Two-Factor Authentication in your Rails App with Devise & Yubikey

Most rails applications have some sort of “user” to represent either customers who are consuming the service or administrators that are publishing content to the web application. It’s important that these users are authenticated (ensuring that they are who they say they are). For user authentication in a Ruby on Rails application, Devise is one of the best solutions out there. It has a very active community and wide variety of options and extensions to fit your business model. Sometimes customers may ask for or the application requires an additional layer of authentication beyond the basic username/password combination.

Enter Yubikey.

Yubikey Hardware is a small usb “key” that is set up to generate unique one-time passwords that are validated against their server. Fortunately someone has written an extension to incorporate the yubikey as a second factor of authentication against devise users called yubikey_database_authenticatable.

In order to require users to log in with a yubikey there are a few large steps you have to take.

  1. Have a rails application
  2. Set up regular ‘database_authenticatable’ user authentication with devise. And require user authentication for access to all or part of the web application.
  3. Add ‘yubikey_database_authenticatable’ gem to your project and set up the user model and table to use yubikey authentication.
  4. Generate the devise views and customize the session login page to include the yubikey one-time password.
  5. Add user managment/administration to the application for regulating and associating users with a yubikey.

I have created a skeleton rails app with these steps and posted it to Github

1. Have a rails application

For this app I am using rails 3.2.12

$ rails new rails_with_yubikey
$ cd rails_with_yubikey/

At Ikayzo we have a fondness for lemurs so this application will maintain a list of lemurs species.

$ rails g scaffold lemurs species:string description:text

Now that we have some actual pages in the applications we can set the root url of the application to the LemursController

$ rm public/index.html

# config/routes.rb
root :to => 'lemurs#index'

2. Set up regular devise authentication

There is already some great documentation for this on the Devise readme but here are the steps I took to add it to this rails application.

Add devise to the global part of the Gemfile

# Gemfile
gem 'devise'

$ bundle install

Next generate the devise files and user model

$ rails generate devise:install
$ rails generate devise User
$ rake db:migrate

The only thing left is to require users to log in when accessing the LemursController

# app/controllers/lemurs_controller.rb
class LemursController < ApplicationController
  before_filter :authenticate_user!

3. Add yubikey_database_authenticatable extension to devise

First add the yubikey_database_authenticatable gem to the applications Gemfile

# Gemfile
gem 'devise'
gem 'yubikey_database_authenticatable'

$ bundle install

There are two new columns that the users table will need to authenticat witht he yubikey.

$ rails generate migration add_yubikey_to_users

# db/migrate/TIMESTAMP_addyubikey_to_users.rb
class AddYubikeyToUsers < ActiveRecord::Migration
  def change
    add_column :users, :useyubikey, :boolean
    add_column :users, :registeredyubikey, :string

$ rake db:migrate

You will have to replace :database_authenticatable with :yubikey_database_authenticatable to the devise line of the user model.

$ rails generate devise:views

# app/views/devise/sessions/new.html.erb

<h2>Sign in</h2>

<%= form_for(resource, :as => resource_name, :url => session_path(resource_name)) do |f| %>

  <div><%= f.label :email %><br />

  <%= f.email_field :email %></div>

  <div><%= f.label :password %><br />

  <%= f.password_field :password %></div>

  <% if devise_mapping.rememberable? -%>

    <div><%= f.check_box :remember_me %> <%= f.label :remember_me %></div>

  <% end -%>

  <% if devise_mapping.yubikey_database_authenticatable? -%>

    <div><%= f.label :yubiotp, "Yubikey One Time Password" %><br />

    <%= f.password_field :yubiotp%></div>

  <% end -%>

  <div><%= f.submit "Sign in" %></div>

<% end %>

<%= render :partial => "devise/shared/links" %>

5. Add user managment to the application for regulating and associating yubikeys with users

For this application I just created a user and added a yubikey to them through the rails console. To require a user to login with yubikey the boolean use_yubikey needs to be set to true. The other user also needs to have the registeredyubikey field set to their yubikeky. I did this through the console by copying the text output from the yubikey to a clipboard and setting the field in the console. Part of the code that was added to the user model is designed to peel of the first 11 characters of the yubikey one-time password which is its static and unique identifier.

In a real world application there will need to be features built in to managing the yubikey for the user. If the customers/users will be providing their own yubikey they will need to update these settings themselves. However if the yubikeys are distributed to a small group of users, managing these attributes should probably be hidden behind some administration side of the application.

Origninally posted on TechHui

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