This documentation is for WSO2 Identity Server 5.4.0. View documentation for the latest release.
OAuth 2.0 Clients - Identity Server 5.4.0 - WSO2 Documentation
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The OAuth 2.0 specification defines two types of clients based on their ability to maintain the confidentiality of client credentials as below.

  • Confidential:

A Confidential client is capable of maintaining the confidentiality of its credentials provided by an authorization server. For example a web application where only the administrator can get access to the server and see the client credentials would be a confidential client.

  • Public:

A public client is not capable of maintaining the confidentiality of its credentials provided by an authorization server. For example a mobile phone application or a desktop application that has the client secret embedded, could get cracked, and the secret could be revealed. The same is true for a JavaScript application running in the users browser. The user could use a JavaScript debugger to look into the application, and see client credentials.

With respect to above two client types there are applications invoking OAuth 2.0 APIs, that can be either confidential or public. These application profiles are as below.

Web Application

Web applications run on a web server and they typically consists of both a browser part and a server part. Thus they can maintain the confidentiality of client credentials as well as any access token issued to the client as they can be stored on the web server, such that they are not exposed to or accessible by the user.

The diagram below illustrates a confidential client web application. Here the user interacts with the browser which is communicating with the client. The client has a separate secure communication channel with the authorization server and the resource server. Thus, the user’s browser never makes a request directly to the Authorization server, everything goes through the client first.

Typically authorization code grant type is used with these clients.


User Agent Based Application

A user agent based application is a public client in which the Javascript and HTML source code is downloaded from a web server and executes within a browser.  As the entire source is available to the browser, these applications cannot maintain the confidentiality, thus protocol data and credentials are easily accessible to the user. Typically these applications are also known as Single-page apps (SPAs) or browser-based apps.

The diagram below illustrates a user agent based application. After first downloading the Javascript and HTML source code from the client, the browser then makes direct requests to the Authorization server.

Typically implicit grant type is used with these clients.

 Refer this blog post to learn more on protecting SPAs in accessing OAuth 2.0 secured APIs.


Native Application
 

A native application is a public client installed and executed on the device used by the user.  Typically, mobile applications and desktop applications fall in this category. Here, protocol data and credentials are accessible to the user.  It is assumed that any client authentication credentials included in the application can be extracted.  At a minimum, credentials are protected from hostile servers with which the application may interact, and on some platforms, these credential might be protected from other applications residing on the same device.

It is usually recommended to take the advantage of PKCE extension with native clients to mitigate code interception attacks when using authorization code grant type to access secured services.


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