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Emirhakan Tanhan
Emirhakan Tanhan

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Figuring out a verification system via email link

Hi everyone,

Today i'm doing a verification system for the important changes in our site, like changing your email or resetting your password. For this article lets simulate an email change.

Why send email?

Obviously, we need to send an email to the new email address, which will indicate that the new email address is in use and reachable, for the cases like if the user forgets his/her password. I wont be showing how i send emails to users but if you're curious, i'm using PHPMailer.

Keep the changes until confirmed

User entered his/her new email address, but the changes won't be applying until the user goes to the verification link, which we sent to the new email address. So, when the user goes into the link, and it's time to apply the changes, how do we know what changes the user made? For that, we're going to store the changes in our database.

Database table for verification

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When a user wants to make a change that requires email verification, a row is created in verification table. This table contains:

status: Helps us to track if this verification link is used and the changes applied.
email: Email address to send the verification link.
title: Title of the email.
description: Context of the email.
link: Url with a key that directs to our site.
changes: Changes that we will be applying once the user goes to the link that we have sent.
user/admin id: Refers to the user/admin and lets us know whose changes we are applying.

I will be talking in detail about 2 columns in this row: link and changes:

  • Link

Link is a url that we will be using for both direction and finding the row related to that link in the verification table.

Example of a link:

Let's examine the key part of it:

| Ver. Type |  Random Gen. String | Hex. Id |
|    "A"    |"DOI8U7oCXOJoJJxBDMF"|   "3e"  |
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Verification Type: First character of a key. Lets us know what type of a verification this is, for example: "A" is for confirming email address, and "B" is for resetting password. This allows us to generate different styled pages on different verification types.

Random Generated String: Next 19 characters of a key. This random string allows us to compare the url in the address bar with the url in the link column of a verification row. In short this part distinguishes a link from others.

Hexadecimal Id: Last couple characters after the 20th character of a key. It's the id of the verification row but transformed to hexadecimal. In this case "3e" in hexadecimal base is equal to "62" in decimal base. We check the related Verification row based on this id number.

  • Changes

Changes are the pending changes due to their importance. They will be applied once the user goes to the link related to those changes. After they are applied, status of that verification row will be set to 1 to make it unusable, preventing any conflict and duplication in the database.

Example of a changes column:

Let's examine parts of a changes column:

             |        Change Object         |
| Table Name | Col. Name |       Value      |
|   "Admin"  |  "email"  |""|
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Table Name: The table where changes will be made. Changes can be made in 1 table at a time.

Change Object: Overall, the object that contains the change with its key. There can be multiple objects in a changes column. e.g.

Column Name: The column that is going to be updated.

Value: The value that will be put in the column.

Implementing this idea to our site

Creating and sending verification link via email

A Verification row is created when an important change is submitted.

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In our case, we're only changing our email. A submitted form goes through different processes, but eventually it will come to the api, where server-side operations are made.

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In the Update admin email section, we're preparing all the necessary variables such as link and changes.
Below that, in the Create verification data section we're inserting Verification row in our database.

Finally, in the Update link section, we're adding the hexadecimal id of the Verification row in the end of the link. Then, as you can see, we're running the SendMail function.

At this point, we have created a Verification row with the link and the changes inside, then we have sent an email to the user with the same link attached.

Using the email link and confirming our changes

Lets use our email link.

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When a url with a verification link is entered in the address bar, it will go to the api.

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Right below the case 'vercheck', we are splitting the link and preparing variables. In the first 2 cases of the switch(true), we're checking the link and comparing it to it's match in the database.

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In default:, now we know the link is correct and it belongs to a user and we are ready to apply the changes. We fetch the changes column to disassemble it at the foreach block. Through this process we also apply the changes.

After finishing applying the changes, we are ready to update the related Verification row and change its status to 1.

At the end, we return the status and finally, we have completed the verification process.

We have accomplished a verification system that works via email links

I'm a beginner in development, my logic and code might not be so effective and correct, but i wanted to share my thoughts and process of developing a verification system.

Thank you all for reading.

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