November 12, 2015
CBOR Web Token (CWT)

IETF logoI know that some of you have been following the IETF’s work on the CBOR Object Signing and Encryption (COSE) Working group on creating a Concise Binary Object Representation (CBOR) equivalent of the JSON-based cryptographic data formats produced by the JSON Object Signing and Encryption (JOSE) Working group. I’m happy to announce that work has now started on a CBOR Web Token (CWT) specification: a CBOR mapping of the JSON Web Token (JWT) security token format that was built using the JOSE specifications. While I expect JSON and the JOSE/JWT specs to continue be used in most Web, PC, phone, tablet, cloud, and enterprise contexts, the COSE specs and now CWT are designed for use in constrained environments, such as those for some Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Just as it was important to have a JSON-based security token format for applications using JSON, it will be important to have a CBOR-based security token format for applications using CBOR. CBOR Web Token (CWT) fills that role. Note that what is actually defined is a general cryptographically secured CBOR data structure, enabling CWTs to be used as general application payloads for CBOR-based applications.

The abstract of the specification is:

CBOR Web Token (CWT) is a compact means of representing claims to be transferred between two parties. CWT is a profile of the JSON Web Token (JWT) that is optimized for constrained devices. The claims in a CWT are encoded in the Concise Binary Object Representation (CBOR) and CBOR Object Signing and Encryption (COSE) is used for added application layer security protection. A claim is a piece of information asserted about a subject and is represented as a name/value pair consisting of a claim name and a claim value.

My thanks to Erik Wahlström and Hannes Tschofenig for helping to make this happen!

Finally, I’ll note that just as the suggested pronunciation of JWT is the same as the English word “jot”, the suggested pronunciation of CWT is the same as the English word “cot”. So welcome to “cots”!

The specification is available at:

An HTML formatted version is also available at:

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