class AuthComponent(ComponentCollection $collection, array $settings = array())

Identifying, authenticating and authorizing users is a common part of almost every web application. In CakePHP AuthComponent provides a pluggable way to do these tasks. AuthComponent allows you to combine authentication objects, and authorization objects to create flexible ways of identifying and checking user authorization.

Suggested Reading Before Continuing

Configuring authentication requires several steps including defining a users table, creating a model, controller & views, etc.

This is all covered step by step in the Blog Tutorial.


Authentication is the process of identifying users by provided credentials and ensuring that users are who they say they are. Generally this is done through a username and password, that are checked against a known list of users. In CakePHP, there are several built-in ways of authenticating users stored in your application.

  • FormAuthenticate allows you to authenticate users based on form POST data. Usually this is a login form that users enter information into.
  • BasicAuthenticate allows you to authenticate users using Basic HTTP authentication.
  • DigestAuthenticate allows you to authenticate users using Digest HTTP authentication.

By default AuthComponent uses FormAuthenticate.

Choosing an Authentication type

Generally you’ll want to offer form based authentication. It is the easiest for users using a web-browser to use. If you are building an API or webservice, you may want to consider basic authentication or digest authentication. The key differences between digest and basic authentication are mostly related to how passwords are handled. In basic authentication, the username and password are transmitted as plain-text to the server. This makes basic authentication un-suitable for applications without SSL, as you would end up exposing sensitive passwords. Digest authentication uses a digest hash of the username, password, and a few other details. This makes digest authentication more appropriate for applications without SSL encryption.

You can also use authentication systems like openid as well, however openid is not part of CakePHP core.

Configuring Authentication handlers

You configure authentication handlers using $this->Auth->authenticate. You can configure one or many handlers for authentication. Using multiple handlers allows you to support different ways of logging users in. When logging users in, authentication handlers are checked in the order they are declared. Once one handler is able to identify the user, no other handlers will be checked. Conversely you can halt all authentication by throwing an exception. You will need to catch any thrown exceptions, and handle them as needed.

You can configure authentication handlers in your controller’s beforeFilter or, in the $components array. You can pass configuration information into each authentication object, using an array:

// Basic setup
$this->Auth->authenticate = array('Form');

// Pass settings in
$this->Auth->authenticate = array(
    'Basic' => array('userModel' => 'Member'),
    'Form' => array('userModel' => 'Member')

In the second example you’ll notice that we had to declare the userModel key twice. To help you keep your code DRY, you can use the all key. This special key allows you to set settings that are passed to every attached object. The all key is also exposed as AuthComponent::ALL:

// Pass settings in using 'all'
$this->Auth->authenticate = array(
    AuthComponent::ALL => array('userModel' => 'Member'),

In the above example, both Form and Basic will get the settings defined for the ‘all’ key. Any settings passed to a specific authentication object will override the matching key in the ‘all’ key. The core authentication objects support the following configuration keys.

  • fields The fields to use to identify a user by.

  • userModel The model name of the User, defaults to User.

  • scope Additional conditions to use when looking up and authenticating users, i.e. array('User.is_active' => 1).

  • recursive The value of the recursive key passed to find(). Defaults to 0.

  • contain Containable options for when the user record is loaded. If you want to use this option, you’ll need to make sure your model has the containable behavior attached.

    New in version 2.2.

  • passwordHasher Password hasher class. Defaults to Simple.

    New in version 2.4.

  • userFields The list of fields to fetch from the userModel. This option is helpful when you have a wide user table and do not need all the columns in the session. By default all fields are fetched.

    New in version 2.6.

To configure different fields for user in $components array:

// Pass settings in $components array
public $components = array(
    'Auth' => array(
        'authenticate' => array(
            'Form' => array(
                'fields' => array('username' => 'email')

Do not put other Auth configuration keys (like authError, loginAction etc) within the authenticate or Form element. They should be at the same level as the authenticate key. The setup above with other Auth configuration should look like:

// Pass settings in $components array
public $components = array(
    'Auth' => array(
        'loginAction' => array(
            'controller' => 'users',
            'action' => 'login',
            'plugin' => 'users'
        'authError' => 'Did you really think you are allowed to see that?',
        'authenticate' => array(
            'Form' => array(
                'fields' => array(
                  'username' => 'my_user_model_username_field', //Default is 'username' in the userModel
                  'password' => 'my_user_model_password_field'  //Default is 'password' in the userModel

In addition to the common configuration, Basic authentication supports the following keys:

  • realm The realm being authenticated. Defaults to env('SERVER_NAME').

