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Version: Canary

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

Imagine a few weeks in the future of our blog when every post hits the front page of the New York Times and we're getting hundreds of comments a day. We can't be expected to come up with quality content each day and moderate the endless stream of (mostly well-meaning) comments! We're going to need help. Let's hire a comment moderator to remove obvious spam and any comments that don't heap praise on our writing ability. You know, to help make the internet a better place.

We already have a login system for our blog, but right now it's all-or-nothing: you either get access to create blog posts, or you don't. In this case our comment moderator(s) will need logins so that we know who they are, but we're not going to let them create new blog posts. We need some kind of role that we can give to our two kinds of users so we can distinguish them from one another.

Enter role-based access control, thankfully shortened to the common phrase RBAC. Authentication says who the person is, authorization says what they can do. "Access control" is another way to say authorization. Currently the blog has the lowest common denominator of authorization: if they are logged in, they can do everything. Let's add a "less than everything, but more than nothing" level.

Defining Roles

We've got a User model so let's add a roles property to that:

api/db/schema.prisma
model User {
id Int @id @default(autoincrement())
name String?
email String @unique
hashedPassword String
salt String
resetToken String?
resetTokenExpiresAt DateTime?
roles String
}

Next we'll (try) to migrate the database:

yarn rw prisma migrate dev

But that will fail with an error:

• Step 0 Added the required column `role` to the `User` table without a default value. There are 1 rows in this table, it is not possible to execute this step.

What does this mean? We made roles a required field. But, we have a user in the database already (1 rows in this table). If we add that column to the database, it would have to be null for existing users since we didn't define a default. Let's create a default value so that not only can we apply this migration, but we're sure that any new users being created have some minimal level of permissions and we don't have to add even more code to check whether they have a role at all, let alone what it is.

For now let's have two roles, admin and moderator. admin can create/edit/delete blog posts and moderator can only remove comments. Of those two moderator is the safer default since it's more restrictive:

api/db/schema.prisma
model User {
id Int @id @default(autoincrement())
name String?
email String @unique
hashedPassword String
salt String
resetToken String?
resetTokenExpiresAt DateTime?
roles String @default("moderator")
}

Now the migration should be able to be applied:

yarn rw prisma migrate dev

And you can name it something like "add roles to user".

If we log in and try to go the posts admin page at http://localhost:8910/admin/posts everything works the same as it used to: we're not actually checking for the existence of any roles yet so that makes sense. In reality we'd only want users with the admin role to have access to the admin pages, but our existing user just became a moderator because of our default role. This is a great opportunity to actually setup a role check and see if we lose access to the admin!

Before we do that, we'll need to make sure that the web side has access to the roles on currentUser. Take a look at api/src/lib/auth.js. Remember when we had to add email to the list of fields being included? We need to add roles as well:

api/src/lib/auth.js
export const getCurrentUser = async (session) => {
return await db.user.findUnique({
where: { id: session.id },
select: { id: true, email: true, roles: true },
})
}

Restricting Access via Routes

The easiest way to prevent access to an entire URL is via the Router. The <Private> component takes a prop roles in which you can give a list of only those role(s) that should have access:

web/src/Routes.js
<Private unauthenticated="home" roles="admin">
<Set wrap={ScaffoldLayout} title="Posts" titleTo="posts" buttonLabel="New Post" buttonTo="newPost">
<Route path="/admin/posts/new" page={PostNewPostPage} name="newPost" />
<Route path="/admin/posts/{id:Int}/edit" page={PostEditPostPage} name="editPost" />
<Route path="/admin/posts/{id:Int}" page={PostPostPage} name="post" />
<Route path="/admin/posts" page={PostPostsPage} name="posts" />
</Set>
</Private>

Now if you browse to http://localhost:8910/admin/posts you should get redirected to the homepage. So far so good.

Changing Roles on a User

Let's use the Redwood console again to quickly update our admin user to actually have the admin role:

yarn rw c
tip

You can use the c shortcut instead of console

Now we can update our user with a single command:

> db.user.update({ where: { id: 1 } , data: { roles: 'admin' } })

Which should return the new content of the user:

{
id: 1,
name: null,
email: 'admin@admin.com',
hashedPassword: 'a12f3975a3722953fd8e326dd108d5645ad9563042fe9f154419361eeeb775d8',
salt: '9abf4665293211adce1c99de412b219e',
resetToken: null,
resetTokenExpiresAt: null,
roles: 'admin'
}
caution

If you re-used the same console session from the previous section, you'll need to quit it and start it again for it to know about the new Prisma data structure. If you still can't get the update to work, maybe your user doesn't have an id of 1! Run db.user.findMany() first and then get the id of the user you want to update.

