Authentication methods in the Azure SDK for Go
The Azure SDK for Go offers multiple ways to authenticate with Azure. These authentication types are invoked through different authentication methods. This article covers the available types, methods, and how to choose which are best for your application.
Available authentication types and methods
The Azure SDK for Go offers several different types of authentication, using different credentials sets. Each authentication type is available through different authentication methods, which are how the SDK takes these credentials as input. The following table describes the available types of authentication and situations in which they're recommended for use by your application.
|Authentication type||Recommended when...|
|Certificate-based authentication||You have an X509 certificate that was configured for an Azure Active Directory (AAD) user or service principal. To learn more, see Get started with certificate-based authentication in Azure Active Directory.|
|Client credentials||You have a configured service principal that is set up for this application or a class of applications it belongs to. To learn more, see Create a service principal with Azure CLI.|
|Managed identities for Azure resources||Your application is running on an Azure resource that has been configured with a managed identity. To learn more, see Managed identities for Azure resources.|
|Device token||Your application is meant to be used interactively only. Users may have multi-factor authentication enabled. Users have access to a web browser to sign in. For more information, see Use device token authentication.|
|Username/password||You have an interactive application that can't use any other authentication method. Your users don't have multi-factor authentication enabled for their AAD sign-in.|
If you use an authentication type other than client credentials, your application must be registered in Azure Active Directory. To learn how, see Integrating applications with Azure Active Directory.
Unless you have special requirements, avoid username/password authentication. In situations where user-based sign in is appropriate, device token authentication can usually be used instead.
These authentication types are available through different methods.
- Environment-based authentication reads credentials directly from the program's environment.
- File-based authentication loads a file containing service principal credentials.
- Client-based authentication uses an object in code and makes you responsible for providing the credentials during program execution.
- Device token authentication requires users to sign in interactively through a web browser with a token.
All authentication functions and types are available in the
Unless you have special requirements, avoid client-based authentication. This method of authentication encourages bad practices. In particular, using client-based authentication makes it tempting to hard-code credentials. Writing custom code for authentication may also break under future SDK releases if authentication requirements change.
Use environment-based authentication
If you're running your application in a controlled setting, environment-based authentication is a natural choice. With this authentication method, you configure the shell environment before running your application. At runtime, the Go SDK reads these environment variables to authenticate with Azure.
Environment-based authentication has support for all authentication methods except device tokens, evaluated in the following order:
- Client credentials
- X509 certificates
- Managed identities for Azure resources
If an authentication type has unset values or is refused, the SDK automatically tries the next authentication type. When no more types are available to try, the SDK returns an error.
The following table details the environment variables that need to be set for each authentication type supported by environment-based authentication.
|Authentication type||Environment variable||Description|
||The ID for the Active Directory tenant that the service principal belongs to.|
||The name or ID of the service principal.|
||The secret associated with the service principal.|
||The ID for the Active Directory tenant that the certificate is registered with.|
||The application client ID associated with the certificate.|
||The path to the client certificate file.|
||The password for the client certificate.|
||The ID for the Active Directory tenant that the user belongs to.|
||The application client ID.|
||The username to sign in with.|
||The password to sign in with.|
|Managed identity||No credentials are needed for managed identity authentication. The application must be running on an Azure resource configured to use managed identities. For details, see Managed identities for Azure resources.|
To connect to a cloud or management endpoint other than the default Azure public cloud, set the following environment variables. The most common reasons are if you use Azure Stack, a cloud in a different geographic region, or the classic deployment model.
||The name of the cloud environment to connect to.|
||The Active Directory resource ID to use when connecting, as a URI to your management endpoint.|
When using environment-based authentication, call the NewAuthorizerFromEnvironment function to get your authorizer object. This object is then set
Authorizer property of clients to allow them access to Azure.
import "github.com/Azure/go-autorest/autorest/azure/auth" authorizer, err := auth.NewAuthorizerFromEnvironment()
Authentication on Azure Stack
To authenticate on Azure Stack, you need to set the following variables:
||The Active Directory endpoint.|
||The Active Directory resource ID.|
These variables can be retrieved from Azure Stack metadata information. To retrieve the metadata, open a web browser in your Azure Stack environment and use the url:
ResourceManagerURL varies based on the region name, machine name, and external fully qualified domain name (FQDN) of your Azure Stack deployment:
For more information on how to use the Azure SDK for Go on Azure Stack, see Use API version profiles with Go in Azure Stack
Use file-based authentication
File-based authentication uses a file format generated by the Azure CLI. You can easily create this file when creating a new service principal with the
--sdk-auth parameter. If you plan on using file-based authentication, make sure that this argument is provided when creating a service principal. Since the CLI prints output to
stdout, redirect output to a file.
az ad sp create-for-rbac --sdk-auth > azure.auth
AZURE_AUTH_LOCATION environment variable to where the authorization file is located. This environment variable is read by the application, and the credentials within it are parsed. If you need to select the authorization file at runtime, manipulate the program's environment using the os.Setenv function.
To load the authentication information, call the NewAuthorizerFromFile function. Unlike environment-based authorization, file-based authorization requires a resource endpoint.
import "github.com/Azure/go-autorest/autorest/azure/auth" authorizer, err := NewAuthorizerFromFile(azure.PublicCloud.ResourceManagerEndpoint)
For more on using service principals and managing their access permissions, see Create a service principal with Azure CLI.
Use device token authentication
If you want users to sign in interactively, the best way is through device token authentication. This authentication flow passes the user a token to paste into a Microsoft sign-in site, where they then authenticate with an Azure Active Directory (AAD) account. This authentication method supports accounts that have multi-factor authentication enabled, unlike standard username/password authentication.
To use device token authentication, create a DeviceFlowConfig authorizer with the NewDeviceFlowConfig function. Call Authorizer on the resulting object to start the authentication process. Device flow authentication blocks program execution until the whole authentication flow is complete.
import "github.com/Azure/go-autorest/autorest/azure/auth" deviceConfig := auth.NewDeviceFlowConfig(applicationID, tenantID) authorizer, err := deviceConfig.Authorizer()
Use an authentication client
If you require a specific type of authentication and are willing to have your program do the work to load authentication information from the user, you can use any client that conforms to the auth.AuthorizerConfig interface. Use a type that implements this interface when you:
- Write an interactive program
- Use specialized configuration files
- Have a requirement that prevents using a built-in authentication method
Never hard-code Azure credentials into an application. Putting secrets into an application binary makes it easier for an attacker to extract them, whether the application is running or not. This puts all Azure resources the credentials are authorized for at risk!
The following table lists the types in the SDK that conform to the
|Authentication type||Authorizer type|
|Managed identities for Azure resources||MSIConfig|
Create an authenticator with its associated
New function, and then call
Authorize on the resulting object to authenticate. For example, to use certificate-based authentication:
import "github.com/Azure/go-autorest/autorest/azure/auth" certificateAuthorizer := auth.NewClientCertificateConfig(certificatePath, certificatePassword, clientID, tenantID) authorizerToken, err := certificateAuthorizer.Authorize()
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