In addition to the common configuration Digest authentication supports the following keys:

  • realm The realm authentication is for, Defaults to the servername.
  • nonce A nonce used for authentication. Defaults to uniqid().
  • qop Defaults to auth, no other values are supported at this time.
  • opaque A string that must be returned unchanged by clients. Defaults to md5($settings['realm'])

Identifying users and logging them in

In the past AuthComponent auto-magically logged users in. This was confusing for many people, and made using AuthComponent a bit difficult at times. For 2.0, you’ll need to manually call $this->Auth->login() to log a user in.

When authenticating users, attached authentication objects are checked in the order they are attached. Once one of the objects can identify the user, no other objects are checked. A sample login function for working with a login form could look like:

public function login() {
    if ($this->request->is('post')) {
        // Important: Use login() without arguments! See warning below.
        if ($this->Auth->login()) {
            return $this->redirect($this->Auth->redirectUrl());
            // Prior to 2.3 use
            // `return $this->redirect($this->Auth->redirect());`
            __('Username or password is incorrect')
        // Prior to 2.7 use
        // $this->Session->setFlash(__('Username or password is incorrect'));

The above code (without any data passed to the login method), will attempt to log a user in using the POST data, and if successful redirect the user to either the last page they were visiting, or AuthComponent::$loginRedirect. If the login is unsuccessful, a flash message is set.


In 2.x $this->Auth->login($this->request->data) will log the user in with whatever data is posted, whereas in 1.3 $this->Auth->login($this->data) would try to identify the user first and only log in when successful.

Using Digest and Basic Authentication for logging in

Because basic and digest authentication don’t require an initial POST or a form so if using only basic / digest authenticators you don’t require a login action in your controller. Also you can set AuthComponent::$sessionKey to false to ensure AuthComponent doesn’t try to read user info from session. Stateless authentication will re-verify the user’s credentials on each request, this creates a small amount of additional overhead, but allows clients that to login in without using cookies.


Prior to 2.4 you still need the login action as you are redirected to login when an unauthenticated user tries to access a protected page even when using only basic or digest auth. Also setting AuthComponent::$sessionKey to false will cause an error prior to 2.4.

Creating Custom Authentication objects

Because authentication objects are pluggable, you can create custom authentication objects in your application or plugins. If for example you wanted to create an OpenID authentication object. In app/Controller/Component/Auth/OpenidAuthenticate.php you could put the following:

App::uses('BaseAuthenticate', 'Controller/Component/Auth');

class OpenidAuthenticate extends BaseAuthenticate {
    public function authenticate(CakeRequest $request, CakeResponse $response) {
        // Do things for OpenID here.
        // Return an array of user if they could authenticate the user,
        // return false if not

Authentication objects should return false if they cannot identify the user. And an array of user information if they can. It’s not required that you extend BaseAuthenticate, only that your authentication object implements an authenticate() method. The BaseAuthenticate class provides a number of helpful methods that are commonly used. You can also implement a getUser() method if your authentication object needs to support stateless or cookie-less authentication. See the sections on basic and digest authentication below for more information.

Using custom authentication objects

Once you’ve created your custom authentication object, you can use them by including them in AuthComponents authenticate array:

$this->Auth->authenticate = array(
    'Openid', // app authentication object.
    'AuthBag.Combo', // plugin authentication object.

Creating stateless authentication systems

Authentication objects can implement a getUser() method that can be used to support user login systems that don’t rely on cookies. A typical getUser method looks at the request/environment and uses the information there to confirm the identity of the user. HTTP Basic authentication for example uses $_SERVER['PHP_AUTH_USER'] and $_SERVER['PHP_AUTH_PW'] for the username and password fields. On each request, these values are used to re-identify the user and ensure they are valid user. As with authentication object’s authenticate() method the getUser() method should return an array of user information on success or false on failure.

public function getUser($request) {
    $username = env('PHP_AUTH_USER');
    $pass = env('PHP_AUTH_PW');

    if (empty($username) || empty($pass)) {
        return false;
    return $this->_findUser($username, $pass);

The above is how you could implement getUser method for HTTP basic authentication. The _findUser() method is part of BaseAuthenticate and identifies a user based on a username and password.

