Top 6 Open Source Authorization Libraries

Top 6 Open Source Authorization Libraries

In this article, you will learn top 6 open source authorization libraries ant their key factors that you should consider when choosing an authorization library.

By Olusegun Durojaye ·

Authorization libraries (also known as access control libraries) provides the foundation for managing user permissions and implementing access controls in software systems.

With the rising demands for a off-the shelf access control mechanism, the open source communities has responded with a multitude of creative authorization solutions.

These open source authorization libraries gives developers the tools needed to implement access control, streamline user management, and ensure the security state of software applications.

In this article, you will learn top six (6) open source authorization libraries. In addition, you will learn key factors that you should consider when choosing an authorization library. Finally, you will understand the pitfalls of authorization libraries and be introduced to an AaaS solution called Permify.

But before we delve into top open source authorization libraries, let's first undertand what authorization libraries.

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Definition and Importance of Authorization Libraries in Software Development

Authorization library are software frameworks or components that provide functionality for implementing access control and authorization mechanism within software systems.

These libraries are integrated into application code offering a set of functionalities and API that developers can leverage to define, manage, and enforce access policies governing user interactions with resources within a sofware application.

The importance of authorization libraries in your software application includes:

  1. Efficiency and Time Saving Since authorization libraries are integrated directly within software application, they offer pre-built functionalities. These functionalities saves you time and efforts by providing you ready-to-use solution for implementing access control. Practically, this allow you to focus on core application logic and improving code maintainability through adherence to the principle of Don't Repeat Yourself (DRY).

  2. Security and Enhancement With authorization libraries integrated into your applications, you can implement access control policies. This makes sure only authorized users can access sensitive resources or perform privileged actions.

  3. Compliance Authorization libraries are critical in regulated businesses where security standards and laws must be followed. These libraries provides capabilities such as audit trails and role-based access control (RBAC). Consequently, you can demonstrate regulatory compliance and retain responsibility in access management procedures.

In essence, undertstanding the importance of authorization libraries enables informed decisions in selecting and integrating these vital components into your softwares.

Top 6 Open Source Authorization Libraries

When it comes to integrating access control mechanisms into your software applications, the open source community offers a wealth of innovative solutions. Choosing the right solution is important for ensuring secure and efficient access control mechanism within your application.

Below are the six most popular open source authorization libraries that you should consider integrating into your software applications:

Casbin

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Casbin is a powerful and efficient open source authorization library primarily utilized in Golang projects. It also provides support for other programming languages like Python, Java, Node.js, PHP, and Rust. Furthermore, it provides support for enforcing authorization based on various access control models like:

  1. Access Control List (ACL)

  2. Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

  3. Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC)

Casbin provides you with the tools to enforce authorization based on these models in your software projects.

In Casbin, an access control model is abstracted into a CONF file based on the PERM metamodel (Policy, Effect, Request, Matchers). Practically, this allows you to easily switch or upgrade authorization mechanism by modifying the CONF file. For instance, RBAC roles and ABAC attributes can be combined together inside one model, allowing you to share one set of policy rules.

Casbin offers flexibility in terms of where policies can be stored. Ideally, it supports storage in various databases such as MySQL, Postgres, MongoDB, and AWS S3 among others. In addition, it provides adapters that allow the policy to be stored in different locations, and it supports filtered policy management in some adapters.

Casbin has a strong community and active development, making it a popular choice for implementing access control in your software project.

CanCanCan

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CanCanCan is an authorization library for Ruby on Rails applications. This library is designed to simplify the implementation of RBAC in Rails project. In practice, this offers a straightforward and intuitive way to define and manage user permissions.

CanCanCan simplifies the process of defining abilities for various user roles, such as admins, managers, and regular users. You can articulate these abilities with ease using a straightforward DSL (Domain Specific Language). Consequently, maintaining and comprehending authorization logic within the application code becomes straightforward.

One of the key features of CanCanCan is its ability to handle complex authorization requirements with ease.

With this library, you can define rules based on conditions, allowing for fine-grained control over access to resources. For example, you can define rules that only allow users to access certain resources if they meet specific criteria. These criteria may include being the owner of the resource or having a certain role.

CanCanCan offers a comprehensive documentation and a developer guide to help users understand and implement its features.

Overall, CanCanCan is a powerful yet user-friendly authorization library making it a popular choice among Rails developers.

accesscontrol

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accesscontrol provides RBAC and ABAC for Node.js applications. it offers a clean and fluent API for defining and managing user permissions.

accesscontrol allows you to create and define roles using .grant(<role>) or .deny(<role>) methods. In addition, permissions can be checked using .can(<role>).<action>(<resource>) method. This method verifies if a specific role has permission to perform a certain action in a given resources.

One unique feature of accesscontrol library is that it supports both server-side and client-side authorization. This means it can be used to authorize routes and UI elements in client-side application using the same grant object for both server and the client.

