A library providing U2F authentication

1.2.0 2021-10-26 17:28 UTC

This package is auto-updated.

Last update: 2023-11-22 22:28:33 UTC


A PHP implementation of the FIDO U2F authentication standard. Now also for Web Authentication!

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Web Authenication (commonly called WebAuthn) is a set of technologies to securely authenticate users in web applications. It is most commonly used as a second factor - either biometrics or a hardware device - to supplement password logins. It allows websites to replace the need for a companion app (such as Google Authenticator) or communication protocols (e.g. SMS) with a hardware-based second factor.

This library has its roots in the U2F (universal second factor) protocol that WebAuthn evolved from, and supports both standards. Note that browsers are starting to drop support for the original U2F protocols in favor of WebAuthn; consequently, this library will do the same in the next major version.

This library is designed to allow easy integration of the U2F protocol to an existing user authentication scheme. It handles the parsing and validating all of the raw message formats, and translates them into standard PHP objects.

Note that use of the word "key" throughout this document should be interpreted to mean "FIDO U2F Token". These are often USB "keys" but can also be NFC or Bluetooth devices.

There are two main operations that you will need to understand for a successful integration: registration and authentication. Registration is the act of associating a key that the end-user is physically in posession of with their existing account; authentication is where that key is used to cryptographically sign a message from your application to verify posession of said key.

Additional resources:


You may try all of this at, and see the corresponding code at

The example code is only designed to show how the APIs interact with each other, and intentionally leaves out best practices such as use of routers and dependency inversion containers to keep the examples as simple as possible. See its README for more information.


composer require firehed/u2f

Note: you must not be using the deprecated mbstring.func_overload functionality, which can completely break working on binary data. The library will immediately throw an exception if you have it enabled.


Usage will be described in three parts: setup, registration, and authentication. The code in setup should be used before both registration and authentication.

The API is designed to "fail loudly"; that is, failures will throw an exception, ensuring that return values are always the result of a successful operation. This reduces the need for complex error checking and handling during use, since the whole thing can be simply wrapped in a try/catch block and assume that everything went well if no exceptions are caught.

This guide covers the modern Web Authentication ("WebAuthn") usage and data formats. More information on the legacy U2F protocols are available in versions of this README from v1.1.0 and earlier.


All operations are performed by the U2F Server class, so it needs to be instanciated and configured:

use Firehed\U2F\Server;
$server = new Server('');

The trusted CAs are whitelisted vendors, and must be an array of absolute paths to PEM-formatted CA certs (as strings). Some provider certificates are provided in the CACerts/ directory in the repository root; in a deployed project, these should be available via $PROJECT_ROOT/vendor/firehed/u2f/CACerts/*.pem.

You may also choose to disable CA verification, by calling ->disableCAVerification() instead of setTrustedCAs(). This removes trust in the hardware vendors, but ensures that as new vendors issue tokens, they will be forward-compatible with your website.

The URI provided to the constructor must be the HTTPS domain component of your website. See FIDO U2F AppID and Facet Specification for additional information.


Registering a token to a user's account is a two-step process: generating a challenge, and verifying the response to that challenge.

Generating the challenge

Start by generating a challenge. You will need to store this temporarily (e.g. in a session), then send it to the user:

$challenge = $server->generateChallenge();
$_SESSION['registration_challenge'] = $challenge;

header('Content-type: application/json');
echo json_encode($challenge);

Client-side registration

Create a PublicKeyCredentialCreationOptions data structure, and provide it to the WebAuthn API:

const userId = "some value from your application"
const challenge = "challenge string from above"
const options = {
  rp: {
    name: "Example Site",
  user: {
    id: Uint8Array.from(userId, c => c.charCodeAt(0)),
    name: "",
    displayName: "User Name",
  challenge: Uint8Array.from(challenge, c => c.charCodeAt(0)),
  pubKeyCredParams: [{alg: -7, type: "public-key"}],
  timeout: 60000, // 60 seconds
  authenticatorSelection: {
    authenticatorAttachment: "cross-platform",
    userVerification: "preferred",
  attestation: "direct"

// If the user completes registration, this value will hold the data to POST to your application
const credential = await navigator.credentials.create({
  publicKey: options

// Format the user's `credential` and POST it to your application:

const dataToSend = {
  rawId: new Uint8Array(credential.rawId),
  type: credential.type,
  response: {
    attestationObject: new Uint8Array(credential.response.attestationObject),
    clientDataJSON: new Uint8Array(credential.response.clientDataJSON),

// Pseudocode:
// POST will send JSON.stringify(dataToSend) with an application/json Content-type header
const response = POST('/verifyRegisterChallenge.php', dataToSend)

Parse and verify the response

Using the previously-generated registration request, ask the server to verify the POSTed data. If verification succeeds, you will have a Registration object to associate with the user:

// You should validate that the inbound request has an 'application/json' Content-type header
$rawPostBody = trim(file_get_contents('php://input'));
$data = json_decode($rawPostBody, true);
$response = \Firehed\U2F\WebAuthn\RegistrationResponse::fromDecodedJson($data);

$challenge = $_SESSION['registration_challenge'];
$registration = $server->validateRegistration($challenge, $response);

Persist the $registration

Registrations SHOULD be persisted as a one-to-many relationship with the user, since a user may own multiple keys and may want to associate all of them with their account (e.g. a backup key is kept on a spouse's keychain). It is RECOMMENDED to use (user_id, key_handle) as a unique composite identifier.

