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Creating a JWT-based authentication with NestJS

This tutorial will guide you through the process of building an authentication system based on JSON Web Tokens (JWT) using NestJS, a progressive Node.js framework. JWT is a widely adopted and standardized approach for securely exchanging data between different entities. It is commonly employed in web applications for tasks such as authentication and authorization.

Find the full project in our Github repository.

Prerequisites

Before we begin, make sure that you have the following installed on your machine:

  • Node.js (version 18 or higher)

  • NestJS CLI

    yarn global add @nestjs/cli

We will use MongoDB for our database. You can create a free instance on Mongo Atlas. Make sure to retrieve the connection URL from your dashboard.

Creating a new NestJS project

First, let's create a new NestJS project using the Nest CLI. Open your terminal and run the following command:

nest new jwt-auth-tuto --strict

This will create a new NestJS project in a directory named jwt-auth-tuto.

Installing packages

Next, we need to install the following packages:

Development dependencies

Prisma: Prisma is an ORM (Object-Relational Mapping) tool that we will use to interact with the database. It provides an intuitive and efficient way to perform database operations, such as querying, creating, updating, and deleting records, using a type-safe API. '@types/.*': These packages provide the necessary type definitions for external libraries or modules in your TypeScript code. They enable type checking and provide IntelliSense support, enhancing the development experience and helping to prevent type-related errors.

To install these development packages:

  1. Go to jwt-auth-tuto,
  2. Run the following command:
yarn add -D prisma @types/uuid @types/bcrypt @types/cookie-parser

Dependencies

  • @nestjs/jwt: We will utilize this NestJS package to implement JWT-based authentication, ensuring secure transmission of information between parties.
  • bcrypt: To enhance security, we will employ this package for hashing passwords, adding an extra layer of protection to user credentials.
  • @prisma/client: We will leverage this database client in conjunction with the Prisma ORM to interact with the database, benefiting from a type-safe API for efficient and reliable database queries.
  • class-validator: By utilizing decorators provided by this package, we can easily define and enforce validation constraints for the properties of our classes, ensuring data integrity and consistency.
  • class-transformer: This package allows us to effortlessly convert plain JavaScript or TypeScript objects into instances of classes, enabling convenient manipulation and transformation of data.
  • uuid: To generate universally unique identifiers (UUIDs), we will rely on this package, providing us with reliable and distinct identifiers for various purposes.
  • cookie-parser: Implementing this middleware will enable us to parse the Cookie header and conveniently access the cookie data through the req.cookies object, simplifying cookie handling and management.

To install these packages, run the following command:

yarn add @nestjs/jwt bcrypt @prisma/client class-validator class-transformer uuid cookie-parser

Prisma Models

Creating Prisma models

info

A model is a representation of a collection

We need 2 models for our app:

  • A User model to store users data
  • A RevokedToken model to store revoked JWT

We define our models inside a prisma file. To generate it, run the following command:

npx prisma init --datasource-provider mongodb

This command initializes a prisma/schema.prisma and a .env file.

In the .env file, set the DATABASE_URL variable with your mongodb connection URL.

We’re ready to create a User model using Prisma.

Inside the prisma/schema.prisma file, add the following model:

model User {
id String @id @default(auto()) @map("_id") @db.ObjectId
email String @unique
password String
}
  • id: unique identifier for the user (it is mapped to _id in the DB)
  • email: field for the user's email address
  • password: field used to store the user's hashed password

Now, let’s move on the RevokedToken collection. You can add it after the User model:

model RevokedToken {
id String @id @default(auto()) @map("_id") @db.ObjectId
jti String @unique
}
  • jti: the uuid of the token

To push your models to your database, run the following command:

yarn prisma db push

This will also generate the Prisma Client, an auto-generated and type-safe query builder that's tailored to your data.

caution

Every time you make changes to your prisma/shema.prisma file, always remember to push the changes to your database to regenerate an updated Prisma Client.

Wrapping the Prisma Client

When setting up your NestJS application, you'll want to abstract away the Prisma Client API for database queries within a service. To get started, you can create a new PrismaService that takes care of instantiating PrismaClient and connecting to your database.

Run this command to create a PrismaService at src/prisma/prisma.service.ts:

nest g service prisma

Create a new file called src/prisma/prisma.service.ts and update the code in it to look like this:

import { INestApplication, Injectable, OnModuleInit } from '@nestjs/common';
import { PrismaClient } from '@prisma/client';

@Injectable()
export class PrismaService extends PrismaClient implements OnModuleInit {
async onModuleInit() {
await this.$connect();
}

async enableShutdownHooks(app: INestApplication) {
this.$on('beforeExit', async () => {
await app.close();
});
}
}

Now that we have a PrismaService, we can export it in a PrismaModule, to be able to import it in every other module where we need to interact with the database.

