Create Custom Authentication Plugin with NodeJS

Last updated: 7 minutes read.

This tutorial will guide you through the creation of a custom authentication plugin for Tyk with a gRPC based plugin written in NodeJS. For additional information about gRPC, check the official documentation here.

The sample code that we’ll use implements a very simple authentication layer using NodeJS and the proper gRPC bindings generated from our Protocol Buffers definition files.

gRPC Auth Diagram


  • Tyk Gateway: This can be installed using standard package management tools like Yum or APT, or from source code. See here for more installation options.
  • The Tyk CLI utility, which is bundled with our RPM and DEB packages, and can be installed separately from
  • In Tyk 2.8 and upwards the Tyk CLI is part of the gateway binary, you can find more information by running “tyk help bundle”.
  • NodeJS v6.x.x

Create the Plugin

Create NodeJS Project

We will use the NPM tool to initialize our project, follow the steps provided by the init command:

cd ~
mkdir tyk-plugin
cd tyk-plugin
npm init

Now we’ll add the gRPC package for this project:

npm install --save grpc

Install gRPC Tools

Typically to use gRPC and Protocol Buffers you need to use a code generator and generate bindings for the target language that you’re using. For this tutorial we’ll skip this step and use the dynamic loader that’s provided by the NodeJS gRPC library. This mechanism allows a program to load Protocol Buffers definitions directly from .proto files. See this section in the gRPC documentation for more details.

To fetch the required .proto files, you may use an official repository where we keep the Tyk Protocol Buffers definition files:

cd ~/tyk-plugin
git clone

Implement Server

Now we’re ready to implement our gRPC server, create a file called main.js in the project’s directory

Add the following code to main.js.

const grpc = require('grpc'),
  resolve = require('path').resolve

const tyk = grpc.load({
  file: 'coprocess_object.proto',
  root: resolve(__dirname, 'tyk/coprocess/proto')

const listenAddr = '',
    authHeader = 'Authorization'
    validToken = '71f6ac3385ce284152a64208521c592b'

// The dispatch function is called for every hook:
const dispatch = (call, callback) => {
  var obj = call.request
  // We dispatch the request based on the hook name, we pass obj.request which is the coprocess.Object:
  switch (obj.hook_name) {
    case 'MyPreMiddleware':
      preMiddleware(obj, callback)
    case 'MyAuthMiddleware':
      authMiddleware(obj, callback)
      callback(null, obj)

const preMiddleware = (obj, callback) => {
  var req = obj.request

  // req is the coprocess.MiniRequestObject, we inject a header using the "set_headers" field:
  req.set_headers = {
    'mycustomheader': 'mycustomvalue'

  // Use this callback to finish the operation, sending back the modified object:
  callback(null, obj)

const authMiddleware = (obj, callback) => {
  var req = obj.request

  // We take the value from the "Authorization" header:
  var token = req.headers[authHeader]

  // The token should be attached to the object metadata, this is used internally for key management:
  obj.metadata = {
    token: token

  // If the request token doesn't match the  "validToken" constant we return the call:
  if (token != validToken) {
    callback(null, obj)

  // At this point the token is valid and a session state object is initialized and attached to the coprocess.Object:
  var session = new tyk.SessionState()
  session.id_extractor_deadline = + 100000000000
  obj.session = session
  callback(null, obj)

main = function() {
  server = new grpc.Server()
  server.addService(tyk.Dispatcher.service, {
      dispatch: dispatch
  server.bind(listenAddr, grpc.ServerCredentials.createInsecure())


To run the gRPC server run:

node main.js

The gRPC server will listen on port 5555 (see the listenAddr constant). In the next steps we’ll setup the plugin bundle and modify Tyk to connect to our gRPC server.

