Sign In With Ethereum - A Deep-Dive
Unlocking Secure and Seamless Authentication: Sign-in With Ethereum (SIWE)
Secure and user-intuitive authentication is paramount to any app or service. Common authentication approaches, such as username and password combination, have limitations. They include vulnerability like password infringements, account takeover attacks, and user inconvenience in handling multiple login credentials.
As a result, alternative authentication methods with a seamless user flow are the need of the hour. Sign-in with Ethereum (SIWE) is one such innovative solution that harnesses the Ethereum blockchain to offer superior user onboarding and secure authentication.
Introducing Sign-in With Ethereum (SIWE)
Sign-in With Ethereum (SIWE) is an authorized authentication convention allowing developers to authenticate securely with off-chain services. It enhances seamless compatibility among off-chain services based on Ethereum and improves user experience. Additionally, it offers wallet vendors a cohesive message format to streamline authentication management.
How does SIWE Work?
SIWE leverages the features of the ERC-191 signed data format. This enables users to sign a standard message format using their Ethereum wallets. Here is a breakdown of the process:
When a user intends to authenticate with a service, it creates a message that includes relevant information, such as the user's account details, the specific service being accessed, and the authentication scope. This message is then forwarded to the user’s Ethereum wallet, which triggers a prompt requesting them to sign the message using their private key.
The signature is generated utilizing the ERC-191 signed data format. ERC-191 is popular among Ethereum blockchain users for its robust approach to data signing. Once signed in by the user, the wallet returns the now-signed message to the service for validation. The service grants access to the requested resources or services upon successful validation.
Parameters of SIWE Message Format
The SIWE message format embraces various parameters to ensure secure and flexible authentication.
Scope: The scope element defines the permissions that the off-chain service has to access the user's data. This means that the service can only access the data that the user has authorized it to access.
Session Details: Session details contain information such as a nonce, which is a randomly generated number, to prevent replay attacks. Services leverage nonce to identify and prevent unauthorized reusing of previously signed messages.
Security Mechanisms: The security mechanisms parameter includes nonces, signatures, encryption, and other mechanisms that ensure the confidentiality of the entire process.
How is the Flow and User Experience with SIWE?
One of the primary reasons SIWE is gaining popularity is its seamless user experience without compromising security. The flow of the SIWE authentication process is straightforward. Check the step-by-step breakdown of the flow below.
Step 1: Create an Ethereum account. You will need to sign up with Ethereum by creating a digital wallet that gives you a unique address and a set of cryptographic keys (private key).
Step 2: Application Integration: Following step 1, you must integrate the application you want with the Ethereum blockchain. This is possible through various techniques, including Ethereum Name Service (ENS). ENS assigns human-readable names to Ethereum addresses, simplifying the identification and connection of users' Ethereum accounts.
Step 3: User Authentication: When signing in with Ethereum on a cohesive service, it generates and sends a request to your Ethereum wallet for authentication. The application triggers a unique request message containing elements such as Nonce.
Step 4: Wallet Interaction: Your Ethereum wallet prompts you to verify and approve this action. The application validates the signature once you verify using the private key. You are now granted access to the service.
As with any digital tool or platform, ensuring the security of your SIWE authentication is integral. We have put together several security considerations that you can consider to guarantee a secure journey for your users.
Identifier Reuse: Refrain from using the same identifier across all services to hinder identity theft and unauthorized access.
Key Management: You must store private keys securely at a location not accessible to other parties.
Wallet and Relying on Party Combined Security: Security measures such as user identity data protections should be strictly implemented and adhered to by both the user and the off-chain service. Robust encryption and secure communication channels are a few ways to meet this requirement.
Minimizing Wallet and Server Interaction: It is highly recommended to limit the exchange of information between the user’s wallet and the server to prevent any possible data exposure.
Preventing Replay Attacks: Techniques such as Nonces can efficiently protect user data from replay attacks.
Verification of Domain Binding: It is paramount that the relying part ensures that the message originated from an authentic domain to ensure the credibility of the service request.
Channel Security: Secure the communication channel using encryption, such as HTTPS, to protect against data tampering.
Session Invalidation: Implementing session invalidation after a certain period helps mitigate the risk of unauthorized access to user identity data.
Maximum Lengths for ABNF Terms: Setting maximum lengths for Abstract Syntax Notation One (ABNF) terms helps prevent potential denial-of-service attacks.
SIWE has been rapidly gaining recognition in the Ethereum ecosystem. It offers a promising potential to become a standardized authentication method. Without a shadow of a doubt, it is a robust and reliable solution for developers that prioritize self-custodial identity and seek secure authentication. By employing ERC-191 signed data format, SIWE improves compatibility, user control, and authentication management. SIWE offers developers a seamless journey to creating their dApp without worrying about user flow & complex steps.
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