Elixir Q & A


How to handle authentication in Elixir applications?

Handling authentication in Elixir applications is a crucial aspect of building secure web services. Fortunately, Elixir provides several libraries and strategies to implement authentication effectively. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to handle authentication in Elixir applications:


  1. Choose an Authentication Library: Elixir offers authentication libraries like Guardian, Coherence, and Pow. Select one that fits your project’s requirements and integrates well with your web framework, whether it’s Phoenix or another.


  1. User Model: Create a user model to represent the users of your application. This model typically includes fields like email, password (hashed and salted), and additional user-specific data. Use Ecto, the Elixir database library, to define and manage the user model.


  1. Session Management: Implement session management to maintain user authentication status across requests. Elixir web frameworks like Phoenix provide session management mechanisms out of the box. You’ll need to set up session configuration and middleware.


  1. Password Hashing: Ensure that user passwords are securely hashed and salted before storing them in the database. Elixir libraries often include functions to handle password hashing, making it easy to implement strong security practices.


  1. Registration: Create a registration process that allows users to sign up for your application. This process involves validating user input, hashing the password, and saving user data to the database.


  1. Login: Implement a login mechanism that checks user credentials against the stored hashed password during authentication. If the credentials match, create a session to keep the user logged in.


  1. Logout: Provide a logout functionality that destroys the user’s session, effectively logging them out of the application.


  1. Authentication Middleware: Use authentication middleware or plugs to protect routes that require authentication. These mechanisms ensure that only authenticated users can access specific parts of your application.


  1. Authorization: Implement authorization to control what authenticated users can do within your application. Define roles and permissions to restrict access to certain resources or actions based on user privileges.


  1. Remember Me: If needed, implement a “Remember Me” functionality that allows users to stay logged in across sessions using long-lived tokens or cookies.


  1. Password Reset: Offer a password reset mechanism that allows users to recover their accounts by sending them a secure reset link via email.


  1. Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): For added security, consider implementing two-factor authentication options, such as one-time passwords (OTP) or authenticator apps.


  1. Testing: Write comprehensive tests for your authentication functionality to ensure that it works correctly and securely. Elixir’s ExUnit makes it easy to write and run tests for your application.


By following these steps and leveraging Elixir’s libraries and tools, you can effectively handle authentication in your Elixir applications, ensuring that user data is protected and your application remains secure.


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Tech Lead in Elixir with 3 years' experience. Passionate about Elixir/Phoenix and React Native. Full Stack Engineer, Event Organizer, Systems Analyst, Mobile Developer.