Handling unauthenticated requests

When an unauthenticated user tries to access a protected page first the unauthenticated() method of the last authenticator in the chain is called. The authenticate object can handle sending response or redirection as appropriate and return true to indicate no further action is necessary. Due to this the order in which you specify the authenticate object in AuthComponent::$authenticate property matters.

If authenticator returns null, AuthComponent redirects user to login action. If it’s an AJAX request and AuthComponent::$ajaxLogin is specified that element is rendered else a 403 HTTP status code is returned.


Prior to 2.4 the authenticate objects do not provide an unauthenticated() method.

Hashing passwords

AuthComponent no longer automatically hashes every password it can find. This was removed because it made a number of common tasks like validation difficult. You should never store plain text passwords, and before saving a user record you should always hash the password.

As of 2.4 the generation and checking of password hashes has been delegated to password hasher classes. Authenticating objects use a new setting passwordHasher which specifies the password hasher class to use. It can be a string specifying class name or an array with key className stating the class name and any extra keys will be passed to password hasher constructor as config. The default hasher class Simple can be used for sha1, sha256, md5 hashing. By default the hash type set in Security class will be used. You can use specific hash type like this:

public $components = array(
    'Auth' => array(
        'authenticate' => array(
            'Form' => array(
                'passwordHasher' => array(
                    'className' => 'Simple',
                    'hashType' => 'sha256'

When creating new user records you can hash a password in the beforeSave callback of your model using appropriate password hasher class:

App::uses('SimplePasswordHasher', 'Controller/Component/Auth');

class User extends AppModel {
    public function beforeSave($options = array()) {
        if (!empty($this->data[$this->alias]['password'])) {
            $passwordHasher = new SimplePasswordHasher(array('hashType' => 'sha256'));
            $this->data[$this->alias]['password'] = $passwordHasher->hash(
        return true;

You don’t need to hash passwords before calling $this->Auth->login(). The various authentication objects will hash passwords individually.

Using bcrypt for passwords

In CakePHP 2.3 the BlowfishAuthenticate class was introduced to allow using bcrypt a.k.a Blowfish for hash passwords. Bcrypt hashes are much harder to brute force than passwords stored with sha1. But BlowfishAuthenticate has been deprecated in 2.4 and instead BlowfishPasswordHasher has been added.

A blowfish password hasher can be used with any authentication class. All you have to do with specify passwordHasher setting for the authenticating object:

public $components = array(
    'Auth' => array(
        'authenticate' => array(
            'Form' => array(
                'passwordHasher' => 'Blowfish'

Hashing passwords for digest authentication

Because Digest authentication requires a password hashed in the format defined by the RFC, in order to correctly hash a password for use with Digest authentication you should use the special password hashing function on DigestAuthenticate. If you are going to be combining digest authentication with any other authentication strategies, it’s also recommended that you store the digest password in a separate column, from the normal password hash:

App::uses('DigestAuthenticate', 'Controller/Component/Auth');

class User extends AppModel {
    public function beforeSave($options = array()) {
        // make a password for digest auth.
        $this->data[$this->alias]['digest_hash'] = DigestAuthenticate::password(
        return true;

Passwords for digest authentication need a bit more information than other password hashes, based on the RFC for digest authentication.


The third parameter of DigestAuthenticate::password() must match the ‘realm’ config value defined when DigestAuthentication was configured in AuthComponent::$authenticate. This defaults to env('SCRIPT_NAME'). You may wish to use a static string if you want consistent hashes in multiple environments.

Creating custom password hasher classes

Custom password hasher classes need to extend the AbstractPasswordHasher class and need to implement the abstract methods hash() and check(). In app/Controller/Component/Auth/CustomPasswordHasher.php you could put the following:

App::uses('AbstractPasswordHasher', 'Controller/Component/Auth');

class CustomPasswordHasher extends AbstractPasswordHasher {
    public function hash($password) {
        // stuff here

    public function check($password, $hashedPassword) {
        // stuff here

Manually logging users in

Sometimes the need arises where you need to manually log a user in, such as just after they registered for your application. You can do this by calling $this->Auth->login() with the user data you want to ‘login’:

public function register() {
    if ($this->User->save($this->request->data)) {
        $id = $this->User->id;
        $this->request->data['User'] = array_merge(
            array('id' => $id)
        return $this->redirect('/users/home');


Be sure to manually add the new User id to the array passed to the login method. Otherwise you won’t have the user id available.