Now head back to http://localhost:8910/admin/posts and we should have access again. As the British say: brilliant!

Add a Moderator

Let's create a new user that will represent the comment moderator. Since this is in development you can just make up an email address, but if you needed to do this in a real system that verified email addresses you could use The Plus Trick to create a new, unique email address that is actually the same as your original email address!

The Plus Trick

The Plus Trick is a very handy feature of the email standard known as a "boxname", the idea being that you may have other incoming boxes besides one just named "Inbox" and by adding +something to your email address you can specify which box the mail should be sorted into. They don't appear to be in common use these days, but they are ridiculously helpful for us developers when we're constantly needing new email addresses for testing: it gives us an infinite number of valid email addresses—they all come to your regular inbox!

Just append +something to your email address before the @:

  • jane.doe+testing@example.com will go to jane.doe@example.com
  • dom+20210909@example.com will go to dom@example.com

Note that not all providers support this plus-based syntax, but the major ones (Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple) do. If you find that you're not receiving emails at your own domain, you may want to create a free account at one of these providers just to use for testing.

In our case we're not sending emails anywhere, and don't require them to be verified, so you can just use a made-up email for now. moderator@moderator.com has a nice ring to it.

info

If you disabled the new user signup as suggested at the end of the first part of the tutorial then you'll have a slightly harder time creating a new user (the Signup page is still enabled in the example repo for convenience). You could create one with the Redwood console, but you'll need to be clever—remember that we don't store the original password, just the hashed result when combined with a salt. Here's the commands to enter at the console for creating a new user (replace 'password' with your password of choice):

const CryptoJS = require('crypto-js')
const salt = CryptoJS.lib.WordArray.random(128 / 8).toString()
const hashedPassword = CryptoJS.PBKDF2('password', salt, { keySize: 256 / 32 }).toString()
db.user.create({ data: { email: 'moderator@moderator.com', hashedPassword, salt } })

Now if you log out as the admin and log in as the moderator you should not have access to the posts admin.

Restrict Access in a Component

Locking down a whole page is easy enough via the Router, but what about individual functionality within a page or component?

Redwood provides a hasRole() function you can get from the useAuth() hook (you may recall us using that to get currentUser and display their email address in Part 1) which returns true or false depending on whether the logged in user has the given role. Let's try it out by adding a Delete button when a moderator is viewing a blog post's comments:

web/src/components/Comment/Comment.js
import { useAuth } from '@redwoodjs/auth'

const formattedDate = (datetime) => {
const parsedDate = new Date(datetime)
const month = parsedDate.toLocaleString('default', { month: 'long' })
return `${parsedDate.getDate()} ${month} ${parsedDate.getFullYear()}`
}

const Comment = ({ comment }) => {
const { hasRole } = useAuth()
const moderate = () => {
if (confirm('Are you sure?')) {
// TODO: delete comment
}
}

return (
<div className="bg-gray-200 p-8 rounded-lg relative">
<header className="flex justify-between">
<h2 className="font-semibold text-gray-700">{comment.name}</h2>
<time className="text-xs text-gray-500" dateTime={comment.createdAt}>
{formattedDate(comment.createdAt)}
</time>
</header>
<p className="text-sm mt-2">{comment.body}</p>
{hasRole('moderator') && (
<button
type="button"
onClick={moderate}
className="absolute bottom-2 right-2 bg-red-500 text-xs rounded text-white px-2 py-1"
>
Delete
</button>
)}
</div>
)
}

export default Comment

image

So if the user has the "moderator" role, render the delete button. If you log out and back in as the admin, or if you log out completely, you'll see the delete button go away. When logged out (that is, currentUser === null) hasRole() will always return false.

What should we put in place of the // TODO note we left ourselves? A GraphQL mutation that deletes a comment, of course. Thanks to our forward-thinking earlier we already have a deleteComment() service function and GraphQL mutation ready to go.

