maryo maryo - 1 month ago 20
reST (reStructuredText) Question

JWT (JSON Web Token) automatic prolongation of expiration

I would like to implement JWT-based authentication to our new REST API. But since the expiration is set in the token, is it possible to automatically prolong it? I don't want users to need to sign in after every X minutes if they were actively using the application in that period. That would be a huge UX fail.

But prolonging the expiration creates a new token (and the old one is still valid until it expires). And generating a new token after each request sounds silly to me. Sounds like a security issue when more than one token is valid at the same time. Of course I could invalidate the old used one using a blacklist but I would need to store the tokens. And one of the benefits of JWT is no storage.

I found how Auth0 solved it. They use not only JWT token but also a refresh token:
https://docs.auth0.com/refresh-token

But again, to implement this (without Auth0) I'd need to store refresh tokens and maintain their expiration. What is the real benefit then? Why not have only one token (not JWT) and keep the expiration on the server?

Are there other options? Is using JWT not suited for this scenario?

Answer

I work at Auth0 and I was involved in the design of the refresh token feature.

It all depends on the type of application and here is our recommended approach.

Web applications

A good pattern is to refresh the token before it expires.

Set the token expiration to one week and refresh the token every time the user open the web application and every one hour. If a user doesn't open the application for more than a week, they will have to login again and this is acceptable web application UX.

To refresh the token your API needs a new endpoint that receives a valid, not expired JWT and returns the same signed JWT with the new expiration field. Then the web application will store the token somewhere.

Mobile/Native applications

Most native applications do login once and only once.

The idea is that the refresh token never expires and it can be exchanged always for a valid JWT.

The problem with a token that never expires is that never means never. What do you do if you lose your phone? So, it needs to be identifiable by the user somehow and the application needs to provide a way to revoke access. We decided to use the device's name, e.g. "maryo's iPad". Then the user can go to the application and revoke access to "maryo's iPad".

Another approach is to revoke the refresh token on specific events. An interesting event is changing the password.

We believe that JWT is not useful for these use cases so we use a random generated string and we store it on our side.

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