-- A schema with roughly this format is ideal
CREATE TABLE token_registrations (
    user_id INTEGER,
    counter INTEGER,
    key_handle TEXT,
    public_key TEXT,
    attestation_certificate TEXT,
    FOREIGN KEY (user_id) REFERENCES users(id),
    UNIQUE(user_id, key_handle)
// This assumes you are connecting to your database with PDO
$query = <<<SQL
INSERT INTO token_registrations (
$stmt = $pdo->prepare($query);
// Note: you may want to base64- or hex-encode the binary values below.
// Doing so is entirely optional.
    ':user_id' => $_SESSION['user_id'],
    ':counter' => $registration->getCounter(),
    ':key_handle' => $registration->getKeyHandleBinary(),
    ':public_key' => $registration->getPublicKey()->getBinary(),
    ':attestation_certificate' => $registration->getAttestationCertificate()->getBinary(),

After doing this, you should add a flag of some kind on the user to indicate that 2FA is enabled, and ensure that they have authenticated with their second factor. Since this is entirely application-specific, it won't be covered here.


Authentication is a similar process as registration: generate challenges to sign for each of the user's registrations, and validate the response when received.

Generating the challenge

Start by generating sign requests. Like with registration, you will need to store them temporarily for verification. After doing so, send them to the user:

$registrations = $user->getU2FRegistrations(); // this must be an array of Registration objects

$challenge = $server->generateChallenge();
$_SESSION['login_challenge'] = $challenge;

// WebAuthn expects a single challenge for all key handles, and the Server generates the requests accordingly.
header('Content-type: application/json');
echo json_encode([
    'challenge' => $challenge,
    'key_handles' => array_map(function (\Firehed\U2F\RegistrationInterface $reg) {
        return $reg->getKeyHandleWeb();
    }, $registrations),

Client-side authentication

Create a PublicKeyCredentialRequestOptions data structure, and provide it to the WebAuthn API:

// This is a basic decoder for the above `getKeyHandleWeb()` format
const fromBase64Web = s => atob(s.replace(/\-/g,'+').replace(/_/g,'/'))

// postedData is the decoded JSON from the above snippet
const challenge = postedData.challenge
const keyHandles = postedData.key_handles
const options = {
  challenge: Uint8Array.from(challenge, c => c.charCodeAt(0)),
  allowCredentials: => ({
    id: Uint8Array.from(fromBase64Web(kh), c => c.charCodeAt(0)),
    type: 'public-key',
    transports: ['usb', 'ble', 'nfc'],
  timeout: 60000,
// If the user authenticates, this value will hold the data to POST to your application
const assertion = await navigator.credentials.get({
  publicKey: options

// Format the user's `assertion` and POST it to your application:

const dataToSend = {
  rawId: new Uint8Array(assertion.rawId),
  type: assertion.type,
  response: {
    authenticatorData: new Uint8Array(assertion.response.authenticatorData),
    clientDataJSON: new Uint8Array(assertion.response.clientDataJSON),
    signature: new Uint8Array(assertion.response.signature),

// Pseudocode, same as above
const response = await POST('/verifyLoginChallenge.php', dataToSend)

Parse and verify the response

Parse the POSTed data into a LoginResponseInterface:

// You should validate that the inbound request has an 'application/json' Content-type header
$rawPostBody = trim(file_get_contents('php://input'));
$data = json_decode($rawPostBody, true);
$response = \Firehed\U2F\WebAuthn\LoginResponse::fromDecodedJson($data);

$registrations = $user->getU2FRegistrations(); // Registration[]
$registration = $server->validateLogin(

Persist the updated $registration

If no exception is thrown, $registration will be a Registration object with an updated counter; you MUST persist this updated counter to wherever the registrations are stored. Failure to do so is insecure and exposes your application to token cloning attacks.

// Again, assumes a PDO connection
$query = <<<SQL
UPDATE token_registrations
SET counter = :counter
WHERE user_id = :user_id
    AND key_handle = :key_handle
$stmt = $pdo->prepare($query);
    ':counter' => $registration->getCounter(),
    ':user_id' => $_SESSION['user_id'],
    ':key_handle' => $registration->getKeyHandleBinary(), // if you are storing base64- or hex- encoded above, do so here as well

If you reach this point, the user has succcessfully authenticated with their second factor. Update their session to indicate this, and allow them to proceeed.


All tests are in the tests/ directory and can be run with vendor/bin/phpunit.