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Hooks for Falcon

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Talons == Falcon Hooks Build Status

Talons is a library of WSGI middleware that is designed to work with the Falcon lightweight Python framework for building RESTful APIs. Like Falcon, Talons aims to be fast, light, and flexible.

The first middleware in Talons is authentication middleware, enabling one or more backend identity plugins to handle authentication.

What is talons.auth?

talons.auth is a namespace package that contains utilies for constructing identifying and authenticating middleware and plugins designed for applications running the Falcon WSGI micro-framework for building REST APIs.

A simple usage example

A simple Falcon API application is constructed like so:

import falcon

# falcon.API instances are callable WSGI apps
app = falcon.API()

To add middleware to a Falcon API application, we simply instantiate the desired talons.auth middleware and supply it to the falcon.API() call:

import falcon
from talons.auth import middleware
from talons.auth import basicauth, httpheader, htpasswd

# Assume getappconfig() returns a dictionary of application configuration
# options that may have been read from some INI file...
config = getappconfig()

auth_middleware = middleware.create_middleware(identify_with=[

app = falcon.API(before=[auth_middleware])


There are a variety of basic plugins that handle identification of the user making an API request and authenticating credentials with a number of common backends, including LDAP and SQL data stores.

Authentication involves two main tasks:

  • Identifying the user who wishes to be authenticated
  • Validating credentials for the identified user

Classes that derive from talons.auth.interfaces.Identifies implement an identify method that takes the falcon.request.Request object from the WSGI pipeline and looks at elements of the request to determine who the requesting user is.

The class that stores credential information – including a login, password/key, a set of roles or groups, as well as other metadata about the requesting user – is the talons.auth.interfaces.Identity class. talons.auth.interfaces.Identifies subclasses store this Identity object in the WSGI environs’ “wsgi.identity” bucket.

Classes that derive from talons.auth.interfaces.Authenticates implement an authenticate method that takes a single argument – a talons.auth.interfaces.Identity object – and attempts to validate that the identity is authentic.

To give your Falcon-based WSGI application authentication capabilities, you simply create middleware that has one or more talons.auth.identify modules and one or more talons.auth.authenticate modules. We even give you a helper method – talons.auth.middleware.create_middleware – to create such middleware in a single call.


Each class that derives from talons.auth.interfaces.Identifies is called an “Identifier”. Each class implements a single method, identify(), that takes the incoming falcon.request.Request object as its sole parameter. If the identity of the authenticating user can be determined, then the Identifier object stores a talons.auth.interfaces.Identity object in the WSGI environ’s wsgi.identity key and returns True.

Multiple Identifier classes can be supplied to the talons.auth.middleware.create_middleware method to support a variety of ways of gleaning identity information from the WSGI request. Each Identifier’s identify() method checks to see if the wsgi.identity key is already set in the WSGI environs. If it is, the method simply returns True and does not attempt to process anything further.


The most basic identifier, talons.auth.basicauth.Identifier has no configuration options and simply looks in the `Authenticate <>`__ HTTP header for credential information. If the Authenticate HTTP header is found and contains valid credential information, then that identity information is stored in the wsgi.identity WSGI environs key.


Another simple identifier, talons.auth.httpheader.Identifier looks for configurable HTTP headers in the incoming WSGI request, and uses the values of the HTTP headers to construct a talons.auth.Identity object.

A set of configuration options control how this Identifier class behaves:

  • httpheader_user: HTTP header to look for user/login name (required)
  • httpheader_key: HTTP header to look for password/key (required)
  • httpheader_$ATTRIBUTE: HTTP header that, if found, will be used to add $ATTRIBUTE to the Identity object stored in the WSGI pipeline. (optional)

The above configuration options are supplied to the constructor as keyword arguments.


Suppose we wanted to extract identity information from the following HTTP Headers:

  • X-Auth-User – The value of this header will be the authenticating user’s user name
  • X-Auth-Password – The value of this header will be the authenticating user’s password
  • X-Auth-Domain – The value of this header should be considered the authentication domain that will be considered when authenticating the identity. We want to store this value on the talons.auth.Identity object’s domain attribute.

Our configuration options would look like this:



Each class that derives from talons.auth.interfaces.Authenticates is called an “Authenticator”. Each Authenticator implements a single method, authenticate(), that takes a talons.auth.interfaces.Identity object as its sole parameter.

The authenticate method verifies that the supplied identity can be verified (authenticated). Different implementations will rely on various backend storage systems to validate the incoming identity/credentials. If authentication was successful, the method returns True, False otherwise.

Talons comes with a few simple examples of Authenticator plugins.


A generic Authenticator plugin that has a single configuration option, authenticate_external_authfn which should be the “module.function” or “module.class.method” dotted-import notation for a function or class method that accepts a single parameter. This function will be called by the instance of talons.auth.authenticate.external.Authenticator to validate the credentials of a request.


Suppose we have some application code that looks up a stored password for a user in a `Redis <>`__ Key-Value Store. Salted, encrypted passwords for each user are stored in the Redis KVS.

Our application has a Python file called /application/ that looks like this:

import hashlib

import redis

_AUTH_DB = redis.StrictRedis(host='localhost', port=6379, db=0)

def _pass_matches_stored_pass(pass, stored_pass):
    # Assume that passwords are stored in Redis in the following format:
    # salt:hashedpass
    # and that the passwords have been hashed with SHA-256
    salt, stored_hashed_pass = stored_pass.split(':')
    hashed_pass = hashlib.sha256(salt.encode() + pass.encode()).hexdigest()
    return hashed_pass == stored_hashed_pass

def authenticate(identity):
    user = identity.login
    pass = identity.key

    stored_pass = _AUTH_DB.get(user)
    if stored_pass:
        return _pass_matches_stored_pass(pass, stored_pass)
    return False

To use the above application.auth.authenticate method for authenticating identities, we’d supply the following configuration options to the talons.auth.external.Authenticator constructor:

  • external_authfn=application.auth.authenticate


An Authenticator plugin that queries an Apache htpasswd file to check the credentials of a request. The plugin has a single configuration option:

  • htpasswd_path: The filepath to the Apache htpasswd file to use for authentication checks.

Why talons.auth?

Why not just use middleware like repose.who for authentication plugins? Why re-invent the wheel here?

A few reasons, in no particular order:

  • Use of the Webob library. I’m not a fan of it, as I’ve run into numerous issues with this library over the years.
  • Use of zope.interfaces. Also not a fan of it. It’s a library that seems to be designed for traditional C++ programmers instead of feeling like it’s designed for Python developers. Just use the abc module if you absolutely must have strict interface enforcement.
  • Trying to override things like logging setup in constructors of middleware.
  • No Paste.
  • Wanted something that fit Falcon’s app construction paradigm.

But hey, there’s nothing inherently wrong with repoze.who. If you like it, and it works for you, use it.


Jay Pipes maintains the Talons library. You can usually find him on the Freenode IRC #openstack-dev channel. Interested in improving and enhancing Talons? Pull requests are always welcome.

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