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An authorization system based exclusively on allow lists

Project description

django-denied

None shall pass.

The Black Knight

django-denied is an authorization system for the Django web framework. With django-denied, every Django view must be explicitly allowed. This design means that developers have to make a choice about authorization for a view to work.

In other words, django-denied makes authorization a requirement for every view in a Django project.

Who should use this?

This package is well suited for Django projects that need to protect pages against unauthorized access normally. If you are making a service that requires user's to login and restricts which data a user sees, then django-denied may be a good fit for you.

If your web application is meant to be open for a large audience, especially with lots of anonymous users, then this package may be overkill for your needs. A blog or content management system may not be a good candidate.

Install

Get the package.

pip install django-denied

django-denied uses Django's built-in auth and admin apps. These apps also depend on the contenttypes app. Ensure that these apps are in your INSTALL_APPS in your Django settings file.

INSTALLED_APPS = [
    "django.contrib.admin",
    "django.contrib.auth",
    "django.contrib.contenttypes",
    ...,
]

Add the DeniedMiddleware. This middleware does all the authorization checking. The middleware depends on the request.user, so be sure to include it after the AuthenticationMiddleware.

MIDDLEWARE = [
    ...,
    "django.contrib.auth.middleware.AuthenticationMiddleware",
    "denied.middleware.DeniedMiddleware",
    ...,
]

Now you're ready to start.

Usage

django-denied has two primary modes for handling views.

  1. allow
  2. authorize

These decorators are the main interface of the package and are described in the sections below.

By default, django-denied assumes that all users should be authenticated, with the exception of allowed views or login pages.

The login pages are

  • The page defined by settings.LOGIN_URL and
  • The Django admin login defined at the admin:login route.

If you set LOGIN_URL, django-denied expects the path form of the setting (e.g., /accounts/login/) rather than the url name (e.g., accounts:login).

Allowing views

Every app is likely to have views that should be made accessible to unauthenticated users. A company's about page, terms of service, and privacy policy are all good examples.

The allow decorator is for marking a Django view as exempt from the authorization checking done by the DeniedMiddleware.

This is an example of how you might create a terms of service view.

# application/views.py
from denied.decorators import allow
from django.shortcuts import render


@allow
def terms_of_service(request):
    return render(request, "tos.html", {})

The allow decorator has a secondary function. Aside from allowing a single view, the decorator can allow a set of views that you would use with django.urls.path.

This is necessary to permit third party apps that have other views, but are unaware of the django-denied system.

This is an example of using allow to permit the Django admin views as well as the popular app, django-allauth.

# project/urls.py
from denied.decorators import allow
from django.contrib import admin
from django.urls import include, path

urlpatterns = [
    path("accounts/", allow(include("allauth.urls"))),
    path("admin/", allow(admin.site.urls)),
]

Note: Even if you include allow on a view or a set of views, that does not mean that what you've allowed will suddenly bypass any existing authentication or authorization checking. This is a feature, not a bug!

login_required, permission_required, and any other authentication or authorization checking that pre-exist on views will remain. django-denied does not disable the security features of other third party libraries.

Authorizing views

With django-denied, a Django view is authorized with the authorize decorator and an authorizer function. An authorizer has a function signature of

from django.http import HttpRequest


def example_authorizer(request: HttpRequest, **view_kwargs: dict) -> bool:
    ...

The authorizer evaluates the incoming request and view information and should return True if the request is authorized or False is the request is not authorized. The view_kwargs include any data that was parsed out of the URL route.

The authorizer acts as a declarative way of showing what is authorized for the view.

from denied.decorators import authorize

from .authorizers import example_authorizer


@authorize(example_authorizer)
def example_view(request):
    ...

To use authorize on a class-based view, you must attach the decorator to the dispatch method.

from denied.decorators import authorize
from django.utils.decorators import method_decorator
from django.views.generic import DetailView

from .authorizers import example_authorizer
from .models import Example


@method_decorator(authorize(example_authorizer), "dispatch")
class ExampleDetail(DetailView):
    queryset = Example.objects.all()

Built-in authorizers

The library includes built-in authorizers for common cases.

denied.authorizers.any_authorized

This authorizer always evaluates to True and is the logical equivalent to login_required since django-denied always enforces authentication checking.

denied.authorizers.staff_authorized

This authorizer only permits access when user.is_staff == True. staff_authorized is equivalent to staff_member_required from the Django admin app.

Authorizer example

This section shows a more complete example of an authorizer to give you a sense of how django-denied works in practice.

For our example, we'll consider a project tracking application. This is little more than a TODO list that groups the tasks into projects.

Here are the models.

# application/models.py
from django.contrib.auth.models import User
from django.db import models


class Project(models.Model):
    owner = models.ForeignKey(User, on_delete=models.CASCADE)


class Task(models.Model):
    project = models.ForeignKey(Project, on_delete=models.CASCADE)
    description = models.TextField()
    completed = models.BooleanField(default=False)

For this simple system, only project owners can do anything with a task. Let's create the authorizer for that.

# application/authorizers.py


def task_authorized(request, **view_kwargs):
    return Task.objects.filter(
        project__owner=request.user,
        pk=view_kwargs["pk"],
    ).exists()

These are the URLs we want to support with this authorizer.

# application/urls.py

from django.urls import path

from .views import task_detail, task_edit

urlpatterns = [
    path("tasks/<int:pk>/", task_detail, name="task_detail"),
    path("tasks/<int:pk>/edit/", task_detail, name="task_edit"),
]

Now we can set our views and set their authorization.

# application/views.py
from denied.decorators import authorize
from django.shortcuts import render

from .authorizers import task_authorized
from .models import Task


@authorize(task_authorized)
def task_detail(request, pk):
    task = Task.objects.get(pk=pk)
    return render(request, "task_detail.html", {"task": task})


@authorize(task_authorized)
def task_edit(request, pk):
    task = Task.objects.get(pk=pk)
    return render(request, "task_edit.html", {"task": task})

Since the authorizer handles the access control, we can be confident that the task is safe to fetch by its key alone. Access control is pushed to the boundary of the view so that the view's internal logic is about as simple as you can make it.

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