Bundle the Plugin

We need to create a manifest file within the tyk-plugin directory. This file contains information about our plugin and how we expect it to interact with the API that will load it. This file should be named manifest.json and needs to contain the following:

  "custom_middleware": {
    "driver": "grpc",
    "auth_check": {
      "name": "MyAuthMiddleware",
      "path": "",
      "raw_body_only": false,
      "require_session": false
  • The custom_middleware block contains the middleware settings like the plugin driver we want to use (driver) and the hooks that our plugin will expose. We use the auth_check hook for this tutorial. For other hooks see here.
  • The name field references the name of the function that we implement in our plugin code - MyAuthMiddleware. The implemented dispatcher uses a switch statement to handle this hook, and calls the authMiddleware function in main.js.
  • The path field is the path to the middleware component.
  • The raw_body_only field
  • The require_session field, if set to true gives you access to the session object. It will be supplied as a session variable to your middleware processor function

To bundle our plugin run the following command in the tyk-plugin directory. Check your tyk-cli install path first:

/opt/tyk-gateway/utils/tyk-cli bundle build -y

For Tyk 2.8 use:

/opt/tyk-gateway/bin/tyk bundle build -y

A plugin bundle is a packaged version of the plugin. It may also contain a cryptographic signature of its contents. The -y flag tells the Tyk CLI tool to skip the signing process in order to simplify the flow of this tutorial.

For more information on the Tyk CLI tool, see here.

You should now have a file in the tyk-plugin directory.

Publish the Plugin

To publish the plugin, copy or upload to a local web server like Nginx, Apache or storage like Amazon S3. For this tutorial we’ll assume you have a web server listening on localhost and accessible through http://localhost.

Configure Tyk

You will need to modify the Tyk global configuration file tyk.conf to use gRPC plugins. The following block should be present in this file:

"coprocess_options": {
    "enable_coprocess": true,
    "coprocess_grpc_server": "tcp://localhost:5555"
"enable_bundle_downloader": true,
"bundle_base_url": "http://localhost/bundles/",
"public_key_path": ""

tyk.conf Options

  • enable_coprocess: This enables the plugin.
  • coprocess_grpc_server: This is the URL of our gRPC server.
  • enable_bundle_downloader: This enables the bundle downloader.
  • bundle_base_url: This is a base URL that will be used to download the bundle. You should replace the bundle_base_url with the appropriate URL of the web server that’s serving your plugin bundles. For now HTTP and HTTPS are supported but we plan to add more options in the future (like pulling directly from S3 buckets).
  • public_key_path: Modify public_key_path in case you want to enforce the cryptographic check of the plugin bundle signatures. If the public_key_path isn’t set, the verification process will be skipped and unsigned plugin bundles will be loaded normally.

Configure an API Definition

There are two important parameters that we need to add or modify in the API definition. The first one is custom_middleware_bundle which must match the name of the plugin bundle file. If we keep this with the default name that the Tyk CLI tool uses, it will be

"custom_middleware_bundle": ""

Assuming the bundle_base_url is http://localhost/bundles/, Tyk will use the following URL to download our file:


The second parameter is specific to this tutorial, and should be used in combination with use_keyless to allow an API to authenticate against our plugin:

"use_keyless": false,
"enable_coprocess_auth": true

enable_coprocess_auth will instruct the Tyk gateway to authenticate this API using the associated custom authentication function that’s implemented by our plugin.

Configuration via the Tyk Dashboard

To attach the plugin to an API, from the Advanced Options tab in the API Designer enter in the Plugin Bundle ID field.

Plugin Options

We also need to modify the authentication mechanism that’s used by the API. From the Core Settings tab in the API Designer select Use Custom Authentication (Python, CoProcess, and JSVM plugins) from the Target Details - Authentication Mode drop-down list.

Advanced Options

Testing the Plugin

At this point we have our test HTTP server ready to serve the plugin bundle and the configuration with all the required parameters. The final step is to start or restart the Tyk Gateway (this may vary depending on how you set up Tyk):

service tyk-gateway start

A simple CURL request will be enough for testing our custom authentication middleware.

This request will trigger an authentication error:

curl http://localhost:8080/my-api/my-path -H 'Authorization: badtoken'

This will trigger a successful authentication. We’re using the token that’s specified in our server implementation (see line 57 in Server.cs):

curl http://localhost:8080/my-api/my-path -H 'Authorization: abc123'

We also have a GitHub repository that includes tests and authentication middleware.

What’s Next?

In this tutorial we learned how Tyk gRPC plugins work. For a production-level setup we suggest the following:

  • Configure an appropriate web server and path to serve your plugin bundles.