Authenticating HTTP request with Nginx

How to authenticate HTTP request with Nginx

Authgear has an internal endpoint that can authenticate HTTP request.


You must follow this to get Authgear running first!

Create a simple application server

Below is a very simple application server written in Python that echoes most of the request headers.

from wsgiref.simple_server import make_server

def header_name(key):
    parts = key.split("_")[1:]
    parts = [part.lower() for part in parts]
    return "-".join(parts)

def app(environ, start_response):
    status = '200 OK'
    headers = [('Content-type', 'text/plain; charset=utf-8')]
    start_response(status, headers)

    for key, value in environ.items():
        if key.startswith("HTTP_"):
            name = header_name(key)
            yield ("%s: %s\n" % (name, value)).encode()

with make_server('', 8000, app) as httpd:
    print("listening on port 8000...")

Run it with:


Visit http://localhost:8000 to verify it is working.

Make the application server a service in docker-compose.yaml

We have to write a Dockerfile for our application server.

FROM python:3.7-slim
CMD ["python3", ""]

We then declare it as a new service in docker-compose.yaml:

  # Other services are omitted for brevity
      context: .
    - "8000:8000"

Finally, run it!

docker-compose up

Visit http://localhost:8000 to verify our application server is working with docker-compose.

Add Nginx

Copy the following nginx.conf and save it as nginx.conf.

user  nginx;
worker_processes  1;

error_log  /var/log/nginx/error.log warn;
pid        /var/run/;

events {
    worker_connections  1024;

http {
    include       /etc/nginx/mime.types;
    default_type  application/octet-stream;

    log_format  main  '$remote_addr - $remote_user [$time_local] "$request" '
                      '$status $body_bytes_sent "$http_referer" '
                      '"$http_user_agent" "$http_x_forwarded_for"';

    access_log  /var/log/nginx/access.log  main;

    sendfile        on;
    #tcp_nopush     on;

    keepalive_timeout  65;

    server {
        server_name _;
        listen 80;

        location / {
            # See Note
            proxy_pass http://authgear:3000;
            proxy_set_header Host $host;

        location /app {
            # See Note
            proxy_pass http://app:8000;
            proxy_set_header Host $host;
            auth_request /_auth;

            auth_request_set $x_authgear_session_valid $upstream_http_x_authgear_session_valid;
            auth_request_set $x_authgear_user_id $upstream_http_x_authgear_user_id;
            auth_request_set $x_authgear_user_anonymous $upstream_http_x_authgear_user_anonymous;
            auth_request_set $x_authgear_user_verified $upstream_http_x_authgear_user_verified;
            auth_request_set $x_authgear_session_acr $upstream_http_x_authgear_session_acr;
            auth_request_set $x_authgear_session_amr $upstream_http_x_authgear_session_amr;
            auth_request_set $x_authgear_session_authenticated_at $upstream_http_x_authgear_session_authenticated_at;
            auth_request_set $x_authgear_user_can_reauthenticate $upstream_http_x_authgear_user_can_reauthenticate;

            proxy_set_header x-authgear-session-valid $x_authgear_session_valid;
            proxy_set_header x-authgear-user-id $x_authgear_user_id;
            proxy_set_header x-authgear-user-anonymous $x_authgear_user_anonymous;
            proxy_set_header x-authgear-user-verified $x_authgear_user_verified;
            proxy_set_header x-authgear-session-acr $x_authgear_session_acr;
            proxy_set_header x-authgear-session-amr $x_authgear_session_amr;
            proxy_set_header x-authgear-session-authenticated-at $x_authgear_session_authenticated_at;
            proxy_set_header x-authgear-user-can-reauthenticate $x_authgear_user_can_reauthenticate;

        location = /_auth {
            # See Note
            proxy_pass http://authgear:3001/_resolver/resolve;
            proxy_pass_request_body off;
            proxy_set_header Content-Length "";

Note: When plain domain is used in proxy_pass directive, the domain is resolved once and then cached indefinite. If the domain is public, then you use use variable in proxy_pass with resolver directive to respect DNS TTL. See For instructions on how to setup Nginx for production deployment, see Using Nginx as the reverse proxy.

Add Nginx in docker-compose.yaml:

  # Other services are omitted for brevity
    image: nginx:1.18
    - ./nginx.conf:/etc/nginx/nginx.conf
    - "8080:80"

Visit http://localhost:8080 to reach Authgear and the application server.

Verify the request is authenticated

Visit http://localhost:8080 and login, then visit http://localhost:8080/app.

You should see the following:

x-authgear-session-valid: true
x-authgear-user-id: acdc0d99-f784-43d5-b53d-70f3506dfbf7
x-authgear-user-anonymous: false

Optional: setting up resolver response caching

Sometimes you may want to cache resolver response in nginx, for example, when the reverse proxy and Authgear is in different regions.

You may modify the nginx configuration as following to enable caching:

http {
    # ...
    proxy_cache_path /tmp/cache keys_zone=auth_cache:10m;

    server {
        # ...
        location = /_auth {
            # ...
            proxy_cache auth_cache;
            proxy_cache_key "$cookie_session|$http_authorization";
            proxy_cache_valid 200 10m;  # Adjust cache duration as desired.

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