And due to the nice encapsulation of our Comment component we can make all the required web-site changes in this one component:

web/src/components/Comment/Comment.js
import { useAuth } from '@redwoodjs/auth'
import { useMutation } from '@redwoodjs/web'

import { QUERY as CommentsQuery } from 'src/components/CommentsCell'

const DELETE = gql`
mutation DeleteCommentMutation($id: Int!) {
deleteComment(id: $id) {
postId
}
}
`

const formattedDate = (datetime) => {
const parsedDate = new Date(datetime)
const month = parsedDate.toLocaleString('default', { month: 'long' })
return `${parsedDate.getDate()} ${month} ${parsedDate.getFullYear()}`
}

const Comment = ({ comment }) => {
const { hasRole } = useAuth()
const [deleteComment] = useMutation(DELETE, {
refetchQueries: [
{
query: CommentsQuery,
variables: { postId: comment.postId },
},
],
})

const moderate = () => {
if (confirm('Are you sure?')) {
deleteComment({
variables: { id: comment.id },
})
}
}

return (
<div className="bg-gray-200 p-8 rounded-lg relative">
<header className="flex justify-between">
<h2 className="font-semibold text-gray-700">{comment.name}</h2>
<time className="text-xs text-gray-500" dateTime={comment.createdAt}>
{formattedDate(comment.createdAt)}
</time>
</header>
<p className="text-sm mt-2">{comment.body}</p>
{hasRole('moderator') && (
<button
type="button"
onClick={moderate}
className="absolute bottom-2 right-2 bg-red-500 text-xs rounded text-white px-2 py-1"
>
Delete
</button>
)}
</div>
)
}

export default Comment

We'll also need to update the CommentsQuery we're importing from CommentsCell to include the postId field, since we are relying on it to perform the refetchQuery after a successful deletion:

web/src/components/CommentsCell/CommentsCell.js
import Comment from 'src/components/Comment'

export const QUERY = gql`
query CommentsQuery($postId: Int!) {
comments(postId: $postId) {
id
name
body
postId
createdAt
}
}
`

Click Delete (as a moderator) and the comment should be removed!

Ideally we'd have both versions of this component (with and without the "Delete" button) present in Storybook so we can iterate on the design. But there's no such thing as "logging in" in Storybook and our code depends on being logged in so we can check our roles...how will that work?

Mocking currentUser for Storybook

Similar to how we can mock GraphQL calls in Storybook, we can mock user authentication and authorization functionality in a story.

In Comment.stories.tsx let's add a second story for the moderator view of the component (and rename the existing one for clarity):

web/src/components/Comment/Comment.stories.js
import Comment from './Comment'

export const defaultView = () => {
return (
<Comment
comment={{
id: 1,
name: 'Rob Cameron',
body: 'This is the first comment!',
createdAt: '2020-01-01T12:34:56Z',
postId: 1
}}
/>
)
}

export const moderatorView = () => {
return (
<Comment
comment={{
id: 1,
name: 'Rob Cameron',
body: 'This is the first comment!',
createdAt: '2020-01-01T12:34:56Z',
postId: 1,
}}
/>
)
}

export default { title: 'Components/Comment' }

The moderatorView story needs to have a user available that has the moderator role. We can do that with the mockCurrentUser function:

web/src/components/Comment/Comment.stories.js
export const moderatorView = () => {
mockCurrentUser({
id: 1,
email: 'moderator@moderator.com',
roles: 'moderator',
})

return (
<Comment
comment={{
id: 1,
name: 'Rob Cameron',
body: 'This is the first comment!',
createdAt: '2020-01-01T12:34:56Z',
postId: 1,
}}
/>
)
}
Where did mockCurrentUser() come from?

Similar to mockGraphQLQuery() and mockGraphQLMutation(), mockCurrentUser() is a global available in Storybook automatically, no need to import.

mockCurrentUser() accepts an object and you can put whatever you want in there (it should be similar to what you return in getCurrentUser() in api/src/lib/auth.ts). But since we want hasRole() to work properly then the object must have a roles key that is a string or an array of strings.