Be sure to unset password fields before manually passing data into $this->Auth->login(), or it will get saved in the Session unhashed.

Accessing the logged in user

Once a user is logged in, you will often need some particular information about the current user. You can access the currently logged in user using AuthComponent::user(). This method is static, and can be used globally after the AuthComponent has been loaded. You can access it both as an instance method or as a static method:

// Use anywhere

// From inside a controller

Logging users out

Eventually you’ll want a quick way to de-authenticate someone, and redirect them to where they need to go. This method is also useful if you want to provide a ‘Log me out’ link inside a members’ area of your application:

public function logout() {
    return $this->redirect($this->Auth->logout());

Logging out users that logged in with Digest or Basic auth is difficult to accomplish for all clients. Most browsers will retain credentials for the duration they are still open. Some clients can be forced to logout by sending a 401 status code. Changing the authentication realm is another solution that works for some clients.


Authorization is the process of ensuring that an identified/authenticated user is allowed to access the resources they are requesting. If enabled AuthComponent can automatically check authorization handlers and ensure that logged in users are allowed to access the resources they are requesting. There are several built-in authorization handlers, and you can create custom ones for your application, or as part of a plugin.

  • ActionsAuthorize Uses the AclComponent to check for permissions on an action level.
  • CrudAuthorize Uses the AclComponent and action -> CRUD mappings to check permissions for resources.
  • ControllerAuthorize Calls isAuthorized() on the active controller, and uses the return of that to authorize a user. This is often the most simple way to authorize users.

Configuring Authorization handlers

You configure authorization handlers using $this->Auth->authorize. You can configure one or many handlers for authorization. Using multiple handlers allows you to support different ways of checking authorization. When authorization handlers are checked, they will be called in the order they are declared. Handlers should return false, if they are unable to check authorization, or the check has failed. Handlers should return true if they were able to check authorization successfully. Handlers will be called in sequence until one passes. If all checks fail, the user will be redirected to the page they came from. Additionally you can halt all authorization by throwing an exception. You will need to catch any thrown exceptions, and handle them.

You can configure authorization handlers in your controller’s beforeFilter or, in the $components array. You can pass configuration information into each authorization object, using an array:

// Basic setup
$this->Auth->authorize = array('Controller');

// Pass settings in
$this->Auth->authorize = array(
    'Actions' => array('actionPath' => 'controllers/'),

Much like Auth->authenticate, Auth->authorize, helps you keep your code DRY, by using the all key. This special key allows you to set settings that are passed to every attached object. The all key is also exposed as AuthComponent::ALL:

// Pass settings in using 'all'
$this->Auth->authorize = array(
    AuthComponent::ALL => array('actionPath' => 'controllers/'),

In the above example, both the Actions and Controller will get the settings defined for the ‘all’ key. Any settings passed to a specific authorization object will override the matching key in the ‘all’ key. The core authorize objects support the following configuration keys.

  • actionPath Used by ActionsAuthorize to locate controller action ACO’s in the ACO tree.
  • actionMap Action -> CRUD mappings. Used by CrudAuthorize and authorization objects that want to map actions to CRUD roles.
  • userModel The name of the ARO/Model node user information can be found under. Used with ActionsAuthorize.

Creating Custom Authorize objects

Because authorize objects are pluggable, you can create custom authorize objects in your application or plugins. If for example you wanted to create an LDAP authorize object. In app/Controller/Component/Auth/LdapAuthorize.php you could put the following:

App::uses('BaseAuthorize', 'Controller/Component/Auth');

class LdapAuthorize extends BaseAuthorize {
    public function authorize($user, CakeRequest $request) {
        // Do things for LDAP here.

