Ask a Question

Handle JWT Token

When deploying a GraphQL schema, the admin user can set a # Dgraph.Authorization line at the bottom of the schema to specify how JWT tokens present in the HTTP header requests are extracted, validated and used.

This line must start with the exact string # Dgraph.Authorization and be at the bottom of the schema file.

Configure JWT token handling

To configure how Dgraph should handle JWT token for /graphql endpoint :

  1. Add a line starting with # Dgraph.Authorization and with the following parameters at the very end of your GraphQL schema.
    The Dgraph.Authorization object uses the following syntax:
# Dgraph.Authorization {"VerificationKey":"<verification-key-here>","Header":"X-My-App-Auth","Namespace":"","Algo":"HS256","Audience":["aud1"],"ClosedByDefault":true}

Dgraph.Authorization object contains the following parameters:

  • Header name of the header field used by the client to send the token.
Note Do not use Dg-Auth, X-Auth-Token or Authorization headers which are used by Dgraph for other purposes.
  • Namespace is the key inside the JWT that contains the claims relevant to Dgraph authorization.
  • Algo is the JWT verification algorithm which can be either HS256 or RS256.
  • VerificationKey is the string value of the key, with newlines replaced with \n and the key string wrapped in "":
    • For asymmetric encryption: VerificationKey contains the public key string.
    • For symmetric (secret-based) encryption: VerificationKey is the secret key.
  • JWKURL/JWKURLs is the URL for the JSON Web Key sets. If you want to pass multiple URLs, use JWKURLs as an array of multiple JWK URLs for the JSON Web Key sets. You can only use one authentication connection method, either JWT (Header), a single JWK URL, or multiple JWK URLs.
  • Audience is used to verify the aud field of a JWT, which is used by certain providers to indicate the intended audience for the JWT. When doing authentication with JWKURL, this field is mandatory.
  • ClosedByDefault, if set to true, requires authorization for all requests even if the GraphQL type does not specify rules. If omitted, the default setting is false.
  1. Deploy the GraphQL schema either with a schema update or via the Cloud console’s Schema page.

When the # Dgraph.Authorization line is present in the GraphQL schema, Dgraph will use the settings in that line to

  • read the specified header in each HTTP request sent on the /graphql endpoint,
  • decode that header as a JWT token using the specified algorithm (Algo)
  • validate the token signature and the audience
  • extract the JWT claims present in the specified namespace and at the root level

These claims will then be accessible to any @auth schema directives (a GraphQL schema directive specific to Dgraph) that are associated with GraphQL types in the schema file.

See the RBAC rules and [Graph traversal rules](/graphql/security/graphtraversal-rules/ for details on how to restrict data access using the @auth directive on a per-type basis.

Require JWT token

To not only accept but to require the JWT token regardless of @auth directives in your GraphQL schema, set option “ClosedByDefault” to true in the # Dgraph.Authorization line.

Working with Authentication providers

Dgraph.Authorization is fully configurable to work with various authentication providers. Authentication providers have options to configure how to generate JWT tokens.

Here are some configuration examples.

In your clerk dashboard, Access JWT Templates and create a template for Dgraph.

Your template must have an aud (audience), this is mandatory for Dgraph when the token is verified using JWKURL.

Decide on a claim namespace and add the information you want to use in your RBAC rules.

We are using ‘' namespace in this example and have decided to get the user current organization, role ( clerk has currently two roles ‘admin’ and ‘basic_member’) and email.

This is our JWT Template in Clerk:

	"aud": "dgraph",
	"": {
		"org": "{{}}",
		"role": "{{org.role}}",
		"userid": "{{user.primary_email_address}}"

In the same configuration panel

  • set the token lifetime
  • copy the JWKS Endpoint

Configure your Dgraph GraphQL schema with the following authorization

# Dgraph.Authorization {"header":"X-Dgraph-AuthToken","namespace":"","jwkurl":"https://<>","audience":["dgraph"],"closedbydefault":true}

Note that

  • namespace matches the namespace used in the JWT Template
  • audience is an array and contains the aud used in the JWT token
  • jwkurl is the JWKS Endpoint from Clerk

You can select the header to receive the JWT token from your client app, X-Dgraph-AuthToken is a header authorized by default by Dgraph GraphQL API to pass CORS requirements.

Other Dgraph.Authorization Examples

To use a single JWK URL:

# Dgraph.Authorization {"VerificationKey":"","Header":"X-My-App-Auth", "jwkurl":"[email protected]", "Namespace":"","Algo":"","Audience":["fir-project1-259e7", "HhaXkQVRBn5e0K3DmMp2zbjI8i1wcv2e"]}

To use multiple JWK URL:

# Dgraph.Authorization {"VerificationKey":"","Header":"X-My-App-Auth","jwkurls":["[email protected]",""], "Namespace":"","Algo":"","Audience":["fir-project1-259e7", "HhaXkQVRBn5e0K3DmMp2zbjI8i1wcv2e"]}

Using HMAC-SHA256 token in X-My-App-Auth header and authorization claims in namespace:

# Dgraph.Authorization {"VerificationKey":"secretkey","Header":"X-My-App-Auth","Namespace":"","Algo":"HS256"}

Using HMAC-SHA256 token in X-My-App-Auth header and authorization claims in namespace:

# Dgraph.Authorization {"VerificationKey":"-----BEGIN PUBLIC KEY-----\n...\n-----END PUBLIC KEY-----","Header":"X-My-App-Auth","Namespace":"","Algo":"RS256"}

JWT format

The value of the JWT header is expected to be in one of the following forms:

  • Bare token.
    For example:

  • A Bearer token, e.g., a JWT prepended with Bearer prefix (including space).
    For example:

    Bearer eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJzdWIiOiIxMjM0NTY3ODkwIiwibmFtZSI6IkpvaG4gRG9lIiwiaWF0IjoxNTE2MjM5MDIyLCJodHRwczovL215LmFwcC5pby9qd3QvY2xhaW1zIjp7fX0.Pjlxpf-3FhH61EtHBRo2g1amQPRi0pNwoLUooGbxIho

Error handling

If ClosedByDefault is set to true, and the JWT is not present or if the JWT token does not include the proper audience information, or is not properly encoded, or is expired, Dgraph replies to requests on /graphql endpoint with an error message rejecting the operation similar to:

   "errors": [
           "message": "couldn't rewrite query queryContact because a valid JWT is required but was not provided",
           "path": [
   "data": {
       "queryContact": []

Error messages

  • “couldn’t rewrite query queryContact because a valid JWT is required but was not provided”
  • “couldn’t rewrite query queryMessage because unable to parse jwt token:token is expired by 5h49m46.236018623s”
  • “couldn’t rewrite query queryMessage because JWT aud value doesn’t match with the audience”
  • “couldn’t rewrite query queryMessage because unable to parse jwt token:token signature is invalid”