|By Jeffry Houser||
|August 13, 2004 12:00 AM EDT||
Many of my articles in this column have dealt with theoretical concepts and syntax of implementing those concepts in ColdFusion. In this article, I want to concentrate on the implementation steps you might take when building something.
Most Web applications have a "sign me up" feature that allows users to register. Registered users often have access to additional information or features that anonymous users don't. I'm going to walk you through the process of creating a simple login form, including database authentication and a "remember me" checkbox.
Before you start coding this application, you'll need to create a database. Most login schemes include a username and password. You can put that information in a table called Users. The table will also need a unique identifier, called a primary key in database terms. Here is a sample of data from the table:
Normally, a users table would have much more information than just a username and password. A name, address, and e-mail address are common additions. For the purposes of this example, we'll keep it simple. In a real-world application, you should consider encrypting the passwords in your database for security purposes. You can do this using ColdFusion's hash function. More information about the hash function is located at Click Here. You would use the hash function before saving the user's password into the database. For the purposes of this example, the passwords will remain in plain text.
You could implement a login script using just the users table we defined, but you'll find it limiting. The user is either logged in, or not logged in. There is no distinction between different levels of access. Suppose, for example, that anonymous users can look at products, registered users can post reviews of products, and admin users can change product information. You'll need something more than an "Authenticated" or "Not Authenticated" security structure. To do this we'll need to be able to group users into security groups. The SecurityGroups table will need a primary key and a group name. This is an example of some possible groups:
You'll also need an intersection or linking table to associate a user with his or her groups. This table will contain the GroupID and the UserID. The reason for creating this as a separate table is so that a single user can be in multiple groups, and a single group can have multiple users inside of it. This is known as a many-to-many relationship in the world of database design.
Here is an example of the SecurityUserGroups intersection table:
|1 (Admin)||1 (Jeff / Houser)|
|3 (Registered)||1 (Jeff / Houser)|
|3 (Registered)||3 (ColdFusion / Macromedia)|
I added the group and user names next to the ID in parentheses to more easily show the relations. In a relational database, you would store only the ID. Our finished database structure is seen in Figure 1.
Before accessing this database from your ColdFusion code, you'll have to create a datasource in the ColdFusion administrator. Setting up the datasource is beyond the scope of this article, but it's a pretty straightforward task and you can read about setting up datasources for any database at Click Here.
The Login Form
With our database ready for use, we can start examining the login form. Most forms have two parts: an input page and a processing page. The input page asks for the username and password. It also has a checkbox for a "Remember Me" functionality. The code behind the form is shown in Listing 1.
The login form can be seen here: (Figure 2)
Enter Jeff in the username field and Houser in the password field. Check the Remember Me box and click submit. This brings us to the processing page (see Listing 2).
The RememberMe form variable value comes from a checkbox. If not checked when the form is submitted, the variable will not exist on the form processing page. You can use the cfparam tag to default if this situation occurs. The second step in the process is to validate the user's login information against the database. The cfquery tag is used to run the database query. The query joins the users table and the SecurityUserGroups table, where the username and password fields are equal to the input of the form. The query retrieves all information from the users table and the list of GroupIDs from the intersection table. If the database stored hashed passwords, we would change the query comparison to:
Users.password = '#hash(form.password)#'
This allows us to correctly compare two hashed values, not plain text passwords. This way we are keeping the user's password information secure.
We can check the RecordCount variable of our query to see if the query returned any rows. If the query did not return any rows, then the user did not enter a valid username and password combination. The login should fail. If rows are returned, then the login was a success. The code creates two session variables to process the login. To make use of session variables, you'll have to use the cfapplication tag. ColdFusion's application framework is beyond the scope of this article; however, you can read about it at Click Here.
The first value, LoggedIn, is a Boolean value that specifies that the user has logged in. I would default this value to false when the session is initialized. The second variable, groups, contains a list of all the groups that the user is in. The ValueList will give us a list from the column in the query.
Later in your application, when you have to decide whether a user should have access to a resource or not, you can use ListFind against the groups variable to see if the user is allowed. Here's an example:
<cfif ListFind(session.Groups, 1)> allow Access <cfelse> No Access </cfif>
If the user is in the admin group he or she can see the resulting HTML code, or access the corresponding resource. If not, then he or she will not be given access.
