Other Authentication Methods

While the API provides multiple methods for authentication, we strongly recommend using OAuth for production applications. The other methods provided are intended to be used for scripts or testing (i.e., cases where full OAuth would be overkill). Third party applications that rely on GitHub for authentication should not ask for or collect GitHub credentials. Instead, they should use the OAuth web flow.

Basic Authentication

The API supports Basic Authentication as defined in RFC2617 with a few slight differences. The main difference is that the RFC requires unauthenticated requests to be answered with 401 Unauthorized responses. In many places, this would disclose the existence of user data. Instead, the GitHub API responds with 404 Not Found. This may cause problems for HTTP libraries that assume a 401 Unauthorized response. The solution is to manually craft the Authorization header.

Via Username and Password

To use Basic Authentication with the GitHub API, simply send the username and password associated with the account.

For example, if you're accessing the API via cURL, the following command would authenticate you if you replace <username> with your GitHub username. (cURL will prompt you to enter the password.)

curl -u username https://api.github.com/user

If you have two-factor authentication enabled, make sure you understand how to work with two-factor authentication.

Via OAuth Tokens

Alternatively, you can use personal access tokens or OAuth tokens instead of your password.

curl -u username:token https://api.github.com/user

This approach is useful if your tools only support Basic Authentication but you want to take advantage of OAuth access token security features.

Authenticating for SAML SSO

Note: Integrations and OAuth applications that generate tokens on behalf of others are automatically whitelisted.

If you're using the API to access an organization that enforces SAML SSO for authentication, you'll need to create a personal access token (PAT) and whitelist the token for that organization. Visit the URL specified in X-GitHub-SSO to whitelist the token for the organization.

curl -v -H "Authorization: token TOKEN" https://api.github.com/repos/octodocs-test/test
X-GitHub-SSO: required; url=https://github.com/orgs/octodocs-test/sso?authorization_request=AZSCKtL4U8yX1H3sCQIVnVgmjmon5fWxks5YrqhJgah0b2tlbl9pZM4EuMz4
{
  "message": "Resource protected by organization SAML enforcement. You must grant your personal token access to this organization.",
  "documentation_url": "https://help.github.com"
}

When requesting data that could come from multiple organizations (for example, requesting a list of issues created by the user), the X-GitHub-SSO header indicates which organizations require whitelisting:

curl -v -H "Authorization: token TOKEN" https://api.github.com/user/issues
X-GitHub-SSO: partial-results; organizations=21955855,20582480

The value organizations is a comma-separated list of organization IDs for organizations that require whitelisting.

Working with two-factor authentication

When you have two-factor authentication enabled, Basic Authentication for most endpoints in the REST API v3 requires that you use a personal access token or OAuth token instead of your username and password.

You can use GitHub developer settings to generate a new personal access token or the Create a new authorization endpoint in the OAuth Authorizations API to generate a new OAuth token. Then you would use these tokens to authenticate using OAuth token with the GitHub API. The only time you need to authenticate with your username and password is when you create your OAuth token or use the OAuth Authorizations API.

Using the OAuth Authorizations API with two-factor authentication

When you make calls to the OAuth Authorizations API, Basic Authentication requires that you use a one-time password (OTP) and your username and password instead of tokens. When you attempt to authenticate with the OAuth Authorizations API, the server will respond with a 401 Unauthorized and one of these headers to let you know that you need a two-factor authentication code:

X-GitHub-OTP: required; SMS or X-GitHub-OTP: required; app.

This header tells you how your account receives its two-factor authentication codes. Depending how you set up your account, you will either receive your OTP codes via SMS or you will use an application like Google Authenticator or 1Password. For more information, see "Configuring two-factor authentication." Pass the OTP in the header:

curl --request POST \
  --url https://api.github.com/authorizations \
  --header 'authorization: Basic PASSWORD' \
  --header 'content-type: application/json' \
  --header 'x-github-otp: OTP' \
  --data '{"scopes": ["public_repo"], "note": "test"}'