Check out Comment in Storybook and you should see two stories for Comment, one with a "Delete" button and one without!

image

Mocking currentUser for Jest

We can use the same mockCurrentUser() function in our Jest tests as well. Let's check that the word "Delete" is present in the component's output when the user is a moderator, and that it's not present if the user has any other role (or no role):

web/src/components/Comment/Comment.test.js
import { render, screen, waitFor } from '@redwoodjs/testing'

import Comment from './Comment'

const COMMENT = {
name: 'John Doe',
body: 'This is my comment',
createdAt: '2020-01-02T12:34:56Z',
}

describe('Comment', () => {
it('renders successfully', () => {
render(<Comment comment={COMMENT} />)

expect(screen.getByText(COMMENT.name)).toBeInTheDocument()
expect(screen.getByText(COMMENT.body)).toBeInTheDocument()
const dateExpect = screen.getByText('2 January 2020')
expect(dateExpect).toBeInTheDocument()
expect(dateExpect.nodeName).toEqual('TIME')
expect(dateExpect).toHaveAttribute('datetime', COMMENT.createdAt)
})

it('does not render a delete button if user is logged out', async () => {
render(<Comment comment={COMMENT} />)

await waitFor(() =>
expect(screen.queryByText('Delete')).not.toBeInTheDocument()
)
})

it('renders a delete button if the user is a moderator', async () => {
mockCurrentUser({
id: 1,
email: 'moderator@moderator.com',
roles: 'moderator',
})
render(<Comment comment={COMMENT} />)

await waitFor(() => expect(screen.getByText('Delete')).toBeInTheDocument())
})
})

We moved the default comment object to a constant COMMENT and then used that in all tests. We also needed to add waitFor() since the hasRole() check in the Comment itself actually executes some GraphQL calls behind the scenes to figure out who the user is. The test suite makes mocked GraphQL calls, but they're still asynchronous and need to be waited for. If you don't wait, then currentUser will be null when the test starts, and Jest will be happy with that result. But we won't—we need to wait for the actual value from the GraphQL call.

Seeing errors in your test suite?

We added fields to the database and sometimes the test runner doesn't realize this. You may need to restart it to get the test database migrated to match what's in schema.prisma. Press q or Ctrl-C in your test runner if it's still running, then:

yarn rw test

The suite should automatically run the tests for Comment and CommentCell at the very least, and maybe a few more if you haven't committed your code to git in a while.

info

This isn't the most robust test that's ever been written: what if the sample text of the comment itself had the word "Delete" in it? Whoops! But you get the idea—find some meaningful difference in each possible render state of a component and write a test that verifies its presence (or lack of presence).

Think of each conditional in your component as another branch you need to have a test for. In the worst case, each conditional adds 2n possible render states. If you have three conditionals that's 23 (eight) possible combinations of output and to be safe you'll want to test them all. When you get yourself into this scenario it's a good sign that it's time to refactor and simplify your component. Maybe into subcomponents where each is responsible for just one of those conditional outputs? You'll still need the same number of total tests, but each component and its test is now operating in isolation and making sure it does one thing, and does it well. This has benefits for your mental model of the codebase as well.

It's like finally organizing that junk drawer in the kitchen—you still have the same number of things when you're done, but each thing is in its own space and therefore easier to remember where it lives and makes it easier to find next time.

You may see the following message output during the test run:

console.error
Missing field 'postId' while writing result {
"id": 1,
"name": "Rob Cameron",
"body": "First comment",
"createdAt": "2020-01-02T12:34:56Z"
}

If you take a look at CommentsCell.mock.ts you'll see the mock data there used during the test. We're requesting postId in the QUERY in CommentsCell now, but this mock doesn't return it! We can fix that by simply adding that field to both mocks:

web/src/components/CommentsCell/CommentsCell.mock.js
export const standard = () => ({
comments: [
{
id: 1,
name: 'Rob Cameron',
body: 'First comment',
postId: 1,
createdAt: '2020-01-02T12:34:56Z',
},
{
id: 2,
name: 'David Price',
body: 'Second comment',
postId: 2,
createdAt: '2020-02-03T23:00:00Z',
},
],
})

We don't do anything with the actual post data in our tests, so there's no need to mock out the entire post, just a postId will suffice.

Roles on the API Side

Remember: never trust the client! We need to lock down the backend to be sure that someone can't discover our deleteComment GraphQL resource and start deleing comments willy nilly.

Recall in Part 1 of the tutorial we used a directive @requireAuth to be sure that someone was logged in before allowing them to access a given GraphQL query or mutation. It turns out that @requireAuth can take an optional roles argument:

api/src/graphql/comments.sdl.js
export const schema = gql`
type Comment {
id: Int!
name: String!
body: String!
post: Post!
postId: Int!
createdAt: DateTime!
}

type Query {
comments(postId: Int!): [Comment!]! @skipAuth
}

input CreateCommentInput {
name: String!
body: String!
postId: Int!
}

input UpdateCommentInput {
name: String
body: String
postId: Int
}

type Mutation {
createComment(input: CreateCommentInput!): Comment! @skipAuth
deleteComment(id: Int!): Comment! @requireAuth(roles: "moderator")
}
`

Now a raw GraphQL query to the deleteComment mutation will result in an error if the user isn't logged in as a moderator.

