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OAuth 2.0 security overview

Ory OAuth2 and OpenID Connect is a certified OAuth2 and OpenID Connect provider. It is based on the popular, secure, and widely deployed open-source Ory Hydra.

Security principles

Ory OAuth2 and OpenID Connect is designed to be secure by default. It follows the following principles:

  • No Cleartext Storage of Credentials
  • Encryption of Credentials
  • Use Short Expiration Time
  • Limit the Number of Usages or One-Time Usage
  • Bind Token to Client id
  • Automatic Revocation of Derived Tokens If Abuse Is Detected
  • Binding of Refresh Token to "client_id"
  • Refresh Token Rotation
  • Revocation of Refresh Tokens
  • Validate Pre-Registered "redirect_uri"
  • Binding of Authorization "code" to "client_id"
  • Binding of Authorization "code" to "redirect_uri"
  • Opaque access tokens
  • Opaque refresh tokens
  • Ensure Confidentiality of Requests
  • Use of Asymmetric Cryptography
  • Enforcing random states: Without a random-looking state or OpenID Connect nonce the request will fail.

Additionally, these safeguards are implemented:

  • Advanced Token Validation: Tokens are laid out as <key>.<signature> where <signature> is created using HMAC-SHA256 using a global secret.

Advanced token validation (datastore security)

For an OAuth2 access token, refresh token or authorize code to be valid, one requires both the key and the signature (formatted as <key>.<signature>). Only the signature is stored in the data store (SQL), thus a compromised datastore won't allow an attacker to gain access to any valid authorize codes, access tokens, or refresh tokens.

Because HMAC-SHA256 is used, the System Secret is required to create valid key signature pairs, rendering an attacker unable to inject new codes or tokens into a compromised data store.

Token Prefixes

Ory's OAuth2 Tokens are prefixed:

  • OAuth2 Access Tokens: ory_at_
  • OAuth2 Refresh Tokens: ory_rt_
  • OAuth2 Authorize Codes: ory_ac_

Token prefixes are useful when scanning for secrets in e.g. git repositories. Token prefixes are only set for opaque tokens, not JSON Web Tokens. Adding prefixes to JSON Web Tokens would invalidate the JSON Web Token.


Ory Hydra uses different cryptographic methods, and this is an overview of all of them.


AES-GCM is used to encrypt JWKs at rest using a key size of 256 bit which exceeds requirements by Lenstra, ECRYPT II, NIST, ANSSI, and BSI, see

GCM (Galois/Counter Mode) is an authenticated encryption algorithm designed to provide both data authenticity (integrity) and confidentiality. GCM uses a nonce (“IV”) that has an upper limit of 2^32 nonces. If more nonces are used, there is a risk of repeats. This means that you risk collisions when storing more than 2^32 documents authenticated with GCM. Because AES-GCM is only used to encrypt data at rest, this might only impose a problem if

  1. more than 2^32 documents are stored using AES-GCM
  2. an attacker gains access to the datastore where > 2^32 documents are stored
  3. the attacker can exploit repeats, for example by authenticating malicious documents


RSASSA-PKCS1-v1_5 using SHA-256 (RS256) is used to sign JWTs. Its use is recommended by the JWA specification, see

The RSA Key size is 4096 bits long, exceeding the minimum requirement of 2048 bits by

Recommendations from NIST, ANSSI, IAD-NSA, BSI, Lenstra, and others vary between 1300 and 2048-bit key lengths for asymmetric cryptography based on discrete logarithms (RSA). 4096 exceeds all recommendations for 2017 from all authorities, see

All RS* (RS256, RS512, ...) families are supported.


Is used to sign JWTs. All ES* families are supported.


HMAC (FIPS 198) with SHA256 (FIPS 180-4) is used to sign access tokens, authorize codes, and refresh tokens. SHA-2 (with 256-bit) is encouraged by NIST, see


PBKDF2 is the default OAuth2 Client Secret hashing algorithm to strike a balance between security and performance. As most client secrets are auto-generated, using high hash costs is not useful. The password (OAuth2 Client Secret) is not user-chosen and unlikely to be reused. As such, there is little point in using excessive hash costs to protect users. High hash costs in a system like Ory Hydra will cause high CPU costs from mostly automated traffic (OAuth2 Client interactions). It has also been a point of criticism from some who wish for better RPS on specific endpoints.

We suggest between 20.000 and 50.000 iterations for PBKDF2.


BCrypt can be used to hash client credentials at rest. It isn't officially recommended by NIST as it isn't based on hashing primitives such as SHA-2, but rather on Blowfish. However, BCrypt is much stronger than any other (salted) hashing method for passwords, has wide adoption, and is an official golang/x library.

Be aware that BCrypt causes very high CPU loads, depending on the Workload Factor. We strongly advise reducing the number of requests that use Basic Authorization.

To use BCrypt instead of PBKDF2, set:

algorithm: bcrypt