Suppose you want to programmatically access SharePoint Online from Node.js, Ruby, Java, [insert your favorite platform here],…. SharePoint offers data access APIs, but how do you authenticate? SharePoint Online uses claims based authentication. Documentation about programmatic authentication is fairly limited and restricted to .NET solutions.
Fortunately there is this great post from Wictor Wilén, providing a working .NET example that connects to SharePoint Online. It requires the SharePoint Client Object Model and Windows Identity Foundation SDK and Runtime (WIF) to run.
OK, but can we use a platform other than .NET? In the end it’s all just data and http under the hood…
Fiddler to the rescue! By running the sample application and using Fiddler to look at the http traffic under the hood, we can find out how the authentication sequence works.
It’s actually quite simple:
Step 1: Send SAML Request to STS
The application POSTs an SAML Request Security Token message to the Microsoft Online Security Token Service (STS), located at the following address:
The Request Security Token message should contain username, password of a Microsoft Live account and the url of your SPO site. Here is a template that you can use to build the XML message.
Step 2: Receive SAML Response
If the credentials are valid, the STS will respond with a Request Security Token Response message. Look for the BinarySecurityToken tag and you’ll find the Security Token:
Extract the token value (including ‘t=’) for the next step.
Step 3: Send the Security Token to SharePoint Online
After you received the Security Token from STS, you need to POST the Security token to SPO:
E-accounts need to include a user-agent header. Your POST should look something like this:
POST http://yourdomain.sharepoint.com/_forms/default.aspx?wa=wsignin1.0 HTTP/1.1
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; MSIE 9.0; Windows NT 6.1; Win64; x64; Trident/5.0)
Step 4: Receive the authentication cookies
After SPO has validated the Security Token, it will return 2 authentication cookies in the HTTP header: FedAuth and rtFa.
Extract the values of both cookies.
Step 5: Send requests including authentication cookies
For each subsequent request from your application to SPO, you must include the FedAuth and rtFa cookie in your request headers. Like this:
Cookie: FedAuth=77u/PD....LzwvU1A+; rtFA=0U1zw+TnL......AAAA==
This will satisfy SPO to process your request, whether it is a request for a page, a document, a web service or ListData service.
And that’s all there is to it!
Thanks for reading.