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(HMAC signed URLs)

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This project is very similar to HSU. The difference is, HSUDB has been designed to store HMAC digests in the database rather than a users session. Hooks provide you with the flexibility to implement your own storage mechanism.

HSUDB can be used to create secure and protected automatic log-in links (sent via email, for example), like Medium has just implemented.

There are three stages to HSUDB:

  • The setup stage in which a signed URL is created (i.e. a secure login link).
  • The verify stage in which a URL is protected unless the signed URL is verified (i.e. a secure login link will error if tampered with).
  • The complete stage in which the URL has been consumed and is finalized such that it can't be used again (i.e. a secure login link should only work once).

HSUDB also aims to meet the following goals:

  • The storage mechanism is custom and implemented by developers - HSUDB makes no assumptions on this.
  • The process should be able to restart at anytime, at which point, all previous signed URLs become unusable.
  • A signed URL should only be valid for a limited amount of time.


$ npm install hsudb


var hsudb = require('hsudb');


Creates a functon (i.e. hsuProtect) which is called with an id to scope the middleware (allows multiple signed URLs to be in affect for the one user concurrently).

var hsudbProtect = hsudb({
    secret: '2A]>B=!Dzi7b7',
    store: function (req, id, salt, callback) { // store the salt },
    retrieve: function (req, id, callback) { // retrieve and return the salt },
    complete: function (req, id) { // remove the salt }


The hsudb function takes a required options object. The options object has both required keys, and optional keys.

Required keys

The hsudb options object must have the following required keys:


A string which will be used in the HMAC digest generation.


A function which will be called with the arguments req, id, salt, callback. The store function should store the salt in the database against a particular users record. It should store with it the id so each process can be identified. The callback accepts an error argument and will return this to next (Express-style) if this is returned.


A function which will be called with the arguments req, id, callback. The retrieve function should retrieve the salt stored against a particular users record, specific to the id. The callback accepts the arguments error and salt. If an error is returned, it is passed to next (Express-style).


A function which will be called with the arguments req, id. The complete function should remove the salt from the database, specific to the id. There is no callback.

Optional keys

The hsudb options object can also contain any of the following optional keys:


The number of seconds the URL should be valid for. Defaults to 1 hour (i.e. 3600 seconds).


A function which will be called with the arguments req, id. The urlToVerify function should return the url which should be verified. There is no callback.

The provides a means to pass the verification url through another means, other than requesting it directly. For example, a secured API which passed the verification url as a body parameter.

This defaults to:

function urlToVerify (req, id) {
    return req.originalUrl;


Please note: hsudbProtect is not part of the actual API, it is just the name of the variable holding the function produced by calling hsudb(options).

Generates three stages of middleware, all scoped to the id, one for each stage of the process (i.e. setup, verify and complete). id scoping allows you to have multiple signed URLs in affect for the one user concurrently. The id semantically should represent the process:

hsudbProtect('verify-primary-email').setup // Function;
hsudbProtect('verify-primary-email').verify // Function;
hsudbProtect('verify-primary-email').complete // Function;

hsudbProtect('signin-via-email').setup // Function;
hsudbProtect('signin-via-email').verify // Function;
hsudbProtect('signin-via-email').complete // Function;


This middleware adds a req.signUrl(urlToSign) function to make a signed URL. You need to pass a URL (urlToSign) to this function and it will return the original URL with a signed component.

req.signUrl will accept a callback:

req.signUrl('https://domain.com/login?user=hdud64jhdkv6bj4j4', function (signedUrl) {
    // do something with the signedUrl

req.signUrl also returns a promise if you prefer:

    function (signedUrl) {
        // do something with the signedUrl
    function (err) {
        // do something with the error


This middleware will 403 on all requests that are not verifiable signed URLs. You can use Express error middleware and inspect the errors (err.code) for EBADHMACDIGEST to represent a tampered URL and ETIMEOUTHMACDIGEST to represent a timed out URL.

If subsequent middleware on your routes are executed, it means the signed URL was verified. If the URL wasn't verified, an error is returned causing Express to immediately execute error handling middleware.


This middleware adds a req.hsudbComplete function that will mark a current signed URL as complete. This method is will execute the complete function as provided in the options object signaling a particular process is complete and the salt should be removed from the database.

Use the req.hsudbComplete function only after your process has completed. For example, in the case of a log in via email, only once the user has logged in should this function be executed. It will in turn execute the complete function you provided to the options object allowing you to safely remove the salt from the database.

A simple Express example

The following is an example of using HSUDB to generate a signed URL that will allow the user to automatically log in (just like Medium have implemented).

/* FILE: ./lib/sign-up.js */

// This file is a library representing the `store`, `retrieve` and `complete` functions that will be passed to hsudbComplete. These functions will be called in the various stages as described above.

var mongoose = require('mongoose'),
    log = require('./log');

var store = function (req, id, salt, callback) {

    mongoose.model('user').findById(req.user._id).exec(function (err, user) {

        if (err) {
            return callback(err);

        user.set(id, salt);

        user.save(function (saveErr, savedUser) {

            if (saveErr) {
                return callback(err);

            // we're all done
            return callback();




var retrieve = function (req, id, callback) {

    // find the salt we stored in the database
    mongoose.model('user').findById(req.params.id, id).exec(function (err, user) {

        if (err) {
            return callback(err);

        // we're done
        return callback(null, user[id]);



var complete = function (req, id) {

    // delete the salt stored in the database
    mongoose.model('user').findById(req.user._id).exec(function (err, user) {

        if (err) {
            return log.error({ err: saveErr }, 'An error occurred while retrieving the user.');

        user.set(id, null);

        user.save(function (saveErr, savedUser) {

            if (saveErr) {
                return log.error({ err: saveErr }, `An error occurred while removing the ${id} salt.`);




// export the public methods
module.exports = {
    store: store,
    retrieve: retrieve,
    complete: complete

/* FILE: ./app.js */

// This file represents a very simple Express app.

var express = require('express'),
    hsudb = require('hsudb'),
    libSignUp = require('./lib/sign-up');

// setup route middleware
var hsudbProtect = hsudb({
     secret: '9*3>Ne>aKk4g)',
     store: libSignUp.store,
     retrieve: libSignUp.retrieve,
     complete: libSignUp.complete

// create the Express app
var app = express();

// setup a route that accepts the email address of an account
app.get('/account/sign-in', function (req, res, next) {



// setup a route that will email the user a sign-in link
app.post('/account/sign-in', hsudbProtect('account-sign-in').setup, function (req, res, next) {

    var signedUrl = req.signUrl(`/account/${req.user.id}/sign-in`).then(function () {

        // email the user the sign-in url

    }, function (err) {

        return next(err);




// setup a route to verify the signed URL
app.get('/acount/:id/sign-in', hsudbProtect('account-sign-in').verify, hsudbProtect('account-sign-in').complete, function (req, res, next) {

    // This will only be executed if the signed URL passed
    // otherwise a HTTP status of 403 will be returned and this
    // will never execute.

    // log the user in

    // remove the salt




hsudb uses the debug module to make integrating hsudb easier. Simply add DEBUG=hsudb to your environment and you'll see debug messages in your console.

Change log

Review the change log for all changes.


Contributors are welcomed. HSUDB comes complete with an isolated development environment. You can read more about contributing to HSUDB here.



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