This check only prevents access to deleteComment via GraphQL. What if you're calling one service from another? If we wanted the same protection within the service itself, we could call requireAuth directly:

api/src/services/comments/comments.js
import { requireAuth } from 'src/lib/auth'
import { db } from 'src/lib/db'

// ...

export const deleteComment = ({ id }) => {
requireAuth({ roles: 'moderator' })
return db.comment.delete({
where: { id },
})
}

We'll need a test to go along with that functionality. How do we test requireAuth()? The api side also has a mockCurrentUser() function which behaves the same as the one on the web side:

api/src/services/comments/comments.test.js
import { AuthenticationError, ForbiddenError } from '@redwoodjs/graphql-server'

import { db } from 'src/lib/db'

import { comments, createComment, deleteComment } from './comments'

describe('comments', () => {
scenario(
'returns all comments for a single post from the database',
async (scenario) => {
const result = await comments({ postId: scenario.comment.jane.postId })
const post = await db.post.findUnique({
where: { id: scenario.comment.jane.postId },
include: { comments: true },
})
expect(result.length).toEqual(post.comments.length)
}
)

scenario('postOnly', 'creates a new comment', async (scenario) => {
const comment = await createComment({
input: {
name: 'Billy Bob',
body: 'What is your favorite tree bark?',
postId: scenario.post.bark.id,
},
})

expect(comment.name).toEqual('Billy Bob')
expect(comment.body).toEqual('What is your favorite tree bark?')
expect(comment.postId).toEqual(scenario.post.bark.id)
expect(comment.createdAt).not.toEqual(null)
})

scenario('allows a moderator to delete a comment', async (scenario) => {
mockCurrentUser({ roles: ['moderator'] })

const comment = await deleteComment({
id: scenario.comment.jane.id,
})
expect(comment.id).toEqual(scenario.comment.jane.id)

const result = await comments({ postId: scenario.comment.jane.id })
expect(result.length).toEqual(0)
})

scenario(
'does not allow a non-moderator to delete a comment',
async (scenario) => {
mockCurrentUser({ roles: 'user' })

expect(() =>
deleteComment({
id: scenario.comment.jane.id,
})
).toThrow(ForbiddenError)
}
)

scenario(
'does not allow a logged out user to delete a comment',
async (scenario) => {
mockCurrentUser(null)

expect(() =>
deleteComment({
id: scenario.comment.jane.id,
})
).toThrow(AuthenticationError)
}
)
})

Our first scenario checks that we get the deleted comment back from a call to deleteComment(). The second expectation makes sure that the comment was actually removed from the database: trying to find a comment with that id now returns an empty array. If this was the only test we had it could lull us into a false sense of security—what if the user had a different role, or wasn't logged in at all?

We aren't testing those cases here, so we add two more tests: one for if the user has a role other than "moderator" and one if the user isn't logged in at all. These two cases also raise different errors, so it's nice to see that codified here.

Last Word on Roles

Having a role like "admin" implies that they can do everything...shouldn't they be able to delete comments as well? Right you are! There are two things we can do here:

  1. Add "admin" to the list of roles in the hasRole() checks in components, @requireAuth directive, and requireAuth() check in services
  2. Don't make any changes in the code, just give the user in the database additional roles—so admins will also have the "moderator" role in addition to "admin"

By virtue of the name "admin" it really feels like someone should only have that one single role and be able to do everything. So in this case it might feel better to add "admin" to hasRole() and requireAuth().

But, if you wanted to be more fine-grained with your roles then maybe the "admin" role should really be called "author". That way it makes it clear they only author posts, and if you want someone to be able to do both actions you can explicitly give them the "moderator" role in addition to "author."

Managing roles can be a tricky thing to get right. Spend a little time up front thinking about how they'll interact and how much duplication you're willing to accept in your role-based function calls on the site. If you see yourself constantly adding multiple roles to hasRole() and requireAuth() that may be an indication that it's time to add a single, new role that includes those abilities and remove that duplication in your code.