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Updated on September 23, 2020

Authentication and authorization for JSON-RPC

Authentication identifies a user, and authorization verifies user access to requested JSON-RPC methods. Hyperledger Besu verifies users using JSON Web Tokens (JWTs). JWTs are also used in multi-tenancy to verify tenant data access.

Besu supports two mutually exclusive authentication methods:

Besu creates JWTs internally with username and password authentication, and externally with JWT public key authentication.

Using JSON-RPC authentication and authorization with MetaMask is not supported.


To prevent interception of authentication credentials and authenticated tokens, make authenticated requests over HTTPS. We recommended production deployments run behind a network layer that provides SSL termination. Besu does not provide a HTTPS connection natively.

Username and password authentication

Enable authentication from the command line. Supply the credentials file and send a request to the /login endpoint using the username and password. The /login endpoint creates a JWT for making permitted JSON-RPC requests.

Using public key authentication disables the /login endpoint.

1. Create the credentials file

The toml credentials file defines user details and the JSON-RPC methods they can access.

Sample Credentials File

password = "$2a$10$l3GA7K8g6rJ/Yv.YFSygCuI9byngpEzxgWS9qEg5emYDZomQW7fGC"

password = "$2b$10$6sHt1J0MVUGIoNKvJiK33uaZzUwNmMmJlaVLkIwinkPiS1UBnAnF2"

Each user requiring JSON-RPC access the configuration file lists the:

  • Username. Users. is mandatory and followed by the username. That is, replace <username> in [Users.<username>] with the username.
  • Hash of the user password. Use the password hash subcommand to generate the hash.
  • JSON-RPC permissions.
  • Optional. The tenant’s Orion public key using privacyPublicKey. Only used for multi-tenancy.

password hash Subcommand

besu password hash --password=pegasys

2. Enable authentication

To require authentication for the JSON-RPC API, use the --rpc-http-authentication-enabled or --rpc-ws-authentication-enabled options.

To specify the credentials file, use the --rpc-http-authentication-credentials-file and --rpc-ws-authentication-credentials-file options.

3. Generate an authentication token

To generate an authentication token, make a request to the /login endpoint with your username and password. Specify the HTTP port or the WS port to generate a token to authenticate over HTTP or WS respectively. HTTP and WS requires a different token.


curl -X POST --data '{"username":"username1","password":"pegasys"}' <JSON-RPC-http-hostname:http-port>/login
curl -X POST --data '{"username":"username1","password":"pegasys"}' http://localhost:8545/login
curl -X POST --data '{"username":"username1","password":"pegasys"}' <JSON-RPC-ws-hostname:ws-port>/login
curl -X POST --data '{"username":"username1","password":"pegasys"}' http://localhost:8546/login

Authentication tokens expire five minutes after generation. If you require access after the token expires, you need to generate a new token.

JWT public key authentication

Enable authentication from the command line and supply the external JWT provider’s public key.

JWT public authentication disables the Besu /login endpoint, meaning username and password authentication will not work.

1. Generate a private and public key pair


This step is for demonstration or testing purposes only. In a production environment the external JWT provider supplies the public key file.

The private and accompanying public key files must be in .pem format.

The key must use an RSA private key of at least 2048 bits.

Sample using OpenSSL

openssl genrsa -out privateKey.pem 2048
openssl rsa -pubout -in privateKey.pem -pubout -out publicKey.pem

2. Create the JWT

Create the JWT using an external tool.


The JWT must use the RS256 algorithm

Each payload for the JWT contains:

Example payload

  "permissions": ["*:*"],
  "privacyPublicKey": "2UKH3VJThkOoKskrLFpwoxCnnRARyobV1bEdgseFHTs=",
  "exp": 1600899999002

The following example uses the website to create a JWT for testing purposes.

Create a JSON Web Token

3. Enable authentication

To require authentication for the JSON-RPC API, use the --rpc-http-authentication-enabled or --rpc-ws-authentication-enabled options.

To specify the JWT provider’s public key file to use with the externally created JWT, use the --rpc-http-authentication-jwt-public-key-file or --rpc-ws-authentication-jwt-public-key-file options.

JSON-RPC permissions

Each user has a list of permissions strings defining the methods they can access. To give access to:

  • All API methods, specify ["*:*"].
  • All API methods in an API group, specify ["<api_group>:*"]. For example, ["eth:*"].
  • Specific API methods, specify ["<api_group>:<method_name>"]. For example, ["admin:peers"].

With authentication enabled, to explicitly specify a user cannot access any methods, include the user with an empty permissions list ([]). Users with an empty permissions list and users not included in the credentials file cannot access any JSON-RPC methods.

Using an authentication token to make requests

Specify the authentication token as a Bearer token in the JSON-RPC request header.


In the Authorization tab in the TYPE drop-down list, select Bearer Token and specify the token (generated either externally or by the login request).


Specify the Bearer in the header.


curl -X POST -H 'Authorization: Bearer <JWT_TOKEN>' -d '{"jsonrpc":"2.0","method":"<API_METHOD>","params":[],"id":1}' <JSON-RPC-http-hostname:port>
curl -X POST -H 'Authorization: Bearer eyJ0eXAiOiJKV1QiLCJhbGciOiJSUzI1NiJ9.eyJwZXJtaXNzaW9ucyI6WyIqOioiXSwidXNlcm5hbWUiOiJ1c2VyMiIsImlhdCI6MTU1MDQ2MTQxNiwiZXhwIjoxNTUwNDYxNzE2fQ.WQ1mqpqzRLHaoL8gOSEZPvnRs_qf6j__7A3Sg8vf9RKvWdNTww_vRJF1gjcVy-FFh96AchVnQyXVx0aNUz9O0txt8VN3jqABVWbGMfSk2T_CFdSw5aDjuriCsves9BQpP70Vhj-tseaudg-XU5hCokX0tChbAqd9fB2138zYm5M' -d '{"jsonrpc":"2.0","method":"net_listening","params":[],"id":1}' http://localhost:8545
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