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Protect access to APIs using OpenID Connect

By Ozair Sheikh posted Tue June 06, 2017 02:50 PM

In this tutorial, you will protect access to your APIs using OpenID Connect.

What is OpenID Connect?

OpenID Connect (OIDC) is built on top of the OAuth 2.0 protocol and focuses on identity assertion. OIDC provides a flexible framework for identity providers to validate and assert user identities for Single Sign-On (SSO) to web, mobile, and API workloads. This capability helps address authentication and authorization requirements for Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) and Open Banking.

Duration: 30 minutes

Skill level: Intermediate


OpenID Connect uses the same OAuth grant types (implicit, password, application and access code) but uses OpenID Connect specific scopes, such as openid with optional scopes to obtain the identity, such as email and profile. OpenID Connect generates a JWT token (instead of an opaque token with OAuth), which can be optionally signed and encrypted.

API Connect fully supports JSON Web Encryption (JWE) and JSON Web Signature (JWS) either with OpenID Connect or standalone use cases.


The steps below require an API manager installation to publish API definitions. It can be deployed on your infrastructure or via Bluemix. The following steps obtain information needed for this tutorial.

  1. Login to the API manager with your credentials (email/password).

  2. In the Dashboard page, click the Sandbox catalog and then click the wheel icon to open Settings page.

  3. In Overview, the Automatic subscription toggle should already be selected. Click the Show button to note the client ID and client secret. For example, client id is d03c438a-2010-4f21-8520-c111a86a9f16 and client secret is d03c438a-2010-4f21-8520-c111a86a9f16.

  4. Select Gateways and make a note of the URL, such as https://hostname/om/sb.

  5. Select Portal and make a note of the Portal URL. Go ahead and create an account in the portal.

The following items will be referenced below:

  • Client ID: d03c438a-2010-4f21-8520-c111a86a9f16 (example)

  • Client Secret: d03c438a-2010-4f21-8520-c111a86a9f16 (example)

  • Gateway Endpoint: https://hostname/om/sb

  • Developer Portal: https://hostname


These instructions assume your familiar with the basic steps of the API designer. You will import the OAuth provider YAML file which provides support for OIDC connect. We will review it first to understand the core functions.

  1. Using the command prompt, create a directory for your project and open the API designer.
     mkdir apic-workspace
    cd apic-workspace
    apic edit

  2. In the APIs tab, click the Add (+) button and select Import API from a file or URL.

  3. Click Import from URL … and enter https://raw.githubusercontent.com/ozairs/apiconnect/master/openid/utility_1.0.0.yaml. Click Import to finish the task.

  4. Repeat the steps to import the API definitions file from here:

  5. APIs to to be grouped together for deployment to API Connect on Bluemix. Packaging is done using a products, which provides packaging of one or more APIs into a single group that is a deployable unit and enables enforcement of rate limit definitions.

  6. Select the Products tab and click Add + -> New Product.

  7. Enter the name weather and click Create product.

  8. Click the recently created product and select APIs (in the left nav bar).

  9. Click the + button to add the following APIs

    • OAuth2 OIDC Provider

    • Weather Provider API

    • utility

  10. Click Apply when complete.

  11. Click the OAuth 2 OIDC Provider 1.0.0 API and examine the following parts the OAuth Provider API:

    • Paths: Token API exposed on paths /oauth2/authorize and /oauth2/token. The path /oauth2/introspect allow you to obtain information about the access token.

    • OAuth 2: The default grant types supported, but more important are the scopes available. The scope openid triggers the OpenID Connect flow and the scope weather is the consumer resource. Add additional scopes for your applications here.

    • Authentication URL: the resource owner is authenticated using the endpoint This is a mock service in the utility_1.0.0.yaml that returns the authenticated credential in JSON format. The format is{username}/{password}. Replace spoon/spoon with another value if you want to use a different set of username and password.

  12. The example assumes that the utility service is hosted on the same gateway. Change the Authentication URL from to https://hostname/om/sb/utility/basic-auth/spoon/spoon.

  13. Click the Assemble tab at the top. You will notice several policies that control the generation of the JWT token for OIDC flows. The set-variable and jwt-generate can be customized if you need to provide custom claims and other JWT information. You will now publish the API definitions to Bluemix. If your using your own API manager stack, you will need to follow select the non-Bluemix option.

  14. Make sure you have saved your APIs. Click the Save icon in the right-hand corner.

  15. Click the Publish button in the nav bar.

  16. Click Add IBM Bluemix target, and sign-in with your credentials.

  17. The Sandbox catalog provisioned will be shown. Make sure its selected and click Save.

  18. Click the Publish button (leave the defaults unchecked) and make sure you get a successful publish message. You are now ready for testing.

