As we saw in the technical overview,
Authentication implementations store a list of
GrantedAuthority objects. These represent the authorities
that have been granted to the principal. The
GrantedAuthority objects are inserted into the
Authentication object by the
AuthenticationManager and are later read by
AccessDecisionManagers when making authorization
GrantedAuthority is an interface with only one method:
This method allows
AccessDecisionManagers to obtain a precise
String representation of the
GrantedAuthority. By returning a representation as a
GrantedAuthority can be
easily “read” by most
AccessDecisionManagers. If a
GrantedAuthority cannot be precisely represented as a
considered “complex” and
getAuthority() must return
An example of a “complex”
would be an implementation that stores a list of operations and authority thresholds
that apply to different customer account numbers. Representing this complex
GrantedAuthority as a
String would be
quite difficult, and as a result the
getAuthority() method should
null. This will indicate to any
AccessDecisionManager that it will need to specifically
GrantedAuthority implementation in order to
understand its contents.
Spring Security includes one concrete
GrantedAuthorityImpl. This allows any user-specified
String to be converted into a
AuthenticationProviders included with the security architecture
GrantedAuthorityImpl to populate the
As we've also seen in the Technical
Overview chapter, Spring Security provides interceptors which control access to
secure objects such as method invocations or web requests. A pre-invocation decision on
whether the invocation is allowed to proceed is made by the
AccessDecisionManager is called by the
AbstractSecurityInterceptor and is responsible for making
final access control decisions. The
AccessDecisionManager interface contains three
void decide(Authentication authentication, Object secureObject, Collection<ConfigAttribute> attrs) throws AccessDeniedException; boolean supports(ConfigAttribute attribute); boolean supports(Class clazz);
decide method is passed all the relevant information it
needs in order to make an authorization decision. In particular, passing the secure
Object enables those arguments contained in the actual secure
object invocation to be inspected. For example, let's assume the secure object was a
MethodInvocation. It would be easy to query the
MethodInvocation for any
argument, and then implement some sort of security logic in the
AccessDecisionManager to ensure the principal is
permitted to operate on that customer. Implementations are expected to throw an
AccessDeniedException if access is denied.
supports(ConfigAttribute) method is called by the
AbstractSecurityInterceptor at startup time to determine if
AccessDecisionManager can process the passed
supports(Class) method is
called by a security interceptor implementation to ensure the configured
AccessDecisionManager supports the type of secure
object that the security interceptor will present.
Whilst users can implement their own
AccessDecisionManager to control all aspects of
authorization, Spring Security includes several
AccessDecisionManager implementations that are based
on voting. Figure 14.1, “Voting Decision Manager” illustrates the relevant
Using this approach, a series of
AccessDecisionVoter implementations are polled on an
authorization decision. The
then decides whether or not to throw an
based on its assessment of the votes.
AccessDecisionVoter interface has three
int vote(Authentication authentication, Object object, Collection<ConfigAttribute> attrs); boolean supports(ConfigAttribute attribute); boolean supports(Class clazz);
Concrete implementations return an
int, with possible values
being reflected in the
ACCESS_GRANTED. A voting implementation will return
ACCESS_ABSTAIN if it has no opinion on an authorization decision.
If it does have an opinion, it must return either
There are three concrete
provided with Spring Security that tally the votes. The
ConsensusBased implementation will grant or deny access based on
the consensus of non-abstain votes. Properties are provided to control behavior in
the event of an equality of votes or if all votes are abstain. The
AffirmativeBased implementation will grant access if one or more
ACCESS_GRANTED votes were received (i.e. a deny vote will be
ignored, provided there was at least one grant vote). Like the
ConsensusBased implementation, there is a parameter that controls
the behavior if all voters abstain. The
ACCESS_GRANTED votes in order to grant access,
ignoring abstains. It will deny access if there is any
ACCESS_DENIED vote. Like the other implementations, there is a
parameter that controls the behaviour if all voters abstain.
It is possible to implement a custom
AccessDecisionManager that tallies votes differently.
For example, votes from a particular
AccessDecisionVoter might receive additional
weighting, whilst a deny vote from a particular voter may have a veto effect.
