SO #57225262—Inputting list of passwords in a class

Stack Overflow question 'Inputting list of passwords in a class' is more interesting as an object-oriented design (OOD) exercise than as a debugging exercise, but it also provides an opportunity to practise some Python programming.

The requirements identified in the problem are:

  • represent a set of credentials comprised of a username and a password;
  • represent a user account made up of an identifier and one active set of credentials and zero or more inactive credentials;
  • store user accounts that can be retrieved subsequently by username;
  • validate a given set of credentials, using the stored user accounts.

Additionally, a user account has the following constraints:

  • It must be uniquely identifiable by the username of the active set of credentials.
  • A set of credentials must be used only once for a given user account.

The design model consists of multiple classes, each addressing a single responsibility as follows.

Class Responsibility
Credentials represent a set of credentials
UserAccount represent a user account
AccountStore store user accounts, enforcing the uniqueness constraint
Authentication validate supplied credentials

The program code implements the model very faithfully and uses the same class names, thus making it easy to reason about. It has been tested with Python 2.7.15rc1 and has been checked for PEP8 compliance.


For brevity, the solution presented here does not:

  • implement best practices used for security in real-world scenarios, such as salting and hashing;
  • enforce uniqueness of user account identifiers;
  • consider performance factors.

In lieu of conventional unit tests, a main routine exercises use-cases to ensure that the program works properly.

class Credentials:

    def __init__(self, username, password):
        self.username = username
        self.password = password

    def has_username(self, username):
        return self.username == username

    def matches(self, credentials):
        return self.username == credentials.username and \
            self.password == credentials.password

class UserAccount:

    def __init__(self, user_id):
        self.user_id = user_id
        self.active_credentials = None
        self.past_credentials = []

    def add(self, credentials):
        if self.active_credentials is None:
            self.active_credentials = credentials
            self.active_credentials = credentials

    def has_username(self, username):
        return self.active_credentials.has_username(username)

    def has_same_username(self, user_account):
        return self.has_username(user_account.active_credentials.username)

    def has_credentials(self, credentials):
        return self.active_credentials is not None and \

    def _check_uniqueness(self, credentials):
        if self.has_credentials(credentials):
            raise Exception('These credentials are currently in use.')
        for c in self.past_credentials:
            if c.matches(credentials):
                raise Exception(
                        'These credentials have been used in the past.')

class AccountStore:

    def __init__(self):
        self.user_accounts = []

    def add(self, user_account):

    def find_by_username(self, username):
        for ua in self.user_accounts:
            if ua.has_username(username):
                return ua
        return None

    def _check_uniqueness(self, user_account):
        for ua in self.user_accounts:
            if ua.has_same_username(user_account):
                raise Exception(
                        'An account with the same username is already active.')

class Authentication:

    def __init__(self, account_store):
        self.account_store = account_store

    def validate(self, credentials):
        user_account = self.account_store.find_by_username(
        if user_account is None:
            return False
        return user_account.has_credentials(credentials)

if __name__ == '__main__':
    credentials = Credentials('user1', 'password1')
    user_account = UserAccount(101)

    account_store = AccountStore()

    user_account1 = account_store.find_by_username('user1')
    print 'user_account1', user_account1

    user_account2 = account_store.find_by_username('user2')
    print 'user_account2', user_account2

    authentication = Authentication(account_store)
    print 'Expecting True...', authentication.validate(
            Credentials('user1', 'password1'))
    print 'Expecting False...', authentication.validate(
            Credentials('user2', 'password1'))
    print 'Expecting False...', authentication.validate(
            Credentials('user1', 'password2'))

    user_account.add(Credentials('user1', 'password2'))
    print 'Expecting True...', authentication.validate(
            Credentials('user1', 'password2'))
    print 'Expecting False...', authentication.validate(
            Credentials('user1', 'password1'))

        user_account.add(Credentials('user1', 'password1'))
    except Exception:
        print 'Expecting exception... Pass'

        user_account.add(Credentials('user2', 'password1'))
        print 'Not expecting exception... Pass'
        print 'Expecting True...', authentication.validate(
                Credentials('user2', 'password1'))
    except Exception:
        print 'Not expecting exception... Fail'

        user_account1 = UserAccount(102)
        user_account1.add(Credentials('user1', 'whatever'))
        print 'Expecting True...', authentication.validate(
                Credentials('user1', 'whatever'))
    except Exception:
        print 'Not expecting exception... Fail'

        user_account2 = UserAccount(103)
        user_account2.add(Credentials('user1', 'whatever'))
        print 'Expecting exception... Fail'
    except Exception:
        print 'Expecting exception... Pass'

