, a sibling project to Passport, provides a toolkit for implementing OAuth service providers.

The authorization process is a complex sequence that involves authenticating both the requesting application and the user, as well as prompting the user for permission, ensuring that enough detail is provided for the user to make an informed decision.

Additionally, it is up to the implementor to determine what limits can be placed on the application regarding scope of access, as well as subsequently enforcing those limits.

As a toolkit, OAuthorize does not attempt to make implementation decisions. This guide does not cover these issues, but does highly recommend that services deploying OAuth have a complete understanding of the security considerations involved.

Authenticating Tokens

Once issued, OAuth tokens can be authenticated using the passport-http-oauth module.


$ npm install passport-http-oauth


passport.use('token', new TokenStrategy(
  function(consumerKey, done) {
    Consumer.findOne({ key: consumerKey }, function (err, consumer) {
      if (err) { return done(err); }
      if (!consumer) { return done(null, false); }
      return done(null, consumer, consumer.secret);
  function(accessToken, done) {
    AccessToken.findOne({ token: accessToken }, function (err, token) {
      if (err) { return done(err); }
      if (!token) { return done(null, false); }
      Users.findById(token.userId, function(err, user) {
        if (err) { return done(err); }
        if (!user) { return done(null, false); }
        // fourth argument is optional info.  typically used to pass
        // details needed to authorize the request (ex: `scope`)
        return done(null, user, token.secret, { scope: token.scope });
  function(timestamp, nonce, done) {
    // validate the timestamp and nonce as necessary
    done(null, true)

In contrast to other strategies, there are two callbacks required by OAuth. In OAuth, both an identifier for the requesting application and the user-specific token are encoded as credentials.

The first callback is known as the "consumer callback", and is used to find the application making the request, including the secret assigned to it. The second callback is the "token callback", which is used to identify the user as well as the token's corresponding secret. The secrets supplied by the consumer and token callbacks are used to compute a signature, and authentication fails if it does not match the request signature.

A final "validate callback" is optional, which can be used to prevent replay attacks by checking the timestamp and nonce used in the request.

Protect Endpoints

  passport.authenticate('token', { session: false }),
  function(req, res) {

Specify passport.authenticate() with the token strategy to protect API endpoints. Sessions are not typically needed by APIs, so they can be disabled.