In this code, we are rolling our own security scheme. Many applications will use this approach, due to the complexity of security functions in the pre-CFMX days. However ColdFusion MX introduced a much improved security scheme using some new tags: cflogin, cfloginuser, and cflogout. They allow you to log in a user and set up a list of roles that ColdFusion will handle internally. The roles tie in with the role attributes of functions inside a ColdFusion component. These new tags are not in wide use yet, but they are definitely worth checking out if you are building an application from the ground up (livedocs.macromedia.com/coldfusion/6.1/htmldocs/appsecu6.htm). The reason I don't use them in my development is because my biggest project of the moment is being built to run off of BlueDragon, which does not yet support the functions.
Remembering the User
The one portion of code that I haven't explained yet is the "remember me" portion, so let's look at it in detail. There are many different ways you could implement the "remember me" portion of code. In most methods, you'll set a cookie on the user's machine, and store the same value in the database. When the user returns to the site, you can check to see if the cookie exists. If it does, you can retrieve the user's information from the database based on the cookie value. Simpler systems where security is not an issue may store the user's primary key ID. More complex systems with heavier security requirements may assign a UniqueID value, created with the CreateUUID function. Some systems I've worked with will store the CFID and CFTOKEN values generated by ColdFusion and used for session management, and use those to remember the user.
For the purposes of our sample, we are going to store the user's primary key as a cookie, but remember that in applications where security is a priority, this is probably not your best move. If form.RememberMe is set to true, then we use the cfcookie tag to create a cookie on the user's browser. We name the cookie UserID. The value is set to the UserID value returned from the query. It is set to never expire.
Setting the cookie is only the first step. When a user comes to the site, something will have to be implemented to check to see if we know who they are, or not. We are going to put this code in the Application.cfm. The code in the Application.cfm will look like an abbreviated version of the code in the login-processing page (see Listing 3).
First the code checks whether the IsLoggedIn session variable is defined. If it isn't, then this is the first time a user has come to the site. Next, we check if the UserID cookie variable exists. If it does, Next we run a query to get the user data based on the UserID. If the query finds the user, the code sets the two session variables. If not, it defaults them to the value. If the cookie doesn't exist at all, it defaults the session values.
This article demonstrated a simple method for implementing a login script on your site. It incorporated many common security elements and used many common ColdFusion tags. The approach I took in this article is not the only approach that could be used, but it is simple yet elegant. For those who want more, you can check out the authenticationAPI included in Macromedia's DRK 7. In my next column I'll talk more in depth about ColdFusion's application framework and the cfapplication tag, including setting up the session and application scopes.
As more and more data is generated from a variety of connected devices, the need to get insights from this data and predict future behavior and trends is increasingly essential for businesses. Real-time stream processing is needed in a variety of different industries such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Automobile, Finance, Online Retail, Smart Grids, and Healthcare. Azure Stream Analytics is a fully managed distributed stream computation service that provides low latency, scalable processing of streaming data in the cloud with an enterprise grade SLA. It features built-in integration with Azur...
Sep. 3, 2015 02:45 PM EDT Reads: 377
With the proliferation of connected devices underpinning new Internet of Things systems, Brandon Schulz, Director of Luxoft IoT – Retail, will be looking at the transformation of the retail customer experience in brick and mortar stores in his session at @ThingsExpo. Questions he will address include: Will beacons drop to the wayside like QR codes, or be a proximity-based profit driver? How will the customer experience change in stores of all types when everything can be instrumented and analyzed? As an area of investment, how might a retail company move towards an innovation methodolo...
Sep. 3, 2015 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 506
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo, November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be.
Sep. 3, 2015 02:30 PM EDT
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sep. 3, 2015 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 958
SYS-CON Events announced today the Containers & Microservices Bootcamp, being held November 3-4, 2015, in conjunction with 17th Cloud Expo, @ThingsExpo, and @DevOpsSummit at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. This is your chance to get started with the latest technology in the industry. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the Containers and Microservices Bootcamp, led by Janakiram MSV, a Microsoft Regional Director, will include presentations as well as hands-on demos and comprehensive walkthroughs.
Sep. 3, 2015 02:15 PM EDT Reads: 411
Containers are not new, but renewed commitments to performance, flexibility, and agility have propelled them to the top of the agenda today. By working without the need for virtualization and its overhead, containers are seen as the perfect way to deploy apps and services across multiple clouds. Containers can handle anything from file types to operating systems and services, including microservices. What are microservices? Unlike what the name implies, microservices are not necessarily small, but are focused on specific tasks. The ability for developers to deploy multiple containers – thous...
