Calculating the HMAC-SHA Signature for Amazon SWF - Amazon Simple Workflow Service
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Calculating the HMAC-SHA Signature for Amazon SWF

Every request to Amazon SWF must be authenticated. The Amazon SDKs automatically sign your requests and manage your token-based authentication. However, if you want to write your own HTTP POST requests, you need to create an x-amzn-authorization value for the HTTP POST Header content as part of your request authentication.

For more information about formatting headers, see HTTP Header Contents. For the Amazon SDK for Java implementation of Amazon Version 3 signing, see the class.

Creating a Request Signature

Before you create an HMAC-SHA request signature, you must get your Amazon credentials (the Access Key ID and the Secret Key).


You can use either SHA1 or SHA256 to sign your requests. However, make sure that you use the same method throughout the signing process. The method you choose must match the value of the Algorithm name in the HTTP header.

To create the request signature

  1. Create a canonical form of the HTTP request headers. The canonical form of the HTTP header includes the following:

    • host

    • Any header element starting with x-amz-

    For more information about the included headers, see HTTP Header Contents.

    1. For each header name-value pair, convert the header name (but not the header value) to lowercase.

    2. Build a map of the header name to comma-separated header values.

      x-amz-example: value1 x-amz-example: value2 => x-amz-example:value1,value2

      For more information, see Section 4.2 of RFC 2616.

    3. For each header name-value pair, convert the name-value pair into a string in the format headerName:headerValue. Trim any whitespace from the beginning and end of both headerName and headerValue, with no spaces on each side of the colon.

      x-amz-example1:value1,value2 x-amz-example2:value3
    4. Insert a new line (U+000A) after each converted string, including the last string.

    5. Sort the collection of converted strings alphabetically, by header name.

  2. Create a string-to-sign value that includes the following items:

    • Line 1: The HTTP method (POST), followed by a newline.

    • Line 2: The request URI (/), followed by a newline.

    • Line 3: An empty string followed by a newline.


      Typically, the query string appears here, but Amazon SWF doesn't use a query string.

    • Lines 4–n: The string representing the canonicalized request headers that you computed in Step 1, followed by a newline. This newline creates a blank line between the headers and the body of the HTTP request. For more information, see RFC 2616.

    • The request body, not followed by a newline.

  3. Compute the SHA256 or SHA1 digest of the string-to-sign value. Use the same SHA method throughout the process.

  4. Compute and Base64-encode the HMAC-SHA using either a SHA256 or a SHA1 digest (depending on the method you used) of the value resulting from the previous step and the temporary secret access key from the Amazon Security Token Service using the GetSessionToken API action.


    Amazon SWF expects an equals sign (=) at the end of the Base64-encoded HMAC-SHA value. If your Base64 encoding routine doesn't include the appended equals sign, append one to the end of the value.

    For more information about using temporary security credentials with Amazon SWF and other Amazon services, see Amazon Services That Work with IAM in the IAM User Guide.

  5. Place the resulting value as the value for the Signature name in the x-amzn-authorization header of the HTTP request to Amazon SWF.

  6. Amazon SWF verifies the request and performs the specified operation.