Create a PrsimaModule by running this command:

nest g module prisma

Then, update src/prisma/prisma.module.ts:

import { Module } from '@nestjs/common';
import { PrismaService } from './prisma.service';

@Module({
providers: [PrismaService],
exports: [PrismaService],
})
export class PrismaModule {}

Creating a user resource

Now that we have installed the necessary packages, set up the User model and generated the Prisma Client we can create a user resource in our API.

In your terminal enter the following command to create a Nest user resource:

nest g resource user

In the NestCLI, choose REST API, then, n to generate CRUD entry points - we will create them by ourselves -

This command should have created a src/user directory, with 5 files inside.

Files ending by .spec.ts are unit test files, we will see how to set them up in another tutorial. For now, we will focus on (expand for more):

  • user.module.ts

    A NestJS module is a self-contained unit of code that encapsulates a specific feature or functionality of an application. It provides a way to organize and structure code into reusable and maintainable units. Typically, modules encapsulate controllers and services related to a specific resource, in this example, a user.

  • user.controller.ts

    A NestJS controller is a class that defines routes or endpoints of a web application. It handles incoming requests from clients by executing corresponding methods or functions and returning responses. Controllers group routes related to a certain resource together, and are part of the communication layer.

    In this file, we will define all the routes related to a user.

  • user.service.ts

    A NestJS service is a class that contains business logic and functionality that can be shared across different parts of an application. It provides a way to encapsulate and separate concerns related to data access, manipulation, and transformation from the rest of the application logic. This layer is responsible to interact with the data layer.

In the context of a NestJS application, we can think of a layered architecture where each layer serves a specific purpose and has its own set of responsibilities.

  • At the highest level, we have the Controllers layer, which handles incoming requests and orchestrates the flow of control in the application by invoking corresponding methods or functions in the underlying Services layer.
  • The Services layer encapsulates the business logic and interacts with the underlying Data Access layer to perform CRUD operations on the database or external APIs.

By separating concerns into these layers, we can achieve a modular and scalable architecture that promotes code reusability, maintainability, and testability.

Importing and configuring the Json web token Module

ABOUT JWT

JWT stands for JSON Web Token, which is a compact, self-contained mechanism for securely transmitting information between parties as a JSON object. JWTs are often used for authentication and authorization purposes in web applications.

NestJS provides a JwtModule that uses jsonwebtoken under-the-hood. We can import it in our UserModule to be able to use utility functions related to JWTs.

Open src/app.module.ts and update it to look like this:

import { Module } from '@nestjs/common';
import { UserModule } from './user/user.module';
import { PrismaService } from './prisma/prisma.service';
import { JwtModule } from '@nestjs/jwt';

@Module({
imports: [
JwtModule.register({
global: true,
secret: process.env.JWT_SECRET,
signOptions: { expiresIn: '2h' },
}),
UserModule,
],
controllers: [],
providers: [PrismaService],
})
export class AppModule {}

We configure the JwtModule using register(), passing in a configuration object. It contains the secret we use to sign issued JWTs and their lifetime duration.

See here for more on the Nest JwtModule and here for more details on the available configuration options.

info

💡 To generate a strong secret, you can run the following command in your terminal:

node -e "console.log(require('crypto').randomBytes(256).toString('base64'));"

Once you have generated a strong secret, add it to your .env file as JWT_SECRET

Creating authentication endpoints

Now, let's create an authentication controller to handle authentication requests such as registration, sign-in and sign-out. Open src/user/auth.controller.ts and add the following code:

import {
Body,
Controller,
InternalServerErrorException,
Post,
Get,
Res,
UseGuards,
Req,
UseInterceptors,
} from '@nestjs/common';

import { UserService } from './user.service';
import { SignInDto } from './dto/SignIn.dto';
import { Request, Response } from 'express';
import { User } from '@prisma/client';
import { AuthGuard } from 'src/guards/auth/auth.guard';
import { RemovePasswordInterceptor } from 'src/interceptors/remove-password/remove-password.interceptor';

@Controller('user')
export class UserController {
constructor(private readonly userService: UserService) {}

@Post('auth/sign-up')
async signUp(@Body() newUser: SignInDto, @Res() res: Response): Promise<void> {
try {
const { user, token }: { user: Partial<User>; token: string } =
await this.userService.signUp(newUser);

delete user.password;

res.cookie('jwt', token, { httpOnly: true });

res.status(201).send({ user: user });
} catch (err: unknown) {
throw new InternalServerErrorException(err);
}
}