Sep. 3, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 128
Contrary to mainstream media attention, the multiple possibilities of how consumer IoT will transform our everyday lives aren’t the only angle of this headline-gaining trend. There’s a huge opportunity for “industrial IoT” and “Smart Cities” to impact the world in the same capacity – especially during critical situations. For example, a community water dam that needs to release water can leverage embedded critical communications logic to alert the appropriate individuals, on the right device, as soon as they are needed to take action.
Sep. 3, 2015 01:30 PM EDT
WebRTC services have already permeated corporate communications in the form of videoconferencing solutions. However, WebRTC has the potential of going beyond and catalyzing a new class of services providing more than calls with capabilities such as mass-scale real-time media broadcasting, enriched and augmented video, person-to-machine and machine-to-machine communications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Luis Lopez, CEO of Kurento, will introduce the technologies required for implementing these ideas and some early experiments performed in the Kurento open source software community in areas ...
Sep. 3, 2015 01:15 PM EDT Reads: 102
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies leverage disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevOps to advance innovation and increase agility. Specializing in designing, imple...
Sep. 3, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 366
Consumer IoT applications provide data about the user that just doesn’t exist in traditional PC or mobile web applications. This rich data, or “context,” enables the highly personalized consumer experiences that characterize many consumer IoT apps. This same data is also providing brands with unprecedented insight into how their connected products are being used, while, at the same time, powering highly targeted engagement and marketing opportunities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nathan Treloar, President and COO of Bebaio, will explore examples of brands transforming their businesses by t...
Sep. 3, 2015 12:30 PM EDT Reads: 282
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lee Williams, a producer of the first smartphones and tablets, will talk about how he is now applying his experience in mobile technology to the design and development of the next generation of Environmental and Sustainability Services at ETwater. He will explain how M2M controllers work through wirelessly connected remote controls; and specifically delve into a retrofit option that reverse-engineers control codes of existing conventional controller systems so they don't have to be replaced and are instantly converted to become smart, connected devices.
Sep. 3, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 248
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts, GM of Platform at FinancialForce.com, will discuss the value of business applications on wearable ...
Sep. 3, 2015 10:45 AM EDT
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...
Sep. 3, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 279
17th Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises are using some form of XaaS – software, platform, and infrastructure as a service.
Sep. 3, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,601
As more intelligent IoT applications shift into gear, they’re merging into the ever-increasing traffic flow of the Internet. It won’t be long before we experience bottlenecks, as IoT traffic peaks during rush hours. Organizations that are unprepared will find themselves by the side of the road unable to cross back into the fast lane. As billions of new devices begin to communicate and exchange data – will your infrastructure be scalable enough to handle this new interconnected world?
Sep. 3, 2015 09:30 AM EDT Reads: 201
While many app developers are comfortable building apps for the smartphone, there is a whole new world out there. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Narayan Sainaney, Co-founder and CTO of Mojio, will discuss how the business case for connected car apps is growing and, with open platform companies having already done the heavy lifting, there really is no barrier to entry.
Sep. 3, 2015 09:30 AM EDT Reads: 208
SYS-CON Events announced today that the "Second Containers & Microservices Expo" will take place November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities.
Sep. 3, 2015 09:30 AM EDT Reads: 650
Manufacturing connected IoT versions of traditional products requires more than multiple deep technology skills. It also requires a shift in mindset, to realize that connected, sensor-enabled “things” act more like services than what we usually think of as products. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David Friedman, CEO and co-founder of Ayla Networks, will discuss how when sensors start generating detailed real-world data about products and how they’re being used, smart manufacturers can use the data to create additional revenue streams, such as improved warranties or premium features. Or slash...
Sep. 3, 2015 09:15 AM EDT
Akana has announced the availability of the new Akana Healthcare Solution. The API-driven solution helps healthcare organizations accelerate their transition to being secure, digitally interoperable businesses. It leverages the Health Level Seven International Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (HL7 FHIR) standard to enable broader business use of medical data. Akana developed the Healthcare Solution in response to healthcare businesses that want to increase electronic, multi-device access to health records while reducing operating costs and complying with government regulations.
Sep. 3, 2015 08:30 AM EDT Reads: 317
The Internet of Things is in the early stages of mainstream deployment but it promises to unlock value and rapidly transform how organizations manage, operationalize, and monetize their assets. IoT is a complex structure of hardware, sensors, applications, analytics and devices that need to be able to communicate geographically and across all functions. Once the data is collected from numerous endpoints, the challenge then becomes converting it into actionable insight.
Sep. 3, 2015 07:45 AM EDT Reads: 106