Enhanced HTTP Security for PB2017R3 – OAuth 2.0

Enhanced HTTP Security 
for PB2017R3 – OAuth 2.0

PowerBuilder 2017 R2, released in January 2018, added TLS 1.2 support in the new HTTP Client and RESTful Client components. Both objects have a property named SecureProtocol that can be set to a value of five (5) to ensure only TLS 1.2 protocol is utilized. TLS 1.2 takes advantage of the use of the higher SHA-256 encryption standard and the client and server’s ability to specify the accepted hash and signature algorithms. TLS 1.2 also supports authenticated encryption, TLS extensions, and AES cipher suites.

PowerBuilder 2017 R3, released in July 2018, upgrades PowerBuilder to support the new OAuth 2.0 specification – often just commonly referred to as OAuth2. With the inclusion of OAuth2 features, application developers and their resulting applications can take advantage of the security features of OAuth2.  Before the average developer utilizes the new OAuth2 features of PowerBuilder, it helps if you understand the concepts behind the OAuth2 implementation.

OAuth2 is an authorization framework that enables applications to obtain limited access to user accounts on an HTTP service.  Many popular third-party HTTP services use OAuth2, such as GitHub, Google, Facebook, etc. – just to name a few.  OAuth2 works by delegating user authentication to the service that hosts the user account and authorizing third-party applications to access that user account. The OAuth2 system provides authorization flows for web, mobile and desktop applications. It does this by using four OAuth2 roles, which are: Resource Owner, Client, Resource Server and Authorization Server. The OAuth2 framework defines these roles as:

Resource Owner is the user who authorizes an application to access their account.Resource Server is the server hosting protected data (for example Google hosting your profile and personal information).Client is any application requesting access to a resource server. Before it may do so though, it must be authorized by the user, and the authorization must be validated.Authorization Server is a server issuing access token to the client. This token will be used for the client to request the resource server. This server can be the same as the authorization server (same physical server and same application) as this is often the case.

 

High Level Flow

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PowerBuilder’s HTTP Client Evolution

PowerBuilder’s HTTP Client Evolution

PowerBuilder’s prowess to be able to enable Win32 and Win64 native applications to directly interact with the Internet universe started when Sybase added the iNet object class to the PowerBuilder System Class area.  The iNet object object’s methods allowed native PB apps to link out to a specific URL via the LinkToURL command, send data to a specific URL via the PostURL command and/or read data from a URL via the GetURL command. While this is still in PowerBuilder 2017 R2 for backwards compatibility, its functionality limitations and security vulnerabilities (only supports up to TLS 1.1) definitely makes it worthwhile to explore the new HTTPClient object, which we will discuss in this blog.

Figure 1- iNet object as seen in the PB IDE's Object Browser

 

In modern-day Internet interactions, applications often require more advanced functionality within their URL processing and support for at least the TLS 1.2 protocol is a must. Thus, starting in PB 2017 R2, Appeon added the HTTPClient object to the PowerBuilder’s System Class area. The HTTPClient object is designed to take over from the iNet object and to provide key advanced features that were requested of the iNet object even way back in the Sybase days of PowerBuilder but were never implemented. Some of these key advanced Internet features requests were to: set Request Header(s), read a Response object’s Header or Body, get the Response Code from a Request, process binary data, handle JSON data, and of course support TLS 1.2.

You may be wondering why Appeon didn’t just enhance the iNet object?  One of the key reasons for introducing a new HTTPClient object class rather than revamping the existing iNet object was to avoid iNet object class behavioral changes that could break existing apps when migrating to newer PowerBuilder releases. The other key reason was an entirely new implementation was necessary so that the RESTClient object (covered in another blog) could make use of the HTTPClient.  This was important design consideration by Appeon such that PowerBuilder would have a modularized and extensible architecture.

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