Authorize objects should return false if the user is denied access, or if the object is unable to perform a check. If the object is able to verify the user’s access, true should be returned. It’s not required that you extend BaseAuthorize, only that your authorize object implements an authorize() method. The BaseAuthorize class provides a number of helpful methods that are commonly used.

Using custom authorize objects

Once you’ve created your custom authorize object, you can use them by including them in your AuthComponent’s authorize array:

$this->Auth->authorize = array(
    'Ldap', // app authorize object.
    'AuthBag.Combo', // plugin authorize object.

Using no authorization

If you’d like to not use any of the built-in authorization objects, and want to handle things entirely outside of AuthComponent you can set $this->Auth->authorize = false;. By default AuthComponent starts off with authorize = false. If you don’t use an authorization scheme, make sure to check authorization yourself in your controller’s beforeFilter, or with another component.

Making actions public

There are often times controller actions that you wish to remain entirely public, or that don’t require users to be logged in. AuthComponent is pessimistic, and defaults to denying access. You can mark actions as public actions by using AuthComponent::allow(). By marking actions as public, AuthComponent, will not check for a logged in user, nor will authorize objects be checked:

// Allow all actions. CakePHP 2.0 (deprecated).

// Allow all actions. CakePHP 2.1 and later.

// Allow only the view and index actions.
$this->Auth->allow('view', 'index');

// Allow only the view and index actions.
$this->Auth->allow(array('view', 'index'));


If you’re using scaffolding, allow all will not identify and allow the scaffolded methods. You have to specify their action names.

You can provide as many action names as you need to allow(). You can also supply an array containing all the action names.

Making actions require authorization

By default all actions require authorization. However, after making actions public, you want to revoke the public access. You can do so using AuthComponent::deny():

// remove one action

// remove all the actions.

// remove a group of actions.
$this->Auth->deny('add', 'edit');
$this->Auth->deny(array('add', 'edit'));

You can provide as many action names as you need to deny(). You can also supply an array containing all the action names.

Using ControllerAuthorize

ControllerAuthorize allows you to handle authorization checks in a controller callback. This is ideal when you have very simple authorization, or you need to use a combination of models + components to do your authorization, and don’t want to create a custom authorize object.

The callback is always called isAuthorized() and it should return a boolean as to whether or not the user is allowed to access resources in the request. The callback is passed the active user, so it can be checked:

class AppController extends Controller {
    public $components = array(
        'Auth' => array('authorize' => 'Controller'),
    public function isAuthorized($user = null) {
        // Any registered user can access public functions
        if (empty($this->request->params['admin'])) {
            return true;

        // Only admins can access admin functions
        if (isset($this->request->params['admin'])) {
            return (bool)($user['role'] === 'admin');

        // Default deny
        return false;

The above callback would provide a very simple authorization system where, only users with role = admin could access actions that were in the admin prefix.

Using ActionsAuthorize

ActionsAuthorize integrates with the AclComponent, and provides a fine grained per action ACL check on each request. ActionsAuthorize is often paired with DbAcl to give dynamic and flexible permission systems that can be edited by admin users through the application. It can however, be combined with other Acl implementations such as IniAcl and custom application Acl backends.

Using CrudAuthorize

CrudAuthorize integrates with AclComponent, and provides the ability to map requests to CRUD operations. Provides the ability to authorize using CRUD mappings. These mapped results are then checked in the AclComponent as specific permissions.

For example, taking /posts/index as the current request. The default mapping for index, is a read permission check. The Acl check would then be for the posts controller with the read permission. This allows you to create permission systems that focus more on what is being done to resources, rather than the specific actions being visited.

Mapping actions when using CrudAuthorize

When using CrudAuthorize or any other authorize objects that use action mappings, it might be necessary to map additional methods. You can map actions -> CRUD permissions using mapAction(). Calling this on AuthComponent will delegate to all the of the configured authorize objects, so you can be sure the settings were applied every where:

    'create' => array('register'),
    'view' => array('show', 'display')

The keys for mapActions should be the CRUD permissions you want to set, while the values should be an array of all the actions that are mapped to the CRUD permission.

