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2FA SIM Swap Detection with Vonage/Nexmo Verify

In this tutorial, you'll learn how to add SIM Swap Detection to your existing Web App's Vonage/Nexmo Verify two-factor authentication (2FA) SMS with Voice fallback login flow using SIMCheck.

Timothy Ogbemudia

Developer Experience Engineer

Last updated: 6 May 2021

tutorial cover image

The Vonage Verify API is an SMS with Voice fallback PIN code 2FA solution. It is used to verify that a user is in possession of a phone with a specific phone number. However, with SIM Swap cases on the rise, it's also important to detect if the SIM card associated with the phone number has changed recently. If it has, it could indicate that the user has been the victim of a SIM swap attack. This is where the tru.ID SIMCheck API comes in.

The tru.ID SIMCheck API provides information on when the SIM card associated with a mobile phone number was last changed. This adds an extra layer of security to your application login flows by indicating attempted SIM swap fraud. SIMCheck can be used to augment existing 2FA or anti-fraud workflows.

In this tutorial, we will be using the SIMCheck API to augment the Vonage Verify 2FA workflow.

If you'd prefer to dive into the completed code then head over to the GitHub repo.

Before you begin

The requirements for this project are:

Getting Started

Clone the starter-files branch via:

$ git clone -b starter-files --single-branch https://github.com/tru-ID/2fa-sim-swap-detection-vonage.git

Getting set up with Vonage

You need to configure Vonage using your account credentials.

Copy the values of .env.example into a .env file via:

$ cd 2fa-sim-swap-detection-vonage && cp example.env .env

Open the .env file and configure the following values:

  • VONAGE_API_KEY: Your Vonage API key found on the developer dashboard
  • VONAGE_API_SECRET: Your Vonage API key found on the developer dashboard
  • VONAGE_BRAND_NAME: A name for your application which will appear on the home page and also in the from field of any SMS sent via the Verify API (up to 11 alphanumeric characters).

Getting set up with tru.ID

Make sure you've created a tru.ID Account.

Install the tru.ID CLI via:

$ npm i -g @tru_id/cli

Input your tru.ID credentials, which can be found within the tru.ID console.

Create a new tru.ID project via:

$ tru projects:create sms-2fa-vonage --project-dir .

Configure the following values in your .env:

  • TRU_ID_CLIENT: The client ID found in the tru.json file in the newly created tru.ID project.
  • TRU_ID_SECRET: The client secret found in the tru.json file in the newly created tru.ID project.

Finally, install dependencies by running:

$ npm install

Starting the project

To start the project, run the following in the terminal:

$ npm start

The project should look like this:

tru.ID + Vonage 2FA Starter App

Existing app workflow

The current workflow from the base is as follows:

  1. App opens up in /. If the user is verified, it shows their phone number and other information with a cancel button to "log out". If the user is not verified, they can verify by clicking the Verify Me button.
  2. User inputs their phone number and gets taken to the /entercode route where the user can input the OTP generated.
  3. The user inputs the OTP code, and if it's valid, the user gets redirected to /.

Workflow with the SIMCheck API

  1. App opens up in /. If the user is verified, it shows their phone number and other information with a cancel button to "log out". If the user is not verified they can verify by clicking the Verify Me button.
  2. User inputs their phone number and SIMCheck is performed before OTP generation.
  3. If the SIMCheck is successful, the user gets taken to the /entercode route, where the user can input the OTP generated. If the SIMCheck fails, the user is taken to a /sim-change-detected route.
  4. The user inputs the OTP code, and if it's valid, the user gets redirected to /.

Performing the SIMCheck

In order to perform the SIMCheck we need to do two things:

  • Create a tru.ID access token.
  • Create a SIMCheck using the newly generated access token.

In order to do either of these things, we need to bring in a few packages. Open a new terminal and run:

$ npm install --save btoa node-fetch

btoa transforms data to base-64 encoded format, and node-fetch provides an easy way to make HTTP network requests in our Node applications.

Creating the tru.ID Access Token

In order to create the access token, create a new directory (folder) called helpers, create a createAccessToken.js file, and paste the following:

const btoa = require('btoa')
const fetch = require('node-fetch')
exports.createAccessToken = async () => {
/* make request body acceptable by application/x-www-form-urlencoded*/
const clientID = process.env.TRU_ID_CLIENT
const clientSecret = process.env.TRU_ID_SECRET
const basicAuth = btoa(`${clientID}:${clientSecret}`)
const resp = await fetch(`https://eu.api.tru.id/oauth2/v1/token`, {
method: 'POST',
body: 'grant_type=client_credentials&scope=sim_check',
headers: {
'Content-Type': 'application/x-www-form-urlencoded',
Authorization: `Basic ${basicAuth}`,
},
})
const { access_token } = await resp.json()
return access_token
}

To create an access token, we make a form URL encoded POST request to the https://eu.api.tru.id/oauth2/v1/token endpoint. This endpoint uses basic auth so requires an Authorization header.

