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How Does OAuth Actually Boost API Security and Access Management?

Amie Parnaby
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How Does OAuth 2.0 Really Boost API Security and Access Management?

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Over the past decade, application development has accelerated and is at its peak over Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, Mac, with the help of standardized APIs. As a result, the transmission of personal information and daily communication of data is inevitable across thousands of applications. Since all this communication happens through different mobile app platforms, browsers, and servers, it must be secured. OAuth is one such internet security protocol known for holding and managing user data without sharing it between apps. 

Let’s start with the definition. 

What is OAuth?

OAuth, aka, Open Authorization is an internet protocol and an open standard for applications to follow for internet users for accessing their information on other websites without sharing the passwords. Big tech companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook use this mechanism to permit users to share their profile information with third-party websites or applications.

There are two versions: 

1)  OAuth 1.0a  2)  OAuth 2.0

Put simply, when a user logs into any third-party apps like Airbnb by using their Google account, OAuth holds the credentials to get users to log in to the Airbnb app and manage it in the background without sharing the information with the application. 

In short, it minimized the risk of security threats by keeping Google account credentials safe. In addition, it enables users to allow applications to access their data without having to share it.

How Does OAuth Work?

OAuth mainly focuses on: 

  • The End User (Resources/Information owner) includes the user’s data, which the client application wants to access.
  • Client Application (API): Client Application: It includes the website/web app, which needs to access the information. 
  • OAuth Service Provider: The app or website, which holds the user’s personal credentials. It supports OAuth by offering an API for interaction with both an authorization and resource server.  

The process has different “flows” or “grant types.” 

  • The client app requests access to the user’s data.
  • The end-user logs in to the service.
  • The client app gets an access token. Now they will have permission from the user to access the requested data.
  • The client app uses the access token for making API calls by receiving the data from the resource server.

OAuth: Authentication vs Authorization

Authentication: It’s the process of approving a user as the correct person to access the application. It’s also known as “AuthN”. For example, Microsoft uses the OpenID Connect protocol for authentication.  

Authorization: A process of permitting an authenticated person. It is also known as “AuthZ”. For instance, Microsoft uses the OAuth2.0 protocol for authorization. 

Differences Between OAuth1.0 and OAuth2.0

OAuth1.0 and OAuth2.0 are two different versions of OAuth. So you can use it depending on your needs based on your goals.


OAuth1.0 was designed to address the limitations of OpenID, and it is used for authorization of various applications or manual user access. It works by providing an access token to the application for representing the user’s permission for the client application to access the data. 

OAuth 2.0

It is the complete rewrite of OAuth1.0 and now is the default industry standard for online authorization. OAuth provides access permission to the app for user’s resources hosted by other web apps on behalf of the user. 

Also, it is an authorization protocol and not authentication since it is primarily designed to give access to a set of resources/ user’s data. 

OAuth 1.0
OAuth 2.0

Founded in Cryptography, especially digital signatures. 

Not easier to work with.

Not very flexible. It only handles web workflows.

Basic signature workflow

It’s good for integration but not great for security.

It’s much usable and easier to work with, but more difficult to build securely. 

Much more flexible. It handles both web workflows as well as non-web clients. 

Basic signature workflow

How Does OAuth2.0 Help API Security?

OAuth is explicitly designed as an advanced approach for granting access to apps. It uses granted tokens to provide advanced security, such as scoping functions for establishing fine-grained permissions for apps. Also, it has the essential attribute called time-restricted availability of tokens since one cannot reuse them once they expire. 

Since OAuth2.0 is designed as a framework, it acts as a general operating agreement and serves multiple purposes by offering…

  • JSON Web Tokens defines payloads to pass data between systems with built-in expiration mechanisms and signatures for validation. 
  • OpenID Connect: It allows the standardization of tokens for sharing user profile information. 
  • The Device Grant Type: It extends OAuth to IoT and smart devices. 

How Does OAuth 2.0 Help API Access Management?

OAuth2.0 framework has simplified user engagement with apps by securing their personal information. Moreover, it firmly protects user’s data while still allowing apps to access it without exposure. In the background, the API grants access to the user whenever it receives the valid and time-restricted token from the application generated using OAuth2.0 framework. 

How does API Access Management Work?

The Access Management API enables a user to access administrative functionalities of the platform, including:

  • Invitation & Signup
  • User management
  • Client management
  • Organizations and Business Groups
  • Roles & Permissions
  • Environments 
  • Entitlements

API access management provides a consistent and predictable authorization layer for any user and service to access the services regardless of language, framework, or architecture. 

Benefits of API Access Management

  • Allows creating custom scopes and claims.
  • Allows creating one or more custom authorization servers. Therefore, it helps to manage sets of API access for multiple client apps.
  • Passes validated Tokens rather than credentials. The JWT tokens generally carry the payloads for user context. 

To Sum Up

OAuth covers a huge security surface area. All you need is to make sure, are validated app inputs and a secure toolkit. This way, OAuth or token-based security can help build better permission checking across the user base. 

Consult a team of experts in custom software development services to build secure and reliable apps for everyone. 

Please share your thoughts in the comment section; we’d be glad to discuss them. 

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