The most commonly used
provided with Spring Security is the simple
which treats configuration attributes as simple role names and votes to grant
access if the user has been assigned that role.
It will vote if any
ConfigAttribute begins with
ROLE_. It will vote to grant access if there is a
GrantedAuthority which returns a
String representation (via the
getAuthority() method) exactly equal to one or more
ConfigAttributes starting with the prefix
ROLE_. If there is no exact match of any
ConfigAttribute starting with
RoleVoter will vote to deny access. If no
ConfigAttribute begins with
voter will abstain.
Another voter which we've implicitly seen is the
AuthenticatedVoter, which can be used to differentiate
between anonymous, fully-authenticated and remember-me authenticated users. Many
sites allow certain limited access under remember-me authentication, but require
a user to confirm their identity by logging in for full access.
When we've used the attribute
to grant anonymous access, this attribute was being processed by the
AuthenticatedVoter. See the Javadoc for this class for
Obviously, you can also implement a custom
AccessDecisionVoter and you can
put just about any access-control logic you want in it. It might
be specific to your application (business-logic related) or it
might implement some security administration logic. For example, you'll find
blog article on the SpringSource web site which describes how to
use a voter to deny access in real-time to users whose accounts have
AccessDecisionManager is called by the
AbstractSecurityInterceptor before proceeding with the secure
object invocation, some applications need a way of modifying the object actually
returned by the secure object invocation. Whilst you could easily implement your own AOP
concern to achieve this, Spring Security provides a convenient hook that has several
concrete implementations that integrate with its ACL capabilities.
Figure 14.2, “After Invocation Implementation” illustrates Spring Security's
AfterInvocationManager and its concrete implementations.
Like many other parts of Spring Security,
has a single concrete implementation,
which polls a list of
AfterInvocationProvider is allowed to modify the return object or
AccessDeniedException. Indeed multiple providers can modify
the object, as the result of the previous provider is passed to the next in the
Please be aware that if you're using
will still need configuration attributes that allow the
AccessDecisionManager to allow an operation. If you're
using the typical Spring Security included
AccessDecisionManager implementations, having no
configuration attributes defined for a particular secure method invocation will cause
AccessDecisionVoter to abstain from voting. In turn,
AccessDeniedException will be thrown. You may avoid this potential
issue by either (i) setting "
true (although this is generally not recommended) or (ii) simply
ensure that there is at least one configuration attribute that an
AccessDecisionVoter will vote to grant access for. This
latter (recommended) approach is usually achieved through a
ROLE_AUTHENTICATED configuration attribute.
It is a common requirement that a particular role in an application should automatically “include” other roles. For example, in an application which has the concept of an “admin” and a “user” role, you may want an admin to be able to do everything a normal user can. To achieve this, you can either make sure that all admin users are also assigned the “user” role. Alternatively, you can modify every access constraint which requires the “user” role to also include the “admin” role. This can get quite complicated if you have a lot of different roles in your application.
The use of a role-hierarchy allows you to configure which roles (or authorities) should include others.
An extended version of Spring Security's
RoleHierarchyVoter, is configured with a
from which it obtains all the “reachable authorities” which the user is assigned.
A typical configuration might look like this:
<bean id="roleVoter" class="org.springframework.security.access.vote.RoleHierarchyVoter"> <constructor-arg ref="roleHierarchy" /> </class> <bean id="roleHierarchy" class="org.springframework.security.access.hierarchicalroles.RoleHierarchyImpl"> <property name="hierarchy"> <value> ROLE_ADMIN > ROLE_STAFF ROLE_STAFF > ROLE_USER ROLE_USER > ROLE_GUEST </value> </property> </bean>
Here we have four roles in a hierarchy
ROLE_ADMIN => ROLE_STAFF => ROLE_USER => ROLE_GUEST.
A user who is authenticated with
ROLE_ADMIN, will behave as if they have all four roles when
security contraints are evaluated against an
with the above
> symbol can be thought of
as meaning “includes”.
Role hierarchies offer a convenient means of simplifying the access-control configuration data for your application and/or reducing the number of authorities which you need to assign to a user. For more complex requirements you may wish to define a logical mapping between the specific access-rights your application requires and the roles that are assigned to users, translating between the two when loading the user information.