The header value is your tru.ID project client_id and client_secret, which you saved to the .env file earlier, concatenated with a colon (:) and Base64 encoded.

The body is set to have a grant_type of client_credentials and scope of sim_check. This instructs the tru.ID OAuth2 provider that the created Access Token should have permissions to use SIMCheck resources.

Creating the SIMCheck

In the helpers directory, create a file named performSimCheck.js and paste the following:

const fetch = require('node-fetch')
exports.performSimCheck = async (phoneNumber, accessToken) => {
let simChanged
let numberSupported = true
const body = JSON.stringify({ phone_number: phoneNumber })
const response = await fetch(`https://eu.api.tru.id/sim_check/v0.1/checks`, {
method: 'POST',
body,
headers: {
Authorization: `Bearer ${accessToken}`,
'Content-Type': 'application/json',
},
})
if (response.status === 201) {
const data = await response.json()
console.log(data)
simChanged = !data.no_sim_change
} else if (response.status === 400) {
numberSupported = false
} else {
throw new Error(`Unexpected API response ${res.status}`, res.toString())
}
return { simChanged, numberSupported }
}

Here, we accept a phoneNumber in E.164 format, the accessToken from the previous step, and create the SIMCheck resource. A successful SIMCheck resource creation response is represented by a 201 HTTP status code. The payload response provides information on whether the SIM has changed or not, and we have two variables: simChanged and numberSupported, that we set based on the API response.

A sample successful response is:

{
"_links": {
"self": {
"href": "https://eu.api.tru.id/sim_check/v0.1/c6-bbae-50358ae3bb08"
}
},
"check_id": "2563f2a6-0b9e-49c6-bbae-50358ae3bb08",
"status": "COMPLETED",
"no_sim_change": true,
"charge_amount": 1,
"charge_currency": "API",
"created_at": "2021-04-13T14:49:29+0000",
"snapshot_balance": 100
}

A 400 HTTP status may be returned if tru.ID doesn't support the phone number. An example of that is as follows:

{
type: 'https://tru.id/docs/api-errors#mno_not_supported',
title: 'Bad Request',
status: 400,
detail: '400 Bad Request Mobile Network Operator Not Supported'
}

Handling Failure

We need to handle the following scenarios:

  • The SIM changed recently, indicated by simChanged being true
  • tru.ID cannot perform a lookup on the phone number, resulting in numberSupported being false

To do this, head over to the views directory and create a file named: error.pug and paste the following code:

extends layout
block content
h1.text-center #{error}

Here we accept a dynamic error value, which renders the error message to the screen.

The view should look like this if the SIM changed recently:

tru.ID + Vonage 2FA Failed View

Integrating our helper functions

Next, we need to integrate our helper functions.

Add the imports to the top of server.js:

const { createAccessToken } = require('./helpers/createAccessToken')
const { performSimCheck } = require('./helpers/performSimCheck')

Update the app.post('/verify', (req, res) => {} function with the following, remembering to make the function async:

app.post('/verify', async (req, res) => {
// Start the verification process
verifyRequestNumber = req.body.number;
// create access token
const accessToken = await createAccessToken();
// perform SIMCheck
const { numberSupported, simChanged } = await performSimCheck(
verifyRequestNumber,
accessToken
);
console.log(verifyRequestNumber);
if (simChanged === true) {
return res.render('error', {
error:
'Verification Failed. SIM changed too recently. Please contact support.',
});
}
if (numberSupported === false) {
return res.render('error', {
error:
'Verification Failed. We do not support the phone number. Please contact support.',
});
}
// vonage.verify.request...

Here we do the following:

  • Create a tru.ID access token via our helper method.
  • Perform a SIMCheck, passing the access token and the phone number.
  • If simChanged equals true, the SIM changed recently and we render our error view passing in a dynamic error message.
  • If numberSupported is false we got a 400 so return our dynamic error view, passing in the error message.
  • If the SIM hasn't changed recently we continue and create the SMS OTP with Vonage.

The views for a successful scenario should look like this:

tru.ID + Vonage 2FA Authenticate View

tru.ID + Vonage 2FA Verify View

tru.ID + Vonage 2FA verified View

Wrapping up

That's it! That's how simple it is to add SIM Swap detection to your existing Vonage Verify 2FA application with tru.ID's SIMCheck API.

You can view the difference between the Vonage base and the finished app here.

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