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OAuth (Open Authorization) is an open standard and protocol that allows secure authorization and delegation of access to resources or services without sharing user credentials. OAuth enables users to grant third-party applications limited access to their resources on a service (such as a social media account or cloud storage) without disclosing their username and password. It is commonly used to enable Single Sign-On (SSO) and secure access to protected resources in modern web and mobile applications.
OAuth works by establishing a trust relationship between the resource owner (user), the resource server (where the protected resources are stored), the client application (the third-party application requesting access), and the authorization server (which authenticates and grants access tokens). The following key components are involved in an OAuth flow:
Resource Owner: The user who owns the resource, such as an account on a social media platform or a cloud storage service.
Resource Server: The server that hosts the protected resources, which can include data, files, or services.
Client Application: The third-party application that wants to access the user's resources. The client requests authorization to access resources on behalf of the user.
Authorization Server: The server responsible for authenticating the user and granting access tokens to the client after the user's approval.
Access Token: A temporary token granted by the authorization server to the client. The client uses the access token to access the user's resources on the resource server.
OAuth defines different grant types or flows, each designed for specific use cases and security requirements. Some common grant types include:
Authorization Code Flow: This is the most secure OAuth flow and involves multiple steps. The client redirects the user to the authorization server to grant permission, and the authorization server provides an authorization code to the client, which is then exchanged for an access token.
Implicit Flow: Simplified version of the authorization code flow, designed for browser-based and mobile applications. The access token is returned directly to the client after the user's approval.
Client Credentials Flow: Used for server-to-server communication where the client (application) accesses its own resources on the resource server.
Resource Owner Password Credentials Flow: Allows the client to directly exchange the user's credentials for an access token. This flow is less secure and is typically used only when the client is highly trusted.
OAuth is widely used for enabling secure access to APIs, third-party integrations, and cross-domain authentication without exposing user credentials. It provides a standardized way for applications to request access and receive authorization, enhancing both security and user experience.