Ramblings on code, startups, and everything in between
With Symfony2 the firewall comes with a built in feature: impersonate a user. We’ve been using impersonation as an admin tool for about 5 years as it is very effective for troubleshooting. When a user files a support ticket saying something isn’t showing properly to them or they are getting random errors it is very easy to just quickly switch to that user and see what they are seeing. As with all features, this one may not be appropriate for your application if your user expects no administrative staff to have access to his or her account.
While Symfony’s built in impersonation feature is a great step up from having to build it by hand, it still can be a bit more friendly. We’ve seen two additional functions we wanted the impersonation to handle. First, we wanted it to on exit from impersonating the user returns the user to where the user first started to impersonating. Currently it just brings you back to wherever you link the user. Second, if already impersonating a user and trying to start to impersonate another, we didn’t want it to throw an error but to quietly switch you. This functionality could lead to unwanted circumstances if an impersonating user believes they can impersonate another user, and then slowly just keep exiting impersonation of each user and go back up the chain they went down. However, in our situation the time admins hit this was when they’d impersonate one user, realize they clicked the wrong one, click back and try to impersonate a different user. As the browser uses it’s cached page when the user hits back they see the list of users as if they were an admin and can click on the correct user. If they do this they are hit with a 500 error, “You are already switched to X user”.
For both of our goals we overrode the built in switch user class. It is really easy to override, as all you need to do is specify in your parameters.yml “security.authentication.switchuser_listener.class: My\AppBundle\Listener\SwitchUser”. We used the built in class as our starting template: https://github.com/symfony/symfony/blob/2.5/src/Symfony/Component/Security/Http/Firewall/SwitchUserListener.php Our final class ended looking like:
Here are the specifics on what everything we did and why.
First feature: Redirecting the user on exiting impersonating a user to where they originally started impersonating them. As we didn’t want to go around our entire application updating logic for the exit impersonation links if we decided to later change the behavior, we decided to build the redirect into the class itself. We didn’t want to rely on the user’s browser referrer header, so instead we decided to on the links to impersonate a user to include a “returnTo” parameter. This parameter is set to the current URI (app.request.uri). At line 97 we save the returnTo parameter to the session, for later use. On line 93, as a user is switching (in this case exiting) a user, if the session has a stored “returnTo” URL, we assign it to the “$overrideURI” variable. On line 107 we have a bit of logic on if we redirect them to the default route or the “returnTo” URL. The reason for the additional “$this->useOverrideURI” variable on this line is for our second feature of switching between users when you are already impersonating one. As the logic all runs through the same routine, if you are simply switching to a new user from an already impersonated one, we don’t want to redirect you back to your original URL when you started all the impersonating, so we disregard the redirect in this case and redirect to the default route. An example of this is admin impersonates user A, then wants to impersonate user B. Upon impersonating user B, the admin does not want to be redirected back to the admin dashboard (the sessions returnTo URL), but to where the impersonate user link is pointing to (User B homepage).
Second feature: Allow users to impersonate a different user while already impersonating another. One Line 134 is where the original SwitchUserListener would usually throw a 500 error as you are already impersonating a user. Instead, we make sure that the original token has the appropriate permissions, if so it will not throw an exception. Line 159 is the other main update for this feature. If you are already impersonating a user and try to impersonate another user, upon exiting you want to go back to your original user. Now if a original impersonation token (user) exists, we keep that as the user you’ll be switched to when you exit the impersonation.
Based on conversations we’ve had with one of our consulting clients, Datapoint Media, who are very familiar with the online advertising industry, it became quickly apparent that there really isn’t a good automated solution currently out there. When a buyer asks for “proofs” of their banner ads on the main sites that they will appear in, Ad Operations personnel are faced with two less than thrilling (and quite time intensive) options:
Imagine having to do this every day week in and week out for hundreds of client orders.
Given the strong demand for a tool and a lack of automated solutions, we worked with Datapoint Media to build a tool as part of their existing Audience Extension platform .
If you have any questions or are interested in gaining access to the tool, feel free to contact the guys over at http://www.datapointmedia.com.
Posted In: General
Net Neutrality has been all over the news lately and I’ve been fielding a couple of questions related to it. At Setfive, we think it’s a critically important issue, both to startups and the technology infrastructure of the United States as a whole. Because of that, we decided to pull together an overview, some history, and key outcomes surrounding the Net Neutrality debate. As always, questions or comments welcome!
What is Net Neutrality?
First coined by Columbia Law professor Tim Wu, network neutrality, or net neutrality for short, states that internet service providers (such as Verizon and Comcast) and governments should provide you with access to content and data regardless of where it came from equally. Internet service providers (ISPs) are not allowed to discriminate and slow speeds for one company in favor of its competitor.
Essentially, net neutrality maintains a free, open, and fair internet.
The Lead Up To January 14, 2014
The Open Internet Rules established:
In response to these rules, Verizon brought the FCC to court in 2013 on the charge that the agency had no authority to use the Open Internet rules to regulate ISPs.
Fast forward to January 14, 2014
What does this ruling mean?
It eliminated the only existing rules protecting net neutrality. As a result, ISPs can now:
What’s the president’s stance on all this?
He’s pro net neutrality and has urged the FCC to establish strong rules that would protect it. However since the FCC is an independent government agency, Obama has no direct influence. Additionally, in a bitterly divided congress some hardline Republicans are taking an anti-Net Neutrality stance to pander to their base. See The Oatmeal on Ted Cruz.
The FCC does have the power to reclassify ISPs as telecommunication service providers and thus subject them to the Open Internet Rules. What it decided to do instead is to create a new net neutrality framework that would hold up in court while at the same time satisfy both sides.
Right now, everyone is in a holding pattern waiting for the FCC to make a final announcement.
Posted In: General
Tags: Net Neutrality