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How to construct a HTTP request to an endpoint with HTTP basic authentication

The HTTP basic authentication is a mechanism commonly used by web servers to authenticate the sender of a HTTP request. Such a mechanism is usually used to guard server endpoints that are meant to be accessed programmatically.

Almost every new project that I got my hands on required me to create client side coding for accessing server endpoints that use HTTP basic authentication for authenticating the HTTP request sender.

To have a quick reference on how to construct a HTTP request to an endpoint with HTTP basic authentication, I created this post to as a documentation. The steps are agnostic to any programming languages.

Generating the HTTP Basic Authentication string payload from a username and password pair

The first step to constructing the HTTP request to an endpoint with HTTP basic authentication is to generate a string payload from a username and password pair.

Assuming that we have the username and password in the variables username and password, we typically go through the following steps to produce the string payload:

  1. Concatenate username and password with a colon in between:
    ucolonp = username + ':' + password
    
  2. Convert ucolonp to base 64 encoding format and prepend the result with the string 'Basic ':
    payload = 'Basic ' + base64encode(ucolonp)
    

Alternatively, we can collapse the above steps into the following code execution:

payload = 'Basic ' + base64encode(username + ':' + password)

Most programming languages included some library functions to help us with encoding a string in Base64 format. You should replace base64encode with the respective library function call in the programming language of your choice.

Appending the HTTP Basic Authentication string payload as a HTTP header in the HTTP request

Once you have the Base64 encoded string payload, the last step will be to include it as a HTTP header in the HTTP request that you are going to send to the server. The HTTP header starts with the string "Authorization: " followed by the payload that we had generated earlier.

Typically, the HTTP header is included as a key value pair to a function call, with the string "Authorization" as the key and the base 64 encoded string payload as the value. In such a case, the colon is usually omitted:

httpRequest.addHeader('Authorization', payload)

You should replace the httpRequest.addHeader with the respective library function call in the programming language of your choice.

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About Clivant

Clivant a.k.a Chai Heng enjoys composing software and building systems to serve people. He owns techcoil.com and hopes that whatever he had written and built so far had benefited people.

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