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JWT Authentication

JSON Web Token (JWT) is a token-based authentication mechanism. It does not rely on the server to retain client authentication information or session information. EMQX supports using JWT for user authentication.

Authentication Principle

The client carries the JWT in the connection request, and EMQX uses the pre-configured secret or public key to verify the JWT signature. If the user configures a JWKS endpoint, the JWT authenticator will verify the JWT signature using the list of public keys queried from the JWKS endpoint.

If the signature verification is successful, the JWT authenticator proceeds to check the claims. The JWT authenticator actively checks the validity of the JWT based on these claims such as iat (Issued At), nbf (Not Before), and exp (Expiration Time). Additional custom claims can also be specified for verification. The client is granted access only if both the signature and claims verifications are successful.

Starting from EMQX version 5.7.0, JWT authentication includes an option to disconnect clients after their JWT expires. The configuration parameter disconnect_after_expire is set to true by default. To keep clients connected even after their JWT has expired, you can set this parameter to false.

Best Practice

The JWT authenticator essentially only checks the signature of the JWT, which means that the JWT authenticator does not guarantee the legitimacy of the client's identity.

The best practice is to deploy an independent authentication server. The client first accesses the authentication server, the authentication server verifies the identity of the client, and issues JWT for the legitimate client, and then the client uses the obtained JWT to connect to EMQX.


Since the payload in the JWT is only Base64 encoded, anyone who gets the JWT can decode the payload to get the original information by Base64 decoding. Therefore, it is not recommended to store some sensitive data in the payload of JWT.

To reduce the possibility of JWT leakage and theft, it is recommended to set a reasonable validity period and also enable TLS to encrypt client connections.

Access Control List (Optional)

The Access Control List (ACL) is an optional function to control the permissions of the client after login. A private Claim acl is defined to carry a list of publish and subscribe permissions in the JWT.


ACL rules returned by JWT will be checked before all Authorizers. For details, see Authorization Check Priority.

Client Attributes

Starting from EMQX v5.7.0, you can use the optional client_attrs field in the JWT Payload to set client attributes. Please note that both the keys and values must be of string type.


  "exp": 1654254601,
  "username": "emqx_u",
  "client_attrs": {
      "role": "admin",
      "sn": "10c61f1a1f47"

Configure JWT Authentication in Dashboard

  1. Select Access Control -> Authentication from the left navigation menu.

  2. On the Authentication page, click Create at the top right corner. Click to select JWT as Mechanism, and click Next. Skip the Backend selection and go to the Configuration tab.

  3. Configure the following options:

    • JWT From: Determines where the JWT is located in the client connection request. Available options are password and username, corresponding to the Password and Username fields in the MQTT CONNECT packet for MQTT clients.

    • Algorithm: Specify the encryption algorithm of JWT. Optional values ​​are hmac-based and public-key. Each selection dictates different configuration requirements.

      • hmac-based: Uses a symmetric key for both generating and verifying the JWT's signature. Supported algorithms include HS256, HS384, and HS512. Configuration must include:

        • Secret: The key used to verify the signature, identical to the one used for signature generation.
        • Secret Base64 Encode: Configures whether the Secret is Base64 encoded, which determines if EMQX needs to decode the secret during signature verification.
      • public-key: Uses a private key to generate the JWT's signature and a public key for verification. Supported algorithms are RS256, RS384, RS512, ES256, ES384, and ES512. Configuration must include:

        • Public Key: Specify the public key in PEM format used to verify the signature.
    • Disconnect After Expiration: Configures whether to disconnect clients after their JWT expires, enabled by default.

    • Payload: Specify additional claims checks that the user wants to perform. Users can define multiple key-value pairs with the Claim and Expacted Value fields, where the key is used to find the corresponding claim in the JWT, so it needs to have the same name as the JWT claim to be checked, and the value is used to compare with the actual value of the claim. Currently, the placeholders supported are ${clientid} and ${username}.

  4. Click Create to complete the configuration.

EMQX also supports periodically obtaining the latest JWKS from the JWKS endpoint, which is essentially a set of public keys used to verify any JWT issued by the authorization server and signed using the RSA or ECDSA algorithm. If you want to use this feature, you need to switch to the JWKS configuration page.

You need to configure the following JWKS-specific configuration items:

  • JWKS Server: Specify the server endpoint address for EMQX to query JWKS, the endpoint needs to support GET requests and return a JWKS that conforms to the specification.
  • JWKS Refresh Interval: Specify the refresh interval of JWKS, that is, the interval for EMQX to query JWKS.

Click Create to complete the configuration.