AuthComponent API

AuthComponent is the primary interface to the built-in authorization and authentication mechanics in CakePHP.

property AuthComponent::$ajaxLogin

The name of an optional view element to render when an AJAX request is made with an invalid or expired session.

property AuthComponent::$allowedActions

Controller actions for which user validation is not required.

property AuthComponent::$authenticate

Set to an array of Authentication objects you want to use when logging users in. There are several core authentication objects, see the section on Suggested Reading Before Continuing.

property AuthComponent::$authError

Error to display when user attempts to access an object or action to which they do not have access.

Changed in version 2.4: You can suppress authError message from being displayed by setting this value to boolean false.

property AuthComponent::$authorize

Set to an array of Authorization objects you want to use when authorizing users on each request, see the section on Authorization.

property AuthComponent::$components

Other components utilized by AuthComponent

property AuthComponent::$flash

Settings to use when Auth needs to do a flash message with FlashComponent::set(). Available keys are:

  • element - The element to use, defaults to ‘default’.
  • key - The key to use, defaults to ‘auth’
  • params - The array of additional params to use, defaults to array()
property AuthComponent::$loginAction

A URL (defined as a string or array) to the controller action that handles logins. Defaults to /users/login

property AuthComponent::$loginRedirect

The URL (defined as a string or array) to the controller action users should be redirected to after logging in. This value will be ignored if the user has an Auth.redirect value in their session.

property AuthComponent::$logoutRedirect

The default action to redirect to after the user is logged out. While AuthComponent does not handle post-logout redirection, a redirect URL will be returned from AuthComponent::logout(). Defaults to AuthComponent::$loginAction.

property AuthComponent::$unauthorizedRedirect

Controls handling of unauthorized access. By default unauthorized user is redirected to the referrer URL or AuthComponent::$loginRedirect or ‘/’. If set to false a ForbiddenException exception is thrown instead of redirecting.

property AuthComponent::$request

Request object

property AuthComponent::$response

Response object

property AuthComponent::$sessionKey

The session key name where the record of the current user is stored. If unspecified, it will be “Auth.User”.

AuthComponent::allow($action[, $action, ...])

Set one or more actions as public actions, this means that no authorization checks will be performed for the specified actions. The special value of '*' will mark all the current controllers actions as public. Best used in your controller’s beforeFilter method.


Loads the configured authentication objects.


Loads the authorization objects configured.

AuthComponent::deny($action[, $action, ...])

Toggle one or more actions previously declared as public actions, as non-public methods. These methods will now require authorization. Best used inside your controller’s beforeFilter method.

AuthComponent::identify($request, $response)
  • $request (CakeRequest) – The request to use.
  • $response (CakeResponse) – The response to use, headers can be sent if authentication fails.

This method is used by AuthComponent to identify a user based on the information contained in the current request.


Initializes AuthComponent for use in the controller.

AuthComponent::isAuthorized($user = null, $request = null)

Uses the configured Authorization adapters to check whether or not a user is authorized. Each adapter will be checked in sequence, if any of them return true, then the user will be authorized for the request.


Returns true if the current client is a logged in user, or false if they are not.

  • $user (array) – Array of logged in user data.

Takes an array of user data to login with. Allows for manual logging of users. Calling user() will populate the session value with the provided information. If no user is provided, AuthComponent will try to identify a user using the current request information. See AuthComponent::identify()

Returns:A string URL to redirect the logged out user to.

Logs out the current user.

AuthComponent::mapActions($map = array())

Maps action names to CRUD operations. Used for controller-based authentication. Make sure to configure the authorize property before calling this method. As it delegates $map to all the attached authorize objects.

static AuthComponent::password($pass)

Deprecated since version 2.4.

AuthComponent::redirect($url = null)

Deprecated since version 2.3.

AuthComponent::redirectUrl($url = null)

If no parameter is passed, gets the authentication redirect URL. Pass a URL in to set the destination a user should be redirected to upon logging in. Will fallback to AuthComponent::$loginRedirect if there is no stored redirect value.

New in version 2.3.


Component shutdown. If user is logged in, wipe out redirect.


Main execution method. Handles redirecting of invalid users, and processing of login form data.

static AuthComponent::user($key = null)
  • $key (string) – The user data key you want to fetch. If null, all user data will be returned. Can also be called as an instance method.

Get data concerning the currently logged in user, you can use a property key to fetch specific data about the user:

$id = $this->Auth->user('id');

If the current user is not logged in or the key doesn’t exist, null will be returned.