Python / Flask Logins


This was fun! *twitch*

Bloody hell, where do I start...So I recently got back from a two week vacation down to LA (Disneyland) and then further south to Mexico. During those two weeks I did little to no coding, which greatly relaxed me and allowed me to think about what my goals with my many projects were.

And then I got home. And decided that the best thing to do (besides getting a violent cold) was to start work on a login system for Platypus. You know, so that admins can edit servers and whatnot. Oh boy are we in for some fun.

Initial Approach

At first I wanted to use Flask-Login, because that seemed like the logical way of doing things. It integrated with Flask, which is fantastic because I use that framework for literally everything (sorry Django, not feeling you yet). It (seemed) to provide an easy way to handle restricting views to logged in users. And thus I set out.

The first thing I noticed was that, like Flask, Flask-Login assumes nothing about your stack or how you should implement things. It requires you to write your own class for users and implement methods for retrieving users and passwords from a database, and also validating users login details. And then it hit me. Flask-Login is for session management, not user management. Back to the drawing board, slightly red faced when I realised what I was doing wrong.


If you want it done properly, do it yourself. And so I did. I grabbed bcrypt's Python implementation and started writing my own system that relies on old school cookies as authentication. There were some false starts, but I eventually rigged together something that works, albeit with duct tape. What happens is thus. First, user requests /admin, which is obviously not a route we want unrestricted. So Flask grabs a cookie the browser provides and checks it against the current session token internally. If the two don't match or the cookie is blank, you're redirected to a login screen. The login form POSTS the data to the login route, which compares the passed password the the encrypted, salted and hashed password stored (as most logins do). Then, the function returns a unique key (actually a bcrypt salt) that acts as the session token. Cookie is set, user is sent to admin page. Brilliant!

Obviously there are some drawbacks that are not entirely intentional. For one, only one user can be auth'd at a time. This isn't a particularly troublesome problem in my deployment, however it's definitely not ideal. Also the session key is a bcrypt salt stringified -- this looks a bit funky but was a quick hacky way to generate a pseudo-random key. It's never used for anything beyond authenticating the browser.

Hopefully it's secure enough.

Now anyone who wants to have a crack at breaking the login, go right ahead, I won't stop you. Hell, I encourage it, and file issues as you see fit.

Platypus on GitHub