Security and authentication

Authentication is used to keep corporate and network data secure and ensure that only valid, authenticated users can access private information. Your application or its users are required to authenticate their credentials through a qualified, compatible ArcGIS platform such as ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise whenever attempting to:

  • Access private user or corporate-owned information.
  • Create, edit, or publish content.
  • Access premium (payment-secured) web content or services.

You must implement an authentication method in order to grant your app's users access to secured resources. The authentication method you decide to implement might vary based upon the resources required by your application. Esri's preferred authentication methods are:

  • ArcGIS identity (OAuth 2.0): This method obtains user credentials and authentication through an ArcGIS platform sign-on, and the platform responds with an OAuth 2.0 access_token to the client app. The app uses this token in all subsequent requests to the platform. This is the recommended method, and is most commonly used with ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise.

  • API key: This unique identifier is used to authenticate a user, developer, or calling program to an API, although most typically used to authenticate a project rather than a human user.

ArcGIS identity

When your app requires access to user content or if you are distributing your app through ArcGIS Marketplace, you should implement OAuth 2.0 to obtain an ArcGIS identity. This allows individual users to authorize your app to use the content and services to which that user has been granted access.

  • Users sign in with their ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise accounts via OAuth 2.0
  • Tokens expire and require re-authentication or a refresh token call
  • Tokens can be short-lived or long-lived depending on use cases
  • Cross-functional: Can be used with browsers, devices, or servers
  • Tokens can be used to access both:
    • Location services
    • Any ArcGIS Online or Enterprise content shared with the user
Preferred approach for secure build / authenticationApp user MUST have either an ArcGIS Online or Enterprise account
App build method that works with both ArcGIS Online and Enterprise content
More secure than API keys
Most secure method for accessing location services and user content
Paid location services consumption is charged to the ArcGIS identity owner, not the app developer.

Learn more about ArcGIS identity.

Learn more about ArcGIS identity

API keys

API keys allow access to location services with a permanent key that can be restricted to specific services and included in public applications.

  • Permanent access keys
  • Used for accessing specific location services
  • Restricted to specific referrer headers
  • ArcGIS Developer accounts can use API keys to access their own (read only) private content
Developers can quickly write apps using API keys that consume location servicesCannot access private content from an ArcGIS Online organization
Can be used by apps that utilize sign-in / authentication services outside of ArcGIS
Learn more about API keys

Choose an authentication method

The choice of which type of authentication to implement is mostly dependent upon the resources required by your application. Also consider the strengths and limitations of the API or SDK technology on which your application is built.

In general, it is recommended that you use:

Your choice of authentication method is also affected by the API with which you build your application. ArcGIS APIs contain a built in IdentityManger or AuthenticationManager, which provide helper methods and patterns for implementing ArcGIS identity workflows.

Authentication manager

ArcGIS APIs contain a built authentication manager, which provides helper methods and patterns for implementing ArcGIS identity workflows.

The AGSAuthenticationManager class allows you to manage authentication/security related events.

It raises an AGSAuthenticationChallenge whenever an authentication or security issue is encountered anywhere in the API. It also provides a default challenge handler which displays UI containing information about the challenge and presents appropriate options to the user, for instance, requesting a username and password. If you want to handle authentication challenges yourself, for example to display your own custom UI, you can provide your own delegate

It also maintains a cache (in memory) of credentials that have been previously used to satisfy authentication challenges. This allows credentials to be reused, where appropriate, and prevent unnecessary or duplicate challenges from being issued while accessing secure resources from the same security realm. Additionally, the cache can easily be persisted in the keychain (See enableAutoSyncToKeychainWithIdentifier:accessGroup:acrossDevices: on AGSCredentialCache ) so that if the app is restarted, the cache is automatically pre-populated with saved credentials and the user does not have to sign in again.

What's Next?

For more information about Security and Authentication, see the Security and Authentication chapter.