Vaibhav Dewangan
VAIBZDE 》Vaibhav Dewangan's Blog


VAIBZDE 》Vaibhav Dewangan's Blog

#Day46 - Implementing JWT (JSON Web Tokens) in NodeJS

#Day46 - Implementing JWT (JSON Web Tokens) in NodeJS

Securely Implementing JWT in NodeJS: Best Practices, Authentication Routes & Database Integration

Vaibhav Dewangan's photo
Vaibhav Dewangan
·Feb 4, 2023·

11 min read

Play this article

Table of contents

Welcome to the 46th day of our "Code, Blog, Repeat: A 50-Day Quest for Back-End Mastery" series! Today, we'll be diving into the world of JSON Web Tokens (JWT) and how to implement them in NodeJS.

JWT is a compact and secure means of transmitting information between parties. It's widely used in modern web development for authentication and authorization purposes. In this blog, we'll be discussing the importance of JWT in backend development, its structure and how it works, and most importantly, how to implement it in NodeJS.

The purpose of this blog is to give you a comprehensive understanding of JWT, it's working, and its implementation in NodeJS. By the end of this blog, you will have a clear understanding of JWT and be able to implement it in your own NodeJS projects.

So, let's get started and learn everything there is to know about JWT and its implementation in NodeJS!

Understanding JWT


JSON Web Tokens (JWT) is a compact and self-contained method for secure transmission of information between parties as a JSON object. The term "token" refers to a digital representation of information, which is passed between parties in a secure manner. JWT is becoming increasingly popular in backend development as a secure way of transmitting information between a client and a server.

The Structure of JWT

A JWT is composed of three parts: header, payload, and signature. The header defines the type of token and the algorithm used to secure the token, while the payload contains the information being transmitted. The signature is used to verify the authenticity of the token.

Different Parts of JWT (Header, Payload, Signature)

JSON Web Tokens (JWT) are composed of three distinct parts that make up its overall structure - header, payload, and signature. Understanding each of these components is crucial to comprehending how JWT works and how it can be utilized in backend development.


The header component of JWT primarily defines the type of token being used and the algorithm used for securing the token. It is usually represented as a JSON object and contains information such as the type of token, the signing algorithm used, and the token version. A typical header component in JWT might look like this:

  "alg": "HS256",
  "typ": "JWT"

In this example, alg stands for algorithm and is set to HS256, which means the token is being secured using the HMAC SHA-256 algorithm. The typ field specifies the type of token and is set to JWT.


The payload component of JWT is where the information being transmitted is stored. It is also represented as a JSON object and can contain any data that is considered to be relevant or important. The information stored in the payload component can range from user credentials to access tokens and more. A typical payload component in JWT might look like this:

  "sub": "1234567890",
  "name": "John Doe",
  "iat": 1516239022

In this example, the sub field contains the user ID, name is the user's name, and iat is the time the token was issued, represented as the number of seconds since the Unix epoch.


The signature component is used to verify the authenticity of the token and ensure that the information contained within it has not been tampered with. It is generated by taking the encoded header and payload, a secret key, and the signing algorithm specified in the header, and passing them through a secure hash function. The signature is then appended to the JWT, forming a compact and secure string that can be transmitted over the network.

  base64UrlEncode(header) + "." +

In this example, the HMACSHA256 function is used to generate the signature by concatenating the base64UrlEncoded header and payload and passing the result, along with the secret key, to the HMACSHA256 function.

How JWT Works

Imagine you are a student and you want to take an exam. You approach the teacher and ask for the exam paper. The teacher, however, needs to make sure that you are indeed the student enrolled in the class before giving you the exam paper. So, the teacher asks you to show your student ID card. Your student ID card contains information about you such as your name, class, and enrollment number.

Similarly, when a client wants to access protected resources on a server, it has to prove its identity to the server. This is where JWT comes into play. JWT acts like a student ID card, transmitting the client's information in the form of a JSON object (token). The server then decodes the token and verifies its authenticity. If the token is verified, the server returns the requested information to the client.

Advantages and Disadvantages of JWT

One of the main advantages of JWT is its compact and self-contained nature, which allows for secure transmission of information without the need for a separate session or database. However, JWT also has some disadvantages, such as the potential for token theft and the fact that it can be vulnerable to replay attacks if not implemented properly.

Implementing JWT in NodeJS

In this section, we will cover the process of implementing JWT in a NodeJS project. The steps involved include setting up a NodeJS project, installing required dependencies, creating a JWT strategy, adding authentication middleware, creating authentication routes, implementing authentication in the database, and testing the JWT implementation.

Setting up a NodeJS Project

To get started with JWT in NodeJS, you need to set up a new NodeJS project. You can do this by creating a new directory and initializing it as a NodeJS project using npm.

Installing Required Dependencies

Next, you need to install the required dependencies for JWT in NodeJS. In this case, we will be using the jsonwebtoken library. To install it, run the following command:

npm install jsonwebtoken

Creating a JWT Strategy

Once the required dependencies have been installed, the next step is to create a JWT strategy. This involves defining the algorithm and secret used for signing the JWT.

const jwt = require("jsonwebtoken");

const secret = "secretkey";
const algorithm = "HS256";

const sign = payload => {
  return jwt.sign(payload, secret, { algorithm });

const verify = token => {
  return jwt.verify(token, secret, { algorithms: [algorithm] });

module.exports = { sign, verify };

In the code above, we are using the HS256 algorithm and a secret key of secretkey. The sign function is used to sign the JWT with the given payload, while the verify function is used to verify the authenticity of the JWT.

