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OpenID Connect and Okta

OpenID Connect is a simple identity layer on top of the OAuth 2.0 protocol, which allows computing clients to verify the identity of an end user based on the authentication performed by an authorization server, as well as to obtain basic profile information about the end user in an interoperable manner. In technical terms, OpenID Connect specifies a RESTful HTTP API, using JSON as a data format.

OpenID Connect allows a range of clients to request and receive information about authenticated sessions and end users, including web-based clients, mobile apps, and JavaScript clients. The specification suite is extensible, supporting optional features such as encryption of identity data, discovery of OpenID Providers, and session management.

Okta is certified for OpenID Connect for Basic, Implicit, Hybrid, and Configuration Publishing.

Authentication Basics with OAuth 2.0 and OpenID Connect

OAuth 2.0 is an authorization framework for delegated access to APIs, and OpenID Connect is an SSO protocol for authenticating end users and asserting their identity. OpenID Connect extends OAuth 2.0:

  • Provides a signed id_token for the client and a UserInfo endpoint from which you can retrieve user attributes.
  • Provides access to the Okta Authorization Server.
  • Provides a standard set of scopes and claims for identities including profile, email, address, and phone.

OpenID Architecture Diagram

Okta is the identity provider responsible for verifying the identity of users and applications that exist in an organization’s directory, and issuing ID Tokens upon successful authentication of those users and applications.

The basic authentication flow with Okta as your identity provider:

  1. The application sends a request to Okta.
  2. Okta authenticates the client.
  3. Okta authenticates the user.
  4. Okta approves or denies the requested scopes.
  5. Okta mints a token and sends it in the response.
  6. The application validates the ID Token’s integrity. For more information, see Validating ID Tokens.

Important: Okta uses public key cryptography to sign tokens and verify that they are valid. See the last section of Validating ID Tokens for more information on the necessary logic you must have in your application to ensure it’s always updated with the latest keys.

Authorization Servers

Okta provides two types of authorization servers:

  • The Okta Authorization Server requires no configuration, and supports SSO use cases.
  • The Custom Authorization Server is configurable. It supports the use of OpenID Connect with Okta’s API Access Management, an Okta feature that helps you secure access to your API.

Dynamic Client Registration

Okta provides dynamic client registration, operations to register and manage client applications for use with Okta’s OAuth 2.0 and OpenID Connect endpoints. You can also perform these operations in the Apps API.


Tokens issued by Okta contain claims, which are statements about a subject (user). For example, the claim can be about a name, identity, key, group, or privilege. The claims in a security token are dependent upon the type of token, the type of credential used to authenticate the user, and the application configuration.

The claims requested by the profile, email, address, and phone scope values are returned from the UserInfo Endpoint, as described in the OpenID spec Section 5.3.2, when a response_type value is used that results in an Access Token being issued. However, when no Access Token is issued (which is the case for the response_type value id_token), the resulting Claims are returned in the ID Token.


OpenID Connect uses scope values to specify what access privileges are being requested for Access Tokens. The scopes associated with Access Tokens determine which claims are available when they are used to access the OIDC userinfo endpoint. The following scopes are supported:

Property Description Required
openid Identifies the request as an OpenID Connect request. Yes
profile Requests access to the end user’s default profile claims. No
email Requests access to the email and email_verified claims. No
phone Requests access to the phone_number and phone_number_verified claims. No
address Requests access to the address claim. No
groups Requests access to the groups claim. No
offline_access Requests a Refresh Token, used to obtain more access tokens without re-prompting the user for authentication. No

Scope Values

  • openid is required for any OpenID request connect flow. If no openid scope value is present, the request may be a valid OAuth 2.0 request, but it’s not an OpenID Connect request.
  • profile requests access to these default profile claims: namefamily_name, given_namemiddle_namenicknamepreferred_usernameprofile,   picturewebsitegenderbirthdatezoneinfo,locale, and updated_at.
  • offline_access can only be requested in combination with a response_type containing code. If the response_type does not contain code, offline_access will be ignored.
  • For more information about offline_access, see the OIDC spec.

ID Token

OpenID Connect introduces an ID Token which is a JSON web token (JWT) that contains information about an authentication event and claims about the authenticated user that clients can rely on.

Clients can use any of the following sequences of operations to obtain an ID Token:

  • Basic, or Authorization code flow – the client obtains an authorization code from the authorization server’s authentication endpoint and uses it to obtain an ID token and an access token from the authorization server’s Token endpoint.
  • Implicit flow – the client obtains an ID token and optionally an Access Token directly from the authorization server’s authentication endpoint.
  • Hybrid flow – a combination of the other two flows.

Clients should always validate ID Tokens to ensure their integrity.

The ID Tokens returned by the authentication endpoint (implicit flow) or the Token endpoint (authorization code flow) are identical, except that in the implicit flow, the nonce parameter is required (and hence must have been included in the request), and the at_hash parameter is required if the response includes an Access Token but prohibited if the response does not include an Access Token.

The ID Token (id_token) consists of three period-separated, base64URL-encoded JSON segments: a header, the payload, and the signature.

ID Token Header

  "alg": "RS256",
  "kid": "45js03w0djwedsw"

ID Token Payload

  "ver": 1,
  "sub": "00uid4BxXw6I6TV4m0g3",
  "iss": "https://rain.okta1.com:1802",
  "aud": "uAaunofWkaDJxukCFeBx",
  "iat": 1449624026,
  "exp": 1449627626,
  "amr": [
  "jti": "ID.4eAWJOCMB3SX8XewDfVR",
  "auth_time": 1449624026,
  "at_hash": "cpqKfdQA5eH891Ff5oJr_Q",
  "name" :"John Doe",
  "preferred_username": "john.doe@example.com",
  "address" : { "street_address": "123 Hollywood Blvd.",
  		"locality": "Los Angeles",
  		"region": "CA",
  		"postal_code": "90210",
  		"country": "US"
  "phone_number":"+1 (425) 555-1212"

ID Token Signature

This is the digital signature that Okta signs, using the public key identified by the kid property in the header section.

