Alt_Auth grows up

by admin in Blog

The alt_auth plugin is almost invariably the solution when you want to add users to your site by validating them against some other database.

The alt_auth plugin is almost invariably the solution when you want to add users to your site by validating them against some other database. In 0.8 its had a major facelift, although some features will still be recognisable to those using the 0.7 version.

You can still validate users against various sources, including LDAP, Active Directory, eDirectory, and an alternative database - no change there, except that there are now separate menus for e107 databases and other databases.

There are two new authentication methods. The first is fairly straightforward - Radius authentication. This requires PHP's Radius extension to be loaded.

The second method is perhaps a little more difficult to follow, since it is used only when you have imported your users into the local e107 database from a 'foreign' system. The problem with importing users is often that the other system uses a different method of 'hiding' passwords - e107 uses MD5 encoding by default, some systems use SHA-1, and others use a variety of 'salted' encodings (see an earlier post for a description for this). A few systems even store passwords 'in the clear' - a jolly good reason for changing. Alt_auth can now check these passwords using a specified alternate encoding, and once validated converts them to the e107 standard. The support for other password encodings is also available when accessing external databases.

Historically alt_auth was intended to be used as a slave - the other system was the 'master' and you couldn't edit certain things (in particular, passwords) on the e107 system. You now have an option to set e107 as the 'master' system - so once a user has validated once against the other system, its not needed any more (for that particular user). That user can change things as normal on the e107, and doesn't care about the foreign system. Think of it as a pre-authorised list of potential users. New users can also sign up as normal, so potentially very flexible.

The other main addition is the ability to copy user information from the 'foreign' database into the e107 user record - both 'core' and extended user fields can be copied, and there are some conversion options which could fairly readily be extended.

Finally, setting up the connection has become easier - at the bottom of each method's setup page is a test area, where you can attempt to log on to the foreign system with a user name and password of your choice. The test feature returns a pass/fail indication, and on a successful test also shows the data which would be used to update the user information. So you can check out your settings without enabling alt_auth.

In conclusion, its not easy to test this kind of thing (and bits aren't fully tested yet); thanks to Father Barry and Cameron K for their help.

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