Note -> it is a best practice to store sensitive information such as secret keys in a separate utility module. This helps to keep the code organized and makes it easier to manage the sensitive information. For example, you can create a file named utils.js in your project and store the secret key there. Then you can import the secret key into other modules where it is needed, such as the JWT implementation. This way, you can easily change the secret key if necessary, without having to search for it in multiple files. Additionally, you can also use environment variables to securely store the secret key, making it even more secure. Another way to manage environment variables is to use a platform-specific solution, such as using the AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store for AWS-based applications, or the Google Cloud Key Management System for Google Cloud-based applications.

Adding Authentication Middleware

The next step is to add authentication middleware to your application. This will ensure that all routes requiring authentication are protected.

const { verify } = require("./jwt-strategy");

const authenticate = (req, res, next) => {
  const token = req.headers.authorization;

  if (!token) {
    return res.status(401).json({ message: "No token provided" });

  try {
    const decoded = verify(token);
    req.user = decoded;
  } catch (error) {
    return res.status(401).json({ message: "Invalid token" });

module.exports = authenticate;

In the code above, the authenticate function checks if a token is present in the request headers. If it is not present, a 401 status code is returned with a message indicating that no token was provided. If a token is present, it is verified using the verify function from the JWT strategy. If the token is valid, the decoded payload is added to the request object and the next middleware function is called. If the token is invalid, a 401 status code is returned with a message indicating that the token is invalid.

Creating Authentication Routes

In this section, we will create the necessary routes for authentication. This is where the JWT comes into play. When a user logs in, the server sends a token containing the user's information. The client then sends the token with each subsequent request to the server, which verifies the authenticity of the token and returns the requested information.

Here's a basic example of how to create authentication routes using Express in NodeJS:

// Importing necessary modules
const express = require('express');
const jwt = require('jsonwebtoken');

// Creating an Express Router instance
const router = express.Router();

// Defining the authentication route'/authenticate', (req, res) => {
  // Getting the user credentials from the request body
  const { username, password } = req.body;

  // Authenticating the user
  if (username === 'test' && password === 'test') {
    // Creating a JWT token
    const token = jwt.sign({ username }, 'secret_key', { expiresIn: '1h' });

    // Sending the JWT token to the client
    return res.json({
      success: true,
      message: 'Authentication successful',

  // If the authentication fails, send a 401 Unauthorized error
  return res.status(401).json({
    success: false,
    message: 'Authentication failed'

// Exporting the authentication route
module.exports = router;

In this example, we are using the express.Router() method to create an instance of the Express Router. This allows us to define the authentication route and export it as a separate module. The jwt.sign() method is used to create the JWT token. It takes three arguments: the payload (the user's information), the secret key (used to sign the token), and the options (the expiration time of the token).

The authentication route is defined using the method. This method listens for a POST request to the /authenticate endpoint. When a client makes a POST request to this endpoint with the user credentials, the server authenticates the user and sends a JWT token to the client if the authentication is successful. If the authentication fails, the server sends a 401 Unauthorized error.

It's important to note that this is just a basic example and may not be suitable for production use. You should always implement proper security measures such as hashing the passwords and storing them securely in the database.

Implementing Authentication in the Database

To implement authentication in the database, we need to store the user information in a secure manner. The first step is to create a database schema for storing the user information. This schema should include fields for the user's email, password hash, and any other relevant information.

Next, we need to write functions for adding new users to the database and checking if a user exists with a given email. These functions can be implemented using a query library such as Sequelize or Mongoose.

We can then use these functions in our authentication routes to handle the registration of new users and the validation of login credentials. For example, when a user submits a registration form, we can create a new user in the database using the addUser function. When a user submits a login form, we can use the findUser function to check if a user exists with the given email and password.

Testing the JWT Implementation

The final step is to test the JWT implementation to ensure that everything is working as expected. This can be done by writing test cases for the authentication routes and checking that the appropriate response is received for each request.

For example, we can write test cases to verify that a new user can be registered, that a user can login, and that an unauthenticated user cannot access protected routes. We can use a testing library such as Jest or Mocha to automate these tests and ensure that the implementation is robust.

By testing the JWT implementation, we can be confident that our authentication system is secure and functional. This is an important step in the development process and should not be skipped.

Best Practices for Implementing JWT in NodeJS

Securing JWT is crucial for maintaining the privacy and security of user data. In this section, we'll go over some best practices for implementing JWT in NodeJS to ensure secure communication between the client and server.

  1. Store the secret key securely: The secret key used to sign and verify JWT should be stored securely and not committed to version control. It is recommended to store the secret key in an environment variable and access it in your code using the process.env object.

  2. Use strong algorithms: When signing JWT, it's important to use a secure and reliable algorithm. Currently, the most secure algorithm for signing JWT is the HS256 algorithm.

  3. Error handling: Error handling is an important aspect of JWT implementation. It is important to handle errors related to JWT, such as invalid signature, expired token, etc., in a secure and efficient manner.

  4. Regularly update JWT: Regularly updating JWT is important to stay updated with the latest security standards and practices.

By following these best practices, you can implement JWT in NodeJS in a secure and efficient manner, protecting the privacy and security of user data.


In this blog, we have covered the basics of JWT, including its definition, structure, and how it works. We have also shown how to implement JWT in NodeJS, including setting up a project, installing dependencies, creating authentication routes, and implementing authentication in the database. Additionally, we have discussed the best practices for implementing JWT in NodeJS, including security measures, error handling, and storing JWT securely.

In conclusion, JWT is an essential tool for secure communication between clients and servers in backend development. By following the best practices outlined in this blog, developers can ensure that their JWT implementation is secure and reliable.

This blog is part of the Code Blog Repeat: A 50-day quest for back end mastery series. We hope you enjoyed this post and learned something new. We would love to hear your experiences and ideas, so please share them in the comments section below.

Share this