ID Token Claims

The header and payload sections contain claims.

Claims in the header section

Claims in the header are always returned.

Property Description DataType Example
alg Identifies the digital signature algorithm used. This is always be RS256. String “RS256”
kid Identifies the public-key used to verify the id_token. The corresponding public-key can be found as a part of the 

well-known configuration’s jwks_uri value. String “a5dfwef1a-0ead3f5223_w1e”

Claims in the payload section

Claims in the payload are either base claims, independent of scope (always returned), or dependent on scope (not always returned).

Base claims (always present)
Property Description DataType Example
ver The semantic version of the ID Token. Integer 1
jti A unique identifier for this ID Token for debugging and revocation purposes. String “Tlenfse93dgkaksginv”
iss The Issuer Identifier of the response. String “https://{yourOktaDomain}.com”
sub The subject. A unique identifier for the user. String “00uk1u7AsAk6dZL3z0g3”
aud Identifies the audience that this ID Token is intended for. It must be one of the OAuth 2.0 client IDs of your application. String “6joRGIzNCaJfdCPzRjlh”
iat The time the ID Token was issued, represented in Unix time (seconds). Integer 1311280970
exp The time the ID Token expires, represented in Unix time (seconds). Integer 1311280970
auth_time The time the end user was authenticated, represented in Unix time (seconds). Integer 1311280970
amr JSON array of strings that are identifiers for 

authentication methods used in the authentication. Array [ “pwd”, “mfa”, “otp”, “kba”, “sms”, “swk”, “hwk” ]
idp The id of the Identity Provider that the user authenticated to Okta with. (Used for Social Auth and Inbound SAML). If the IdP is an Okta org, the value is the Okta OrgId. String “00ok1u7AsAkrwdZL3z0g3”
nonce Value used to associate a Client session with an ID Token, and to mitigate replay attacks. String “n-0S6_WzA2Mj”
at_hash The base64URL-encoded first 128-bits of the SHA-256 hash of the Access Token. This is only returned if an Access Token is also returned with an ID Token. String “MTIzNDU2Nzg5MDEyMzQ1Ng”
c_hash The base64URL-encoded first 128-bits of the SHA-256 hash of the authorization code. This is only returned if an authorization code is also returned with the ID Token. String “DE5MzQ1TIzlr30gokT2UDN”
Scope-dependent claims (not always returned)
Property Required Scope Description DataType Example
name profile User’s full name in displayable form including all name parts, possibly including titles and suffixes, ordered according to the user’s locale and preferences. String “John Doe”
preferred_username profile The Okta login (username) for the end user. String “john.doe@example.com”
nickname profile Casual name of the user that may or may not be the same as the given_name. String “Jimmy”
preferred_username profile The chosen login (username) for the end user. By default this is the Okta username. String “john.doe@example.com”
given_name profile Given name(s) or first name(s) of the user. Note that in some cultures, people can have multiple given names; all can be present, with the names being separated by space characters. String “John”
middle_name profile Middle name(s) of the user. Note that in some cultures, people can have multiple middle names; all can be present, with the names being separated by space characters. Also note that in some cultures, middle names are not used. String “James”
family_name profile Surname(s) or last name(s) of the user. Note that in some cultures, people can have multiple family names or no family name; all can be present, with the names being separated by space characters. String “Doe”
profile profile URL of the user’s profile page. String “https://profile.wordpress.com/john.doe”
zoneinfo profile String representing the user’s time zone. String “America/Los_Angeles”
locale profile Language and 

ISO3166‑1 country code in uppercase, separated by a dash. String “en-US”
updated_at profile Time the user’s information was last updated, represented in Unix time (seconds). Integer 1311280970
email email User’s preferred email address. The resource provider must not rely upon this value being unique. String “john.doe@example.com”
email_verified email True if the user’s email address (Okta primary email) has been verified; otherwise false. boolean true
address address User’s preferred postal address. The value of the address member is a JSON structure containing street_address, locality, region, postal_code, and country. JSON structure { “street_address”: “123 Hollywood Blvd.”, “locality”: “Los Angeles”, “region”: “CA”, “postal_code”: “90210”, “country”: “US” }
phone_number phone User’s preferred telephone number in E.164 format. String “+1 (425) 555-1212”
groups groups The groups that the user is a member of that also match the ID Token group filter of the client app. List [“MyGroup1”, “MyGroup2”, “MyGroup3”]

Be aware of the following before you work with scope-dependent claims:

  • To protect against arbitrarily large numbers of groups matching the group filter, the groups claim has a limit of 100. If more than 100 groups match the filter, then the request fails. Expect that this limit may change in the future. For more information about configuring an app for OpenID Connect, including group claims, see Using OpenID Connect.
  • Important: Scope-dependent claims are returned differently depending on the values in response_type and the scopes requested:

    Response Type Claims Returned in ID Token Claims Returned from the Userinfo Endpoint
    code N/A N/A
    token N/A N/A
    id_token Claims associated with requested scopes. N/A
    id_token code Claims associated with requested scopes. N/A
    id_token token email if email scope is requested; name and preferred_username if profile scope is requested Claims associated with the requested scopes
    code id_token token email if email scope is requested; name and preferred_username if profile scope is requested Claims associated with the requested scopes
  • The full set of claims for the requested scopes is available via the /oauth2/v1/userinfo endpoint. Call this endpoint using the Access Token.

More Information

For more information about Okta and OpenID Connect, see: