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I am currently building a Python desktop application in PyQt/PySide which will be compiled to .exe. I am planning to use the Azure SQL database and a remote file storage (like S3).

An issue arises that the application needs passwords (credentials) to access these services and be able to upload files etc. "Hardcoding" them is obviously a wrong solution:

  1. the application could be possibly decompiled or the passwords could otherwise be accessed.
  2. the application would lose access to the services if the passwords ever changed. I will mostly know the users but I am not planning to restrict resale or installation, nor an automatic update mechanism, which means I will be unable to notify all the potential users if I change something.

I have thought of running a server (web service), like in node.js/express, to which the users would authenticate (there will be a login/accounts functionality in the application) and the service itself would be storing the actual credentials server-side, that is, the desktop client application would never have to access them directly, and the users would only be accessing the server through the client application, not the actual database.

However, I wanted as little overhead as possible, only the client + database - user authentication would be done simply through querying the database directly from the application - without a server.

As I understand it, from reading articles and similar questions on the forum, there is no secure solution outside of running the server - is this a correct conclusion? That is, running a server is inevitable?

Thank you in advance for advice.

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  • You can set up multiple database credentials for a single database. – Ángel Mar 21 at 21:58
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If it is important to you that your users not be able to obtain the credentials needed to access the cloud services directly, your ONLY option is the indirect access (through a server) that you mentioned.

However, there may be other options, depending on the security model of your application. For example, if each user gets their own storage (not shared between users), you could create some lightweight users (possibly via Azure Active Directory? I'm not an Azure guru. For AWS you'd just use IAM accounts) that can access the cloud services directly, and then lock down (on the cloud platforms) what those users can do (e.g. in the DB, limit the user permissions so they can only run specified stored procedures rather than having free-form access to the DB). This might also work if storage is shared but with some restrictions (like read-only access to others' data). Things like S3 tend to be very free-form, though; if you give somebody an S3 access key, you can't really control what they put in there and you can only control what they take out by limiting the buckets they can access.

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