@Post('auth/sign-in')
async signIn(@Body() credentials: SignInDto, @Res() res: Response) {
try {
const { user, token }: { user: Partial<User>; token: string } =
await this.userService.signIn(credentials);

delete user.password;

res.cookie('jwt', token, { httpOnly: true });

res.send({ user: user });
} catch (err: unknown) {
throw new InternalServerErrorException(err);
}
}

@UseGuards(AuthGuard)
@Post('auth/revoke-token')
async revokeToken(@Req() req: Request): Promise<{ revoked: boolean }> {
return { revoked: await this.userService.revokeToken(req.user.jti) };
}

@UseGuards(AuthGuard)
@UseInterceptors(RemovePasswordInterceptor)
@Get()
async getMe(@Req() req: Request): Promise<{ user: User }> {
try {
return { user: await this.userService.getById(req.user.sub) };
} catch (err: unknown) {
throw new InternalServerErrorException(err);
}
}
}

This code defines a UserController with different methods to handle authentication requests:

  • signUp: called by a POST request to /user/auth/sign-up to register new users and generate a JWT token
  • signIn: called by a POST request to /user/auth/sign-in to authenticate users and generate a JWT token
  • revokeToken: called by a POST request to /user/auth/revoke-token to revoke an existing JWT token

Sign-up and sign-in routes require a body with the shape of a SignInDto

info

DTO stands for Data Transfer Objects. They are defined by classes and are useful to validate inputs.

Create a src/user/dto/SignIn.dto.ts file and add the following code to it:

import { IsEmail, IsStrongPassword } from 'class-validator';

export class SignInDto {
@IsEmail()
email: string;

@IsStrongPassword()
password: string;
}

The SignInDto contains an email and a password. We use @IsEmail() and @IsStrongPassword() decorators to validate the data.

To enable validation and cookie parsing, update your src/main.ts like this:

import { NestFactory } from '@nestjs/core';
import { AppModule } from './app.module';
import { ValidationPipe } from '@nestjs/common';
import * as cookieParser from 'cookie-parser';

async function bootstrap() {
const app = await NestFactory.create(AppModule);

app.use(cookieParser());
app.useGlobalPipes(new ValidationPipe());

await app.listen(3000);
}
bootstrap();

AuthGuard

The revoke-token route is protected by a guard.

info

💡 Guards determines if the request will be handled or not by the controller / route it protects

Here we use a guard to check if the client is authenticated, and attach a user object to the request. The user object is the payload of the JWT. Thus, protected routes have access to the user via the request if they need to.

But there is a problem: the express request object don’t have a user property. So we have to customize the Request object a little bit. Create the src/types/express/index.d.ts and add the following code to it:

import { JwtPayload } from 'src/contracts/jwt-payload/jwt-payload.interface';

declare global {
namespace Express {
export interface Request {
user: JwtPayload;
}
}
}

We also need to create the JwtPayload interface. Run this command to create src/contracts/jwt-payload/jwt-payload.interface.ts:

nest g interface contracts/jwt-payload

Update it to make it look like:

export interface JwtPayload {
sub: string;
exp: number;
jti: string;
iat: number;
}

Now we can write our AuthGuard. To do so, run the following command and open the generated src/guards/auth/auth.guard.ts:

nest g guard guards/auth

Update it to make it like that:

import {
CanActivate,
ExecutionContext,
Injectable,
UnauthorizedException,
} from '@nestjs/common';
import { JwtService } from '@nestjs/jwt';
import { Request } from 'express';
import { PrismaService } from 'src/prisma/prisma.service';

import { JwtPayload } from 'src/contracts/jwt-payload/jwt-payload.interface';

@Injectable()
export class AuthGuard implements CanActivate {
constructor(
private readonly jwtService: JwtService,
private readonly prisma: PrismaService,
) {}

async canActivate(context: ExecutionContext): Promise<boolean> {
try {
// Try to retrieve the JWT from request's cookies
//--------------------------------------------------------------------------
const request: Request = context.switchToHttp().getRequest();

const token: string = request.cookies['jwt'];
if (!token) throw new UnauthorizedException();

// Verify the JWT and check if it has been revoked
//--------------------------------------------------------------------------
const payload: JwtPayload = await this.jwtService.verifyAsync(
request.cookies['jwt'],
{ secret: process.env.JWT_SECRET },
);

if (
await this.prisma.revokedToken.findUnique({
where: { jti: payload.jti },
})
)
throw new UnauthorizedException();

// Attach user's data to the request
//--------------------------------------------------------------------------
request.user = payload;

return true;
} catch (err: unknown) {
throw new UnauthorizedException();
}
}
}

We can now implement the business logic of these routes. In order to do so, we will create a UserService. It will handle user authentication and token generation.

