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Access Control Lists ACL

Phalcon\Acl provides an easy and lightweight management of ACLs as well as the permissions attached to them. Access Control Lists (ACL) allow an application to control access to its areas and the underlying objects from requests. You are encouraged to read more about the ACL methodology so as to be familiar with its concepts.

In summary, ACLs have roles and resources. Resources are objects which abide by the permissions defined to them by the ACLs. Roles are objects that request access to resources and can be allowed or denied access by the ACL mechanism.

Creating an ACL

This component is designed to initially work in memory. This provides ease of use and speed in accessing every aspect of the list. The Phalcon\Acl constructor takes as its first parameter an adapter used to retriever the information related to the control list. An example using the memory adapter is below:

<?php $acl = new \Phalcon\Acl\Adapter\Memory();

By default Phalcon\Acl allows access to action on resources that have not been yet defined. To increase the security level of the access list we can define a “deny” level as a default access level.


// Default action is deny access

Adding Roles to the ACL

A role is an object that can or cannot access certain resources in the access list. As an example, we will define roles as groups of people in an organization. The Phalcon\Acl\Role class is available to create roles in a more structured way. Let’s add some roles to our recently created list:


// Create some roles
$roleAdmins = new \Phalcon\Acl\Role("Administrators", "Super-User role");
$roleGuests = new \Phalcon\Acl\Role("Guests");

// Add "Guests" role to acl

// Add "Designers" role to acl without a Phalcon\Acl\Role

As you can see, roles are defined directly without using a instance.

Adding Resources

Resources are objects where access is controlled. Normally in MVC applications resources refer to controllers. Although this is not mandatory, the Phalcon\Acl\Resource class can be used in defining resources. It’s important to add related actions or operations to a resource so that the ACL can understand what it should to control.


// Define the "Customers" resource
$customersResource = new \Phalcon\Acl\Resource("Customers");

// Add "customers" resource with a couple of operations
$acl->addResource($customersResource, "search");
$acl->addResource($customersResource, array("create", "update"));

Defining Access Controls

Now we’ve roles and resources. It’s time to define the ACL i.e. which roles can access which resources. This part is very important especially taking in consideration your default access level “allow” or “deny”.


// Set access level for roles into resources
$acl->allow("Guests", "Customers", "search");
$acl->allow("Guests", "Customers", "create");
$acl->deny("Guests", "Customers", "update");

The allow method designates that a particular role has granted access to access a particular resource. The deny method does the opposite.

Querying an ACL

Once the list has been completely defined. We can query it to check if a role has a given permission or not.


// Check whether role has access to the operations
$acl->isAllowed("Guests", "Customers", "edit");   //Returns 0
$acl->isAllowed("Guests", "Customers", "search"); //Returns 1
$acl->isAllowed("Guests", "Customers", "create"); //Returns 1

Roles Inheritance

You can build complex role structures using the inheritance that Phalcon\Acl\Role provides. Roles can inherit from other roles, thus allowing access to supersets or subsets of resources. To use role inheritance, you need to pass the inherited role as the second parameter of the function call, when adding that role in the list.


// Create some roles
$roleAdmins = new \Phalcon\Acl\Role("Administrators", "Super-User role");
$roleGuests = new \Phalcon\Acl\Role("Guests");

// Add "Guests" role to acl

// Add "Administrators" role inheriting from "Guests" its accesses
$acl->addRole($roleAdmins, $roleGuests);

Serializing ACL lists

To improve performance Phalcon\Acl instances can be serialized and stored in APC, session, text files or a database table so that they can be loaded at will without having to redefine the whole list. You can do that as follows:


//Check whether acl data already exist
if (!file_exists("app/security/")) {

    $acl = new \Phalcon\Acl("Memory");

    //... Define roles, resources, access, etc

    // Store serialized list into plain file
    file_put_contents("app/security/", serialize($acl));

} else {

     //Restore acl object from serialized file
     $acl = unserialize(file_get_contents("app/security/"));

// Use acl list as needed
if ($acl->isAllowed("Guests", "Customers", "edit")) {
    echo "Access granted!";
} else {
    echo "Access denied :(";

Acl Events

Phalcon\Acl is able to send events to a EventsManager if it’s present. Events are triggered using the type “acl”. Some events when returning boolean false could stop the active operation. The following events are supported:

Event Name Triggered Can stop operation?
beforeCheckAccess Triggered before checking if a role/resource has access Yes
afterCheckAccess Triggered after checking if a role/resource has access No

The following example demonstrates how to attach listeners to this component:


//Create an event manager
$eventsManager = new Phalcon\Events\Manager();

//Attach a listener for type "acl"
$eventsManager->attach("acl", function($event, $acl) {
    if ($event->getType() == 'beforeCheckAccess') {
         echo   $acl->getActiveRole(),

$acl = new \Phalcon\Acl\Adapter\Memory();

//Setup the $acl

//Bind the eventsManager to the acl component

Implementing your own adapters

The Phalcon\Acl\AdapterInterface interface must be implemented in order to create your own ACL adapters or extend the existing ones.