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Writing a Custom Webhook Trigger with HMAC Validation

Hash-Based Message Authentication Code (or HMAC) is an authentication mechanism used frequently by webhooks to verify that a webhook message is legitimate. It helps to ensure that messages sent to a webhook endpoint originated from a particular third-party, and not from some bad actor on the internet.

If you compute an HMAC hash from the webhook's request body, your secret key is a string, and the hash is included as a header, you can use the built-in HMAC Webhook Trigger to validate webhook requests. Most (but not all) HMAC implementations follow this pattern.

In this tutorial, we'll look at the code behind the Slack Webhook Trigger, which differs from the generic HMAC trigger in two ways:

  • Slack concatenates the request body with a timestamp before computing the HMAC hash (see Slack docs).
  • When a webhook is first configured in Slack, Slack sends a URL verification "challenge" request to the webhook endpoint and expects that the endpoint responds with the same challenge string. The Slack trigger responds with that dynamic response and branches into "URL Verify" or "Notification" branches, depending on if it received a "challenge" confirmation request or actual Slack event.

Full source code for the Slack trigger can be found in our examples repo on GitHub.

Computing the Slack HMAC Hash#

Rather than hashing just the request's body, Slack hashes a timestamp, as well, which is passed in as a header. The string that is hashed ends up looking like this:

v0:{TIMESTAMP}:{REQUEST BODY}

Then, an HMAC hash is computed and tacked on to the end of a string that starts with v0=.

So, we built a function that takes a request body, timestamp and signing secret, and returns a string in the form Slack sends:

Helper function to compute Slack hashes
const computeSignature = (  requestBody: string,  signingSecret: string,  timestamp: number) => {  const signatureBaseString = `v0:${timestamp}:${requestBody}`;  const signature = crypto    .createHmac("sha256", signingSecret)    .update(signatureBaseString, "utf8")    .digest("hex");  return `v0=${signature}`;};

Verifying the Incoming Hash Signature#

Now that we have a helper function, let's look at the trigger's perform function that is invoked when a webhook request is received. The trigger first gathers the necessary pieces of information needed:

  • We fetch the raw, unprocessed request body from payload.rawBody.data and turn it into a string.
  • We get the timestamp from an HTTP header through payload.headers["X-Slack-Request-Timestamp"]. The timestamp is an integer (Unix epoch seconds).
  • We get the signing secret from the Slack connection. A connection contains OAuth 2.0 info in addition to a signing secret, and is passed in as an input, params.slackConnection.fields.signingSecret.

Then, we'll run our computeSignature function on the data we gathered. If the hash we generate is not the same as the hash that Slack provided (through payload.headers["X-Slack-Signature"]), we'll throw an error and the integration will stop running:

Check Slack HMAC hash
const signingSecret = util.types.toString(  params.slackConnection.fields.signingSecret);const requestBody = util.types.toString(payload.rawBody.data);const timestamp = util.types.toInt(  payload.headers["X-Slack-Request-Timestamp"]);const computedSignature = computeSignature(  requestBody,  signingSecret,  timestamp);const payloadSignature = util.types.toString(  payload.headers["X-Slack-Signature"]);if (payloadSignature !== computedSignature) {  throw new Error(    "Error validating message signature. Check your signing secret and verify that this message came from Slack."  );}

Assuming the signature Slack generated, payloadSignature, matches the hash we computed, computedSignature, our trigger continues.

Returning a Slack Challenge and Branching#

Once we've verified that the webhook we received is, indeed, from Slack, we can return a proper challenge response to Slack if it needs one and then branch appropriately. We'll get the challenge that Slack sent from the request's body (if we got a URL verification request), and then we'll generate a response that contains exactly that challenge string:

const challenge = (payload.body.data as Request)?.challenge;const response: HttpResponse = {  statusCode: 200,  contentType: "text/plain",  body: challenge,};

Note: if we didn't get a challenge request, the response body will just be blank. That's fine. Slack doesn't expect a special response for other webhook events.

Finally, we'll return the payload that we received (so it can be used by the integration), the response that our webhook should send back to Slack, and the branch that the integration should follow (depending on if we received a URL verify challenge request):

return Promise.resolve({  payload,  response,  branch: challenge ? "URL Verify" : "Notification",});

Conclusion#

You can build your own trigger that validates webhooks by following similar patterns, and you can make your HTTP responses as static/simple or dynamic/complex as you'd like. For more information on building custom components and custom triggers, check out the Writing Custom Components article. For full source code of the Slack trigger, check out our examples repo on GitHub.