The output of the program is:

EY@LENNY:~/Source/junk/python/pwman$ python
user_account1 <__main__.UserAccount instance at 0x7faa36f11170>
user_account2 None
Expecting True... True
Expecting False... False
Expecting False... False
Expecting True... True
Expecting False... False
Expecting exception... Pass
Not expecting exception... Pass
Expecting True... True
Expecting True... True
Expecting exception... Pass

Learning BASE64 encoding

BASE64 encoding is so prevalent that it is worth learning how it works and how to code your own implementation.

The point of BASE64 is to communicate binary data as text, using only characters that are likely to exist on most computer platforms. These safe characters are known as the BASE64 alphabet and are the letters A to Z and a to z, the numerals 0 to 9, and the characters / and +. There are other ways to represent bytes as text; for example, by converting them to hexadecimal strings made up of the characters 0 to 9 and A to F. But, doing so means that for every character in the original set, two hexadecimal characters are required, which doubles the size of the data.

The BASE64 alphabet consists of 64 characters, each one associated with an integer value. For example, the character A is represented by 0, the character Z by 25, and character / by 63. This means that to cover the range of integers from 0 to 63, the BASE64 word size must be six bits. As a consequence of this, during BASE64 encoding the original data must be laid out and padded to make its size in bits divisible by six.

The smallest number of bytes (or 8-bit words) that can be re-arranged in groups of 6-bit words is three (3 × 8 bits = 24 bits, which is divisible by six). This means that data must be batched in triplets of bytes, and each triplet must be converted into four 6-bit words. The BASE64 character matching the value of each 6-bit word is then output as an 8-bit ASCII character. So, for every three bytes of data, four bytes of output are generated, giving an inflation factor of 4:3 (which is a better compromise than the 2:1 ratio from hexadecimal encoding).

Data that cannot be split exactly in groups of three bytes must be padded to make them so. For example, data that are one byte long must be padded with two zero-value bytes, and data that are 11 bytes long must be padded with one zero-value byte. In other words, data must be padded to reach a size that is divisible by three.

With the theory out of the way, here is how BASE64 is implemented in Java, using the example 'any carnal pleasure'.

First, encode the string as a series of bytes.

byte[] bytes = "any carnal pleasure".getBytes();

This results in an array of 19 bytes.

Next, pad the array with two zero-value bytes to make its size divisible by three.

byte[] padded = Arrays.copyOf(bytes, 21);

Then, convert each triplet of bytes into four 6-bit words and calculate the value of each. (Use bit shift operators.) Append the BASE64 character represented by each 6-bit value to a StringBuilder instance.

for (int byteIndex = 0; byteIndex < padded.length; byteIndex += byteGroupSize) {

    // read the value of the 24-bit word starting at the current index
    int wordOf24Bits = (padded[byteIndex] << 16) + 
                       (padded[byteIndex + 1] << 8) + 
                        padded[byteIndex + 2];

    // read the 24-bit word as 6-bit word values
    int wordOf6Bits1 = (wordOf24Bits >> 18) & 63;
    int wordOf6Bits2 = (wordOf24Bits >> 12) & 63;
    int wordOf6Bits3 = (wordOf24Bits >>  6) & 63;
    int wordOf6Bits4 = (wordOf24Bits      ) & 63;


This yields the BASE64 string 'YW55IGNhcm5hbCBwbGVhc3VyZQAA'.

Finally, replace the padding characters ("AA" in this example resulting from the two zero-value bytes) with as many "=" characters. The "=" is used in the BASE64 decoding process (which is not covered in this post) to determine the amount of padding that has been applied.

for (int i = result.length(); i > result.length() - paddingSize; i--) {
    result.setCharAt(i - 1, '=');

This gives the final result 'YW55IGNhcm5hbCBwbGVhc3VyZQ=='.

I know that there are at least two classes in the standard Java libraries that provide BASE64 operations. One of those is undocumented and is subject to change, and the other is meant to be used by the mail library, which could cause confusion (or would be bad form?) if they are referenced in code that does not otherwise depend on the libraries where the classes reside. By writing my own implementation, I can avoid these unnecessary dependencies, and most importantly, I can do BASE64 in any language that does not have a built-in function for it.