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2.5.0 • Public • Published

ActivityPub HTTP Signatures

A library for creating, parsing, and verifying HTTP signature headers, as per the Signing HTTP Messages draft 08 specification.

Basic use


Signed Fetch

The simplest way to make a signed request is using SignedFetch. In this method you create a fetch-like function that automatically signs requests before sending them.

Note that this function only supports a subset of fetch's options - for more advanced usage or for use with other HTTP libraries, see the next section.

import { Sha256Signer } from 'activitypub-http-signatures';
import fetch from 'node-fetch';

// You should make the public key available at this URL
const publicKeyId = 'http://my-site.example/@paul#main-key';
const privateKey = `-----BEGIN RSA PRIVATE KEY-----

export async function postResource(url, body) {
	// You need to bring your own fetch function and public/private key pair;
	// see the next section for more info
	const signedFetch = SignedFetch.sha256(fetch, { publicKeyId, privateKey });
	const res = await signedFetch(url, {
		// This is a subset of `fetch`'s options - it only supports method and body,
		// and the object-form of headers (i.e. not the Headers class instance).
		method: 'POST',
		headers: {
			'content-type': 'application/ld+json'

	// The response object is whatever your base fetch function returns
	return res.ok;

Generating the signed headers

The following example illustrates using the lower-level library functions to sign requests:

import { Sha256Signer } from 'activitypub-http-signatures';
import fetch from 'node-fetch';

// You should make the public key available at this URL
const publicKeyId = 'http://my-site.example/@paul#main-key';
const privateKey = `-----BEGIN RSA PRIVATE KEY-----

export function getResource(url) {
	// Create the instance of the signer class
	// You can pass an optional `headers` array to specify which headers should be
	// used in the signature.
	// The default is ['(request-target)', 'host', 'date']
	const signer = new Sha256Signer({ publicKeyId, privateKey });

	// A dict of the headers used in your request.
	// The host and date headers will be added automatically
	// if they're missing.
	const headers = {
		accept: 'application/ld+json'
	const method = 'GET';

	// Generate the date, host and signature headers, and add to
	// the accept header dict.
	const signedHeaders = signer.generateHeaders({

	// Create the HTTP request with the generated header
	// You could use fetch or any other HTTP library
	return fetch(
			headers: signedHeaders,
			// (you can add any other options your fetch implementation supports)


import parser from 'activitypub-http-signatures';
import fetch from 'node-fetch';

// Assuming we're dealing with a nodejs IncommingMessage
export async function verifyIncomingRequestSignature(req){
	// Parse the fields from the signature header
	// NB: If you're using express, you need to use originalUrl instead of url
	const { url, method, headers } = req;
	const signature = parser.parse({ url, method, headers });

	// If there's no signature header the parse function will return null
	if(signature === null) {
		throw new Error('The headers object has no `signature` key');

	// Get the public key object using the provided key ID
	const keyRes = await fetch(
			headers: {
				accept: 'application/ld+json, application/json'

	const { publicKey } = await keyRes.json();

	// Verify the signature
	const success = signature.verify(
		publicKey.publicKeyPem,	// The PEM string from the public key object

		throw new Error('http signature validation failed')
	} else {
		return publicKey.owner

Changes in V2

Version 2 of this package has a completely new and hopefully simpler API. All previous exports have been removed, you now need to use Sha256Signer to sign outgoing requests and Parser to parse and verify incoming requests. See the examples above for details.

Typescript definitions are included since V2.1.0

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