Just like canbin, accesscontrol supports storage in databases like MySQL, Postgres, MongoDB, among others.

Casl

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CASL is an isomorphic authorization library particularly for javascript applications which restrict what resources a given user is allowed to access.

Because of its isomorphic nature, it can be used together with any data layer, HTTP, and even frontend frameworks such as React, Angular, and Vue.js.

CASL allows you to define "Abilities" which represents what a user can or cannot do within the application. "Abilities" are defined using a fluent API, making it easy to express complex authorization rules. All permissions are defined in a single location (the Ability class) and not duplicated across UI components, API services, and database queries.

CASL supports various type of permissions, including CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) operations and field-level permissions.

Just like accesscontrol, CASL supports both server-side and client-side authorization.

With CASL, you can define rules using natural lanuguage-like syntax. In practice, this makes it easy to understand and maintain authorization logic within your codebase. For example, you can define rules like "allow users with role 'admin' to delete posts" or "allow users to edit their own profile".

GoRBAC

GoRBAC-preview

GoRBAC is a lightweight role-based access control (RBAC) implementation in Golang. It provides a simple and efficient way to manage user permissions and access control in applications.

With GoRBAC, you can define roles, permissions, and relationships between them. For example, you can define roles such as "admin", "editor", and "viewer", and then specify the permissions associated with each role.

In addition to RBAC, GoRBAC also supports hierarchical roles, allowing for more granular control over permissions. In particular, you can define roles that inherit permissions from other roles. Thereby creating a hierarchical structure that reflects the organization's access control requirements.

Being a leightweight library, it has optimal speed which makes it suitable for high-performance golang applications.

GoRBAC ease of use and powerful features make it a popular choice among Go developers for implementing access control in their applications.

Flask-RBAC

Flask-RBAC-preview

Flask-RBAC is an authorization library that provides RBAC functionality for Flask applications (Python Web framework).

One unique feature of Flask-RBAC is its seamless integration with flask. It extends Flask's capabilities by providing decorators and utility functions that simplify the process of defining and enforcing access control rules.

Flask-RBAC allows you to define roles and permissions using a simple and intuitive syntax.

In Flask-RBAC, roles can be assigned specific permissions, and these permissions can then be enforced at the route level using Flask-RBAC's decorators. For example, developers can use the @flask_rbac.allow_access decorator to restrict access to certain routes based on the user's role.

Flask-RBAC provides hooks and callbacks that allow you to customize its behavior.

Flask-RBAC can be easily tailored to fit the needs of different Flask applications, making it a versatile choice for implementing access control.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Authorization Library

Below are factors you should consider when choosing an open source authorization library for your software applications

Documentation and Support

Integration of authorization libraries is hard when there is little to no documentation.

You should use an authorization library that provides clear and detailed documentation including installation instructions, configuration options, and even usage examples.

Also, getting help when you're getting errors is important. An authorization library with an active community can be of significant impact due to consistent supports and availability of resources. An active community support can provide valuable resources, documentation, plugins/extensions to enhance the library's functionalities.

Ease to Integration

If you are going to use an authorization library for your software project, it is essential to choose a library that is seamless to integrate to your software stack and frameworks.

Suppose you're developing a web application using a popular framework like Django or Express.js. Integrating an authorization library seamlessly into these existing software stack and frameworks can significantly streamline the development process.

You should always consider factors such as programming language compactability, framework supports, and ease to Install and configure. In practice, this will minimize overheads and ensure smooth integration into your project.

Security and Compliance

Security and compliance should be prioritize when choosing an authorization library in your software projects.

It is important to ensure that the library you're using is following security best practices, such as input validation, secure defaults, and protections against vulnerabilities.

Picture yourself building healthcare application that handles sensitive patient data subject to strict regulatory requirements such as HIPAA. In this scenario, choosing an authorization library with robust security features is essential. these features should include input validation, secure defaults, and protection against common vulnerabilities to ensure compliance with regulatory standards

Extensibility and Flexibility

As your software expands to meet new demands, especially regarding access control. Choose an authorization library that offers flexibility and extensibility to accommodate your software.

In practice, consider whether the library provides extension points, hooks, or API for customization. In addition, consider whether it supports plugin systems and modular achitecture.

Suppose you're developing an e-commerce platform that offers different membership tiers with varying access levels. In this case, selecting an authorization library that allows you to define custom roles, permissions, and access control rules to accommodate complex business logic is essential.

Conclusion

Choosing the right authorization library is important for your software project. This ensures secure, efficient, and scalable access control in software development.

While open source authorization library offers significant usage, they also come with certain limitations and pitfalls that organizations need to consider. This is why we have an AaaS like Permify.

If you want to build based robust authorization systems, we can help. Check out our open source repository or join our Discord community to learn more!