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What is Amazon Cognito?
For successful sign-in to a web application, a valid username and password combination is normally required. More ways to ensure user authentication are included in modern authentication flows. This is no exception while using AWS, thanks to AWS Cognito’s capabilities and functionalities.
The Amazon Cognito service is intended to provide APIs and infrastructure for key user management features such as authentication, authorization, and managing user repositories with various operations for your web and mobile apps.
It has two main components: User Pool and Identity Pool. User pools provide sign-up and sign-in options for your app users. They act as user directories. Identity pools provide access to other AWS services like AWS S3 and AWS DynamoDB.
You can either use these components separately or together. In this blog, we will be concentrating on User Pool only.
Why use Amazon Cognito?
Amazon Cognito makes it simple to add user sign-up, sign-in, and access control to your web and mobile apps. It provides a complete solution for user authentication. Its main features are the storage of usernames and passwords, the management of sessions, and the provision of forgotten password functionality.
All you have to do is connect to its endpoints. That’s pretty awesome right. Let’s say an app requires a secure user login. Instead of coding a UI page and integrating backend services to it, why not use a well-known service from a large company like AWS to manage our users and their credentials?
Features of AWS Cognito
AWS relieves you, the developer, of the responsibility of ensuring that your database is properly protected and passwords are securely stored. In fact, you don’t even have access to the passwords of the users. This is excellent in terms of security. Cognito also stores passwords that comply with major compliance standards such as HIPPA. With this Protected Health Information can be stored in Amazon Cognito.
OAuth, SAML, and More
Amazon Cognito not only securely stores your data, but also provides all of the functionality required for an OAuth integration. There is no need to write custom code to manage user sessions and Cognito authentication tokens. The Amazon Cognito APIs allow you to simply issue calls to Cognito to validate or obtain new tokens. It also handles password reset requests, account validation, and pretty much any other user maintenance operation you can think of. It allows you to validate not only emails but also phone numbers using AWS SNS.
Aside from OAuth, you can also integrate with other identity providers. Cognito allows you to easily add additional sign-in options for your users, from Facebook to Google and even SAML. Customizing all of these integrations takes time, and Cognito provides you with a consistent experience to present to your users. To get a better understanding of both of the terminologies we suggest you go through the topic difference between SAML and OAuth.
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The combination of Amazon Cognito and AWS API Gateway is a common use case. Setting up your API to validate against a Cognito pool takes no time at all. This validation occurs even before your API forwards the call to the next function, which helps to reduce the cost of having to validate sessions. This makes securing your endpoints a piece of cake.
When you consider all of the features listed above, you will realize that you can quickly and easily set up authentication in your application. Simply configure your Cognito Pool, connect to the APIs, and you’re ready to go. This is extremely useful when prototyping an application or focusing on providing functionality in your application. It helps you in choosing to focus on what is important – the features that will provide unique value.
Cognito’s Hosted UI is another feature. You simply enable the feature, and a page for your users to log in becomes available. You now have a page that conforms to the most recent OAuth standards with minimal effort. The disadvantage of this approach is that the customizability and styling options for the page are rather limited.
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Cognito User Pool
In Amazon Cognito, a user pool is similar to a user directory. Your users can sign in to your web or mobile app using it. Users can also sign in via social identity providers such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and SAML identity providers.
The user pool provides the following services:
- Sign-in and sign-up services.
- Customizable web UI to sign-up users that is built-in.
- Social sign-in with Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple, as well as sign-in with SAML identity providers from your user pool.
- User directory and user profile management.
- Multi-factor authentication (MFA), checks for compromised credentials, account takeover protection, and phone and email verification are all security features.
- User migration and customized workflows through AWS Lambda triggers.
Amazon Cognito generates JSON web tokens (JWT) after successfully authenticating a user, which you can use to secure and authorize access to your own APIs or exchange for AWS credentials.
User pools and identity pools are the two main components of Amazon Cognito. Identity pools provide AWS credentials to your users and/or provide other AWS services. You can configure an identity pool to exchange user pool tokens for AWS credentials to allow users in your user pool to access AWS resources.
Want to learn about the AWS Security token service, Check out our AWS STS blog!
AWS Cognito Hands-on
Step 1: Sign in to the Amazon Cognito console by giving correct credentials
Step 2: After searching for the Cognito service in the dashboard, Select manage user pools
Step 3: Select Create a user pool
Step 4: Choose a name for your user pool and click on the Review defaults button
Step 5: On the review page, click on create pool
Then a message will appear confirming the user pool is created.
Later if you want to view the user pool that you created, you can just navigate to ‘manage user pool in the Cognito service.
Amazon Cognito Pricing
The pricing for Amazon AWS Cognito follows the pay-as-you-go concept just like many other AWS services. No minimum charges are levied.
If you use Amazon Cognito Identity to create a User Pool, you only pay for monthly active users (MAUs). A user is considered an MAU if an identity operation involving that user occurs within a calendar month, such as sign-up, sign-in, token refresh, or password change. You are not charged for additional sessions or inactive users during that calendar month.
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The Amazon Cognito service is useful when an app developer doesn’t have the time or resources to invest in building a login page UI and maintain user credentials in a database. It also provides several features such as MFA (Multi-factor authentication), OTPs, prompts fingerprints or security questions. Phone numbers can be validated too.
You are provided with an SDK – Amazon Cognito SDK where with only a few lines of code, you can set up a working user log-in page for your app. If your app already has a solution for user authentication, you can also migrate to Amazon Cognito with only a few steps. You can also prompt the users to sign up through Google, Facebook, Amazon and other identity providers also.
With all these benefits, the cost of the first 50000 MAF (Monthly active users is free). And it can scale itself as the user pool expands for a minimal amount per user after the free tier limit. So, this AWS service is very ideal for app developers with budget constraints and if they want their app to get going as soon as possible.
Hope you found this AWS Cognito tutorial useful. Do let us know in the comments below.
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