Background Jobs: Lambda (Deprecated)

Note: This article is deprecated, we have removed the code for this approach in favor of a Ruby Workers approach, but are leaving this article up as a reference.


To minimize long-running requests in the IDP, we’ve moved calls that talk to vendors to background jobs. We have implemented those background jobs as AWS Lambda functions.

Generally, the jobs fall into two categories:

  1. ID card scanning (image processing jobs)
  2. PII verification

architecture diagram of async/lambda

(to update this diagram, edit the Async/Lambda Architecture file in Figma and re-export it)

The lifecycle of a lambda:

  1. (For image processing jobs only)
    • The IDP will generate pre-signed S3 URLs and pass them to the client/browser
    • The browser will generate a random encryption key
    • The browser will AES-encrypt images and upload those encrypted images to the pre-signed S3 URLs
  2. The user submits a form to the IDP
    • For image processing jobs, the payload will contain:
      • S3 image URLs
      • the encryption key and IVs
    • For PII verification jobs, the payload will contain PII:
      • First name
      • Last name
      • Date of Birth
      • SSN
      • Driver’s license number
      • Address
  3. The IDP immediately kicks off a Lambda (IDP does not persist any of the form data)
    • The IDP is pinned to a particular SHA of the Lambda code, via its its source (see GIT_REF constant)
    • The lambda payload contains a callback_url which has a unique token for the job
    • The lambda payload contains the values submitted from the form (S3 image urls, encryption keys, or PII as needed)
  4. The IDP will show a waiting page to the user
  5. The Lambda will process the jobs
    • (For image processing jobs only)
      • The Lambda will download the encrypted image data from S3, and decrypt it
    • It will make HTTP requests via our outbound proxy to vendors
      • The request to the vendors will include either PII or decrypted image data
  6. When the lambda is done, it will HTTP POST back to the IDP
    • It uses the callback_url with a unique token
    • It authenticates by passing a X-API-AUTH-TOKEN header (shared secret) with the IDP, the token is different per job (3 different jobs means there are 3 different authentication tokens)
    • The IDP stores the result (which may contain PII) in Redis, symmetrically encrypted and with a 60 second expiration.
    • PII in the payload may include data from reading the driver’s licese
      • First name
      • Last name
      • Date of Birth
      • Driver’s license number
      • Address
  7. The user waiting page will be polling for the result of the background job, where the IDP will check Redis for the result for that particular job. Once it is complete, the user will continue to the next step of the flow.
    • If after 60 seconds the IDP has not seen a response for the job, the IDP will decide the job has timed out, and show an error screen to the user, giving them an option to retry.


The code that runs inside the AWS Lambdas lives in the identity-idp-functions repository.

We use CircleCI (.circleci/config.yml) to build and package the code via sam, and upload it to S3. The uploads are tagged by their git ref.

TODO: add more info about the codebuild pipeline after the files get to S3.

The IDP is pinned to a specific SHA of the identity-idp-functions via its GIT_REF constant, so to get the IDP to use newer lambda code, you need to make a pull request to the IDP to update that file.


These are the secrets and configurations needed in order to enable and authenticate the lambda workflow in the IDP.

SSM secret name IDP secret name Purpose
aws_lambda_proofing_enabled Enables lambdas in the IDP
doc_auth_enable_presigned_s3_urls Enables uploading images to S3 in the IDP
address_proof_result_token address_proof_result_lambda_token Shared authentication secret
document_proof_result_token document_proof_result_lambda_token Shared authentication secret
resolution_proof_result_token resolution_proof_result_lambda_token Shared authentication secret

Launch Checklist

Here’s the step-by-step to enable the lambda background jobs workflow in the IDP.

  1. Set up the IDP application.yml. See how to update application.yml.

    Enable AWS proofing and set the various API auth tokens

     aws_lambda_proofing_enabled: "true"
     doc_auth_enable_presigned_s3_urls: "true"
     # generate your own random tokens for these:
     address_proof_result_lambda_token: "CHANGEME"
     document_proof_result_lambda_token: "CHANGEME"
     resolution_proof_result_lambda_token: "CHANGEME"
  2. Set the secrets the AWS Console

    1. Open the AWS console
       aws-vault login sandbox-power
    2. Go to Parameter Store

      (It’s under Systems ManagerApplication ManagementParameter Store)

    3. Find the secret you want to update, like: /dev/idp/doc-capture/address_proof_result_token

      • Optional: It’s probably easiest to filter down to the environment. Parameters are templatized like /$ENV/idp/doc-capture/$SSM_NAME
      • Reminder: The parameter names are different than in the application YML, see SSM name in the conversion table
      • Click “Edit”, scroll down and put the value in the “Value” field
      • Click “Save Changes”
  3. Recyle the IDP so the changes take effect