Creating a user service

Let's create a user service to handle user-related tasks such as authentication, adding or fetching users from a database.

Open the file named src/user/user.service.ts and add the following code:

import { Injectable, NotFoundException } from '@nestjs/common';
import { PrismaService } from 'src/prisma/prisma.service';
import { SignInDto } from './dto/SignIn.dto';
import { JwtService } from '@nestjs/jwt';
import { v4 as uuidv4 } from 'uuid';

@Injectable()
export class UserService {
constructor(
private readonly jwtService: JwtService,
private readonly prisma: PrismaService,
) {}

async signUp(user: SignInDto) {
const newUser = await this.prisma.user.create({ data: user });

const token = await this.jwtService.signAsync(
{},
{ jwtid: uuidv4(), subject: newUser.id },
);

return { user: newUser, token };
}

async signIn(credentials: SignInDto) {
const user = await this.prisma.user.findUnique({
where: { email: credentials.email },
});

if (!user) throw new NotFoundException('User not found');

const token = await this.jwtService.signAsync(
{},
{ jwtid: uuidv4(), subject: user.id },
);

return { user, token };
}

async revokeToken(jti: string) {
await this.prisma.revokedToken.create({ data: { jti } });

return true;
}

async getById(id: string) {
return await this.prisma.user.findUniqueOrThrow({ where: { id } });
}
}

Sign up Method

The signUp method is responsible for creating a new user in the database. It utilizes the create method of the prisma.user object to store the user's information. Additionally, it generates a JSON Web Token (JWT) using the signAsync method from the JwtService object, which is provided by the @nestjs/jwt package. This method returns both the user object and the corresponding token.

Sign in Method

The signIn method verifies if a user with the specified email exists in the database. It achieves this by utilizing the findUnique method of the prisma.user object. If the user is found, a JWT token is generated for authentication using the signAsync method from the JwtService object. The method then returns the user object along with the associated token.

Revoke Token Method

The revokeToken method invalidates a JWT token by adding it to the revokedToken collection in the database. This is accomplished by utilizing the create method of the prisma.revokedToken object. The method returns a boolean value indicating the success or failure of the token revocation process.

Get by ID Method

The getById method retrieves a user from the database based on their unique ID. If the user does not exist, an exception is thrown. This method is primarily utilized in the getMe method of the UserController to fetch the user's data based on the JWT payload.

Testing the authentication system

Finally, let's test our authentication system. Start your NestJS server by running the following command in your terminal:

yarn start

Then, send a POST request to http://localhost:3000/user/auth/sign-up with the following JSON payload:

{
"email": "[email protected]",
"password": "P@ssw0rd"
}

If everything is set up correctly, you should receive a response with a JWT token in the Cookie header:

{
"user": User
}

Removing the password from the response

Even though the password returned in the response is hashed, it is a good practice to remove it from the response.

info

💡 Nest’s interceptors are useful to transform response object at the end of the request-response cycle.

Run this command to generate src/interceptors/remove-password/remove-password.interceptor.ts:

nest g interceptor interceptors/removePassword

Open the file and modify it like that:

import {
CallHandler,
ExecutionContext,
Injectable,
NestInterceptor,
} from '@nestjs/common';
import { Observable } from 'rxjs';
import { map } from 'rxjs/operators';

@Injectable()
export class RemovePasswordInterceptor implements NestInterceptor {
intercept(context: ExecutionContext, next: CallHandler): Observable<any> {
return next.handle().pipe(
map((data) => {
delete data.password;
return data;
}),
);
}
}

Add @UseInterceptors(RemovePasswordInterceptor) before the routes you want to intercept.

caution

⚠️ Controllers in library specific mode (sign-up / sign-in routes) do not enable this.

If you retest your routes, password should have disappeared from responses.


Congratulations! You have successfully created a JWT-based authentication system with NestJS.

Results

Thank you for following this tutorial. Together, we learned to create a JWT-based authentication system with NestJS. We set up a Prisma service and generated a Prisma Client, created a user resource with a layered architecture, configured the JwtModule, and implemented an authentication controller. We also explored Guards for route protection, built a user service, and conducted thorough testing.

Loubna Benzaama

Lead technical writer


Created:

December 21, 2023

Reading time:

16 min


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