  1. Open the Weather API and test the unprotected (ie no security) APIs /current and /today using curl. Modify the x-ibm-client-id and x-ibm-client-secret values. Modify your endpoints below in the command.
     $ curl https://hostname/om/sb/current?zipcode=90210 -H "X-IBM-Client-Id: default" -k
    {"zip":"90210","temperature":62,"humidity":90,"city":"Beverly Hills","state":"California","platform":"Powered by IBM API Connect"}

    $ curl https://hostname/om/sb/today?zipcode=90210 -H "X-IBM-Client-Id: default" -k
    {"zip":"90210","hi":72,"lo":56,"nightHumidity":91,"city":"Beverly Hills","state":"California","dayHumidity":67}

  2. Protect Weather API with OpenID Connect Modify the security definition of the Weather API (ie consumer API) to protect access using the OAuth 2 OIDC Provider. It will require consumer applications to obtain an access token before invoking the Weather API.

    • Open the Weather Provider API and scroll down to Security Definitions. Click the + button and select OAuth.

    • Enter the name openid-password and select the Password flow. Enter the Token URL value https://hostname/om/sb/oauth2/token (using the OAuth provider API imported earlier deployed on the same Gateway).

    • Scroll down to the scopes section and enter the scopes weather and openid.

    • In the Security section, select openid-password (OAuth) and the two scopes.

    • Save the API definition.

    • Click the Publish button in the nav bar to push the changes to Bluemix.

  3. Test the same Weather APIs /current and /today, you will now get an error because the API is protected using OAuth. In the next step you will obtain an access token to call the same APIs
     curl https://hostname/om/sb/today?zipcode=90210 -H "X-IBM-Client-Id: default" -k
    { "httpCode":"401", "httpMessage":"", "moreInformation":"This server could not verify that you are authorized to access the URL" }

  4. Obtain an access token from the OIDC provider (using the resource owner grant type). Invoking OAuth APIs can be tricky because you need to have the appropriate parameters, so we have provided a Postman collection to simplify testing.

    • Open Postman and select File -> Import -> Import from Link and enter the value https://www.getpostman.com/collections/951c78382a60b7f7be67.

    • Open the request called OIDC Password. Select the Body link and notice that a default client id of default and client secret of SECRET is pre-configured. Modify these values with the client Id and client Secret obtained earlier. Adjust the endpoint with your gateway hostname ie https://hostname/om/sb/oauth2/token.

    • Submit the request and validate that you get back an access token and id token (JWT).
      "token_type": "bearer",
      "access_token": "<sanitized>",
      "expires_in": 3600,
      "scope": "weather openid",
      "refresh_token": "<sanitized>",
      "id_token": "<sanitized>"

    • Copy the access token so it remains on your clipboard. You are now ready to call the Weather API!

  5. Open the weather request and select the Headers tab. Enter the previously copied access token into the Authorization header field. Modify the x-ibm-client-id and x-ibm-client-secret values. Change the endpoint address and click Send to validate that the request is successful.
    "zip": "90210",
    "temperature": 64,
    "humidity": 84,
    "city": "Beverly Hills",
    "state": "California",
    "platform": "Powered by IBM API Connect"

You successfully obtained an access token and id token using the resource owner grant type. Only the access token is needed to access the weather API, so your probably curious about the id token. OpenID Connect still uses the access token to enforce access to APIs (similar to OAuth) but it adds an id token, which provides additional details about the user identity and claims (name-value pairs) that the OAuth application can use to personalize the user experience or store additional metadata about the user. We will examine this token more at the end of the tutorial.

The resource owner grant type should only be used for trusted OAuth applications since the username and password are shared between the resource owner and OAuth application. Most often you will use the Access Code flow (ie authorization code grant) since it protects the username and password from the OAuth application and still enables sharing of resources to the OAuth application. In the next step, you will setup an Access Code flow.

When using the API Connect developer toolkit with OAuth Access code flow, you will need to redirect the application to an OAuth client to exchange the authorization code for an access code. This is typically done in an OAuth application, but we can use a couple of techniques to streamline testing.

  1. Create a new application within the developer portal and subscribe to the weather product. You will need to register a redirect URI with the value https://www.getpostman.com/oauth2/callback.

    • In subsequent instructions, use the client_id and client_secret credentials obtained from the newly created dev portal application instead of the values obtained in the previous section (ie Automatic Subscription).

  2. Open Postman Preferences and disable Automatically follow redirects. alt

  3. Protect Weather API with OpenID Connect Access Code flow

    • Open the Weather Provider API and scroll down to Security Definitions. Click the + button and select OAuth.

    • Enter the name openid-accesscode and select the Access Code flow. Enter the Authorize URL value https://hostname/om/sb/oauth2/authorize and Token URL value https://hostname/om/sb/oauth2/token (change the hostname to reflect your environment).

    • Scroll down to the scopes section and enter the scopes weather and openid.

    • In the Security section, click the + button to create a new option and select openid-accesscode (OAuth) and the two scopes.

    • Save the API definition.

    • Click the Publish button in the nav bar to push the changes to Bluemix.
      Note: Multiple security definitions allow you provide multiple options to satisfy consumer security requirements.alt

  4. Open the request called OIDC Access Code. Adjust the values for your endpoint to https://hostname/om/sb/oauth2/token. Change the client_id in the Body tab.

