A Guide to Named Credentials & Authentication

A Guide to Named Credentials & Authentication

On May 26, 2024, Posted by , In Salesforce, With Comments Off on A Guide to Named Credentials & Authentication
Named Credentials in Salesforce how to setup and its benefits

Table of Contents

What is Named Credentials in Salesforce?

Named Credentials in Salesforce provide a streamlined, secure way of handling authentication data needed for external service integrations. Essentially, a Named Credential specifies the URL of a callout endpoint and its required authentication parameters in one definition. This setup simplifies the process of setting up callouts to external services by eliminating the need to hard-code credentials in your Apex code, thereby enhancing security and maintainability.

Authentication Protocol

Named Credentials support various authentication protocols to securely connect Salesforce with external systems. Some of the commonly used authentication methods include:

  • No Authentication: Used for endpoints that do not require authentication.
  • Password Authentication: Uses a username and password for basic authentication.
  • OAuth 2.0: Supports OAuth with various flows (like JWT, Web Server, etc.), allowing secure and standardized authentication using access tokens.

When using OAuth 2.0, Salesforce handles the token lifecycle automatically, meaning it can manage the token refresh process without additional code, depending on the configuration.

Credential Storage

The credentials (like usernames, passwords, and tokens) used in Named Credentials are stored securely in Salesforce. Salesforce encrypts this information and manages it securely to prevent unauthorized access. The use of Named Credentials abstracts the authentication details from the code. Developers make callouts using simple references to the Named Credentials, and Salesforce automatically appends the stored credentials during the callout, ensuring that sensitive data is not exposed in the application code. This approach not only secures the credentials but also simplifies compliance with security standards.

Named Credentials in Salesforce offer several key advantages, especially in simplifying and securing callouts to external services. Here’s a detailed explanation of the two key benefits, the authentication process, and the enhanced security features they provide:

Two Key Benefits of Named Credentials

Simplified Code Maintenance

Named Credentials centralize the management of endpoint URLs and their associated credentials. By referencing a Named Credential in Apex code, developers avoid hard-coding sensitive information like endpoint URLs, usernames, and passwords. This separation of concerns makes the code cleaner, easier to understand, and easier to maintain. When changes are required—such as modifying an endpoint URL or credentials—these can be made directly in the Named Credential configuration without needing to update and redeploy Apex code.

Consistent Security Practices

By using Named Credentials, Salesforce developers adhere to a consistent, platform-enforced security model. This standardization helps prevent common security issues such as credentials leakage. Since the credentials are managed by Salesforce and never exposed in the code, the risk of inadvertently exposing sensitive data through code repositories or other means is significantly reduced.

Authentication Process

When a callout is made using a Named Credential, Salesforce automatically handles the authentication process based on the configuration of the Named Credential. The steps typically involve:

  1. Reference the Named Credential: The developer references the Named Credential in the Apex callout.
  2. Salesforce Retrieves Credentials: Salesforce retrieves the authentication details (username, password, token, etc.) securely stored with the Named Credential.
  3. Salesforce Applies Authentication: Depending on the authentication type configured (e.g., No Auth, Basic, OAuth), Salesforce applies the appropriate authentication headers or tokens to the request.
  4. Callout Execution: The HTTP request is made to the external service with the authentication applied, and Salesforce manages any required authentication token refreshes automatically if OAuth is used.

This process ensures that the actual transmission of sensitive data is handled securely by Salesforce, abstracting the complexity from developers.

Enhanced Security

Named Credentials enhance security in several ways:

Encrypted Storage of Sensitive Data

All sensitive data associated with Named Credentials, such as passwords and tokens, are stored in an encrypted format. Salesforce uses robust encryption methods to ensure that this data is secure both at rest and in transit.

Minimized Risk of Exposure

Since developers do not handle credentials directly in their code, the risk of accidental exposure through source code is minimized. This is particularly important in environments where multiple developers work on the same project, or when code is stored in version control systems that may be accessible by third parties.

Compliance with Security Best Practices

Using Named Credentials aligns with security best practices and compliance requirements that often mandate the segregation of sensitive information from application logic. This segregation helps organizations meet compliance standards related to data protection and access control.

Overall, Named Credentials provide a robust framework for managing authentication in external service integrations, enhancing both the security and maintainability of Salesforce applications.

How to Set Up Named Credentials?

Setting up Named Credentials in Salesforce is a straightforward process that can be accomplished through the Salesforce Setup interface. Here’s how to do it:

Navigate to Named Credentials Setup

  1. Access Setup: Log in to your Salesforce organization and enter “Setup” in the Quick Find box.
  2. Find Named Credentials: Search for and select “Named Credentials” under the “Security” section.

Create a New Named Credential

  1. New Named Credential: Click the “New Named Credential” button to start configuring a new credential.
  2. Enter Basic Information: Provide the necessary details such as:
    • Label and Name: Give your Named Credential a label and a unique name.
    • URL: Enter the endpoint URL for the external service you wish to connect to.

Configure Authentication Settings

  1. Select Authentication Protocol: Choose the appropriate authentication protocol (No Authentication, Password Authentication, OAuth 2.0, etc.) based on the requirements of the external service.
  2. Enter Credentials: If required, enter the credentials such as username, password, or other necessary parameters depending on the chosen authentication protocol.

Save and Test

  1. Save the Configuration: Save your Named Credential settings.
  2. Test the Connection: Optionally, test the connection to ensure that the setup is correct and that Salesforce can successfully authenticate with the external service using the provided details.

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