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CGI Tutorials

Home : Knowledge Base : CGI Tutorials : Files

User Authentication (.htaccess & .htpasswd)

HTTP Servers support access authentication, and the information presented here will help you understand how it works. Most, if not all, current browsers should support HTTP Basic Authentication.

Access control for a given directory is controlled by a specific file in the directory with a filename as specified by the AccessFileName directive. The default filename is .htaccess

Basic ByPassword Authentication: Step By Step

This should help you set up protection on a directory via the Basic HTTP Authentication method. This method also uses a standard plain text password file. So let's suppose you want to restrict files in a directory called turkey to username "pumpkin" and password "pie". Here's what to do:

Create a file called .htaccess in directory turkey that looks like this:
(We have already created this file for you. Get it here)

AuthUserFile /otherdir/.htpasswd
AuthGroupFile /dev/null
AuthName ByPassword
AuthType Basic

<Limit GET>
require user pumpkin
</Limit>

Note that the password file will be in another directory (/otherdir).

AuthUserFile must be the full Unix pathname of the password file.

Also note that in this case there is no group file, so we specify /dev/null (the standard Unix way to say "this file doesn't exist").

AuthName can be anything you want. The AuthName field gives the Realm name for which the protection is provided. This name is usually given when a browser prompts for a password, and is also usually used by a browser in correlation with the URL to save the password information you enter so that it can authenticate automatically on the next challenge. Note: You should set this to something, otherwise it will default to ByPassword, which is both non-descriptive and too common.

In this example, only the method GET is restricted using the LIMIT directive. To limit other methods (particularly in CGI directories), you can specify them separated by spaces in the LIMIT directive. For example:

<LIMIT GET POST PUT>
require user pumpkin
</LIMIT>

If you only use GET protection for a CGI script, you may be finding that the REMOTE_USER environment variable is not getting set when using METHOD="POST", obviously because the directory isn't protected against POST.

Create the password file /otherdir/.htpasswd

The easiest way to do this is to use the htpasswd program distributed with NCSA HTTPd. Do this:

htpasswd -c /otherdir/.htpasswd pumpkin

Type the password -- pie -- twice as instructed. Check the resulting file to get a warm feeling of self-satisfaction; it should look like this:
(We have already created this file for you. Get it here)

pumpkin:y1ia3tjWkhCK2M

That's all. Now try to access a file in directory turkey -- your browser should demand a username and password, and not give you access to the file if you don't enter pumpkin and pie. If you are using a browser that doesn't handle authentication, you will not be able to access the document at all.

Multiple Usernames/Passwords

If you want to give access to a directory to more than one username/password pair, follow the same steps as for a single username/password with the following additions:

Use the htpasswd command without the -c flag to add additional users; e.g.:

htpasswd /otherdir/.htpasswd peanuts
htpasswd /otherdir/.htpasswd almonds
htpasswd /otherdir/.htpasswd walnuts

Create a group file. Call it /otherdir/.htgroup and have it look something like this:
(We have already created this file for you. Get it here)

my-users: pumpkin peanuts almonds walnuts

... where pumpkin, peanuts, almonds, and walnuts are the usernames. Then modify the .htaccess file in the directory to look like this:

AuthUserFile /otherdir/.htpasswd
AuthGroupFile /otherdir/.htgroup
AuthName ByPassword
AuthType Basic

<Limit GET>
require group my-users
</Limit>

Note that AuthGroupFile now points to your group file and that group my-users (rather than individual user pumpkin) is now required for access.

That's it. Now any user in group my-users can use his/her individual username and password to gain access to directory turkey.
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