So Cloudflare has a variety of ways to lock down access to your site. One of those is Zone Lockdown, limiting access based on source IP address. If you more fine grained access control, that's where firewall rules (and the upsell) comes in. Here you get access to more data points to decide access.
Usually, you put authentication / authorization tokens in a header, your firewall might check for the existence and your backend checks the validity.
But what if you had a dumb backend? And your request comes from a third party where you can't pass headers, like Cloudflare images which relies on shared infrastructure between different tenants. All you have now is the url.
One way to do this is an apikey in a query param. AWS supports this, even though it isn't best practice.
Problems with this include:
Cloudflare offers an alternative: HMAC Tokens. At first glance it might not seem too different from the api key, but importantly, it's computed dynamically from the request which means we can scope it.
is_timed_hmac_valid_v0 essentially takes:
Which means the
mac passed in the query param is only valid for passed message,
and you can use the path as the message,
mac to just the single resouce
instead of all resources like with a static api key.
Now you do have to somehow pass the signature time as well, and if it (and the mac) changes for every request, then you'd thrash your caches, so you could just bypass the timed section by using a fixed time.