    • Submit the request and make sure you get the following response:
      <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
      <body>Go ahead</body>

      The Access Code flow requires an additional step to obtain an access token. You will need to exchange the code for an access token. This is typically done by an OAuth application but you will simulate one for simplicity.

    • Click the Headers tab and copy the value after code=

    • Open the OAuth AC to Token request and click the Body tab. Paste the code value into the code field. Change the endpoint to https://hostname/om/sb/oauth2/token. Change the client_id and client_secret in the Body tab. Click Send and verify you receive an access token

  5. Open the Weather request and select the Headers tab. Enter the previously copied access token into the Authorization header after the Bearer string. Modify the and click Send. Validate that the request is successful.
    "zip": "90210",
    "temperature": 64,
    "humidity": 84,
    "city": "Beverly Hills",
    "state": "California",
    "platform": "Powered by IBM API Connect"

    All the test cases till now have focused on accessing the API using an OAuth access token although an JWT token (via id_token field) is also returned. The JWT token allows the OAuth application access to information about the user identity.

  6. Open the Web site jwt.io. Copy/paste the id_token value into the Encoded textbox, which should then display the decoded tokenalt

The fields within the JWT token can be customized based on your environment. The OAuth provider Assembly provides the flexibility to generate a JWT token and optionally sign and encrypt it.

In this tutorial, you learned how to protect an API using OpenID Connect resource owner and access code flow.



Thu November 08, 2018 08:21 PM

Yes, see example here: https://github.com/ozairs/apiconnect/blob/master/oauth-redirect/README.md

Thu November 08, 2018 02:54 PM

Would it be possible to handle the JWT outside of APIC? For example if you do identity extraction with a redirect to ISAM could you validate the incoming id_token in ISAM then create the response id_token (JWT) which is then part of the redirect URL back to APIC. Or alternatively call an IIB flow in the assembly to process the id_token JWT.

Sat July 22, 2017 02:08 PM

I would suggest you post this question on dwAnswers: https://developer.ibm.com/answers/topics/apiconnect/

Sat July 22, 2017 02:04 PM

This article talks about the key components of the Open Banking specs that is supported with IBM API Connect.

Sat July 22, 2017 02:03 PM

See the following article: https://developer.ibm.com/apiconnect/2017/07/14/api-connect-delivers-open-banking-api-support-psd2-requirements/

Fri July 21, 2017 11:25 PM

Can any one help on enabling cluster step for API connect?

We have installed API connect lateset version and implmented Oaut2. But right now we are facing one issue in production.
we have multipule two data power(DP) boxs in production and each box is pointing different catlog. example like below.
API Catalog(PORD1) one is pointed to DP1 and API Catolog2(PROD2) is pointed DP2. Both the boxes are loadbalcing by F5.

Issue : Unable to share the metadata information between two data powers. Below are the steps for the actual scenario.
Oauth2 frame work call: implemented the access code flow.
Step 1: Make authorization request call with required information and that request first went to F5(load balancer) and F5 is sent to DP1.
Now the access code is stored in DP1(When we will make token this code must be validated).
Step 2: When we are making second (access token) call with the access code(which we received in step 1) and that request went to F5(load balancer)
and F5 is routed the request to DP2. when it is trying to create token with the access code but that code exist in DP1 not DP2. Due to this API
connect is unable to create and it's throwing an exception is saying invalid access code.

Question :
1. How could we enable cluster environment in API connect, so that both the data power will share the meta dat information,irrespective call went DP1 or DP2?
2. we have two data power boxes one is acting as a Master(DP1) and other one is act as slave(DP2). If DP1 is donw,is there any possible to act DP2 as master?.

Tue July 11, 2017 03:19 PM

As HTTP Authorization Header as :

Authorization: Bearer copy-your-access-token-here

Tue June 27, 2017 03:32 PM

Hello Team,
I am following the same document to protect access to APIs Using Open ID Connect.I have generated access token and id token through postman.Weather API request should be sent using access token and to be passed in headers, I am unable to find where to give the request .So can you please let me know the solution.

Thu June 22, 2017 11:14 AM

Thanks for a great article. We'd like to learn more about how by becoming an OIDC provider we can support TPP's that use our APIs in implementing SSO to their websites and apps.

Tue June 13, 2017 02:53 PM

This article discusses how to secure APIs using OpenID Connect, including providing the flexibility to customize the generated JWT token.

In Open Banking / PSD2 requirements, TPP will need to pass in an payment ID / intent ID, which is used as part of the OIDC flow to authenticate the user and retrieve their payment request. The API assembly allows you to perform the validation logic within an OIDC flow.

Tue June 13, 2017 02:45 PM

The solution leverages all production supported components (OAuth and API Assembly). We are planning to include additional enhancements in the 2H 2017 so depending on your timelines, you may want to wait or go ahead with this implementation.

Mon June 12, 2017 07:17 AM

Another quick question. Seeing as you mention PSD2 and Open Banking, could you explain which aspects of those regulations are being covered here?

Mon June 12, 2017 06:46 AM

Thanks for the post guys. Just a quick question, would you recommend this solution for a production environment?