Appendix D. Security in Spring Integration

Security is one of the important functions in any modern enterprise (or cloud) application. Moreover, it is critical for distributed systems, such as those built on Enterprise Integration Patterns. Messaging independence and loose coupling let target systems communicate with each other with any type of data in the message’s payload. We can either trust all those messages or secure our service against "infecting" messages.

Spring Integration, together with Spring Security, provides a simple and comprehensive way to secure message channels, as well as other part of the integration solution.

You need to include this dependency into your project:




compile "org.springframework.integration:spring-integration-security:5.1.2.RELEASE"

D.1 Securing channels

Spring Integration provides the ChannelSecurityInterceptor interceptor, which extends AbstractSecurityInterceptor and intercepts send and receive calls on the channel. Access decisions are then made with reference to a ChannelSecurityMetadataSource, which provides the metadata that describes the send and receive access policies for certain channels. The interceptor requires that a valid SecurityContext has been established by authenticating with Spring Security. See the Spring Security Reference Guide for details.

Spring Integration provides Namespace support to allow easy configuration of security constraints. This support consists of the secured channels tag, which allows definition of one or more channel name patterns in conjunction with a definition of the security configuration for send and receive. The pattern is a java.util.regexp.Pattern.

The following example shows how to configure a bean that includes security and how to set up policies with patterns:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<beans:beans xmlns:int=""

    <int-security:access-policy pattern="admin.*" send-access="ROLE_ADMIN"/>
    <int-security:access-policy pattern="user.*" receive-access="ROLE_USER"/>

By default, the secured-channels namespace element expects a bean named authenticationManager (which implements AuthenticationManager) and a bean named accessDecisionManager (which implements AccessDecisionManager). Where this is not the case, references to the appropriate beans can be configured as attributes of the secured-channels element, as the following example shows:

<int-security:secured-channels access-decision-manager="customAccessDecisionManager"
    <int-security:access-policy pattern="admin.*" send-access="ROLE_ADMIN"/>
    <int-security:access-policy pattern="user.*" receive-access="ROLE_USER"/>

Starting with version 4.2, the @SecuredChannel annotation is available for Java configuration in @Configuration classes.

The following example shows the Java equivalent of the preceding XML examples:

public class ContextConfiguration {

    @SecuredChannel(interceptor = "channelSecurityInterceptor", sendAccess = "ROLE_ADMIN")
    public SubscribableChannel adminChannel() {
    	return new DirectChannel();

    @SecuredChannel(interceptor = "channelSecurityInterceptor", receiveAccess = "ROLE_USER")
    public SubscribableChannel userChannel() {
    	return new DirectChannel();

    public ChannelSecurityInterceptor channelSecurityInterceptor(
            AuthenticationManager authenticationManager,
    		AccessDecisionManager accessDecisionManager) {
    	ChannelSecurityInterceptor channelSecurityInterceptor = new ChannelSecurityInterceptor();
    	return channelSecurityInterceptor;


D.2 Security Context Propagation

To be sure that our interaction with the application is secure, according to its security system rules, we should supply some security context with an authentication (principal) object. The Spring Security project provides a flexible, canonical mechanism to authenticate our application clients over HTTP, WebSocket, or SOAP protocols (as can be done for any other integration protocol with a simple Spring Security extension). It also provides a SecurityContext for further authorization checks on the application objects, such as message channels. By default, the SecurityContext is tied to the execution state of the current Thread by using the (ThreadLocalSecurityContextHolderStrategy). It is accessed by an AOP (Aspect-oriented Programming) interceptor on secured methods to check (for example) whether that principal of the invocation has sufficient permissions to call that method. This works well with the current thread. Often, though, processing logic can be performed on another thread, on several threads, or even on external systems.

Standard thread-bound behavior is easy to configure if our application is built on the Spring Integration components and its message channels. In this case, the secured objects can be any service activator or transformer, secured with a MethodSecurityInterceptor in their <request-handler-advice-chain> (see Section 10.9, “Adding Behavior to Endpoints”) or even MessageChannel (see Section D.1, “Securing channels”, earlier). When using DirectChannel communication, the SecurityContext is automatically available, because the downstream flow runs on the current thread. However, in the cases of the QueueChannel, ExecutorChannel, and PublishSubscribeChannel with an Executor, messages are transferred from one thread to another (or several) by the nature of those channels. In order to support such scenarios, we have two choices:

  • Transfer an Authentication object within the message headers and extract and authenticate it on the other side before secured object access.
  • Propagate the SecurityContext to the thread that receives the transferred message.

Version 4.2 introduced SecurityContext propagation. It is implemented as a SecurityContextPropagationChannelInterceptor, which you can add to any MessageChannel or configure as a @GlobalChannelInterceptor. The logic of this interceptor is based on the SecurityContext extraction from the current thread (from the preSend() method) and its populating to another thread from the postReceive() (beforeHandle()) method. Actually, this interceptor is an extension of the more generic ThreadStatePropagationChannelInterceptor, which wraps the message to send with the state to propagate in an internal Message<?> extension (MessageWithThreadState<S>) on one side and extracts the original message and the state to propagate on the other side. You can extend the ThreadStatePropagationChannelInterceptor for any context propagation use case, and SecurityContextPropagationChannelInterceptor is a good example of doing so.


The logic of the ThreadStatePropagationChannelInterceptor is based on message modification (it returns an internal MessageWithThreadState object to send). Consequently, you should be careful when combining this interceptor with any other that can also modify messages (for example, through the MessageBuilder.withPayload(...) The state to propagate may be lost. In most cases, to overcome the issue, you can order the interceptors for the channel and ensure the ThreadStatePropagationChannelInterceptor is the last one in the stack.

Propagation and population of SecurityContext is just one half of the work. Since the message is not an owner of the threads in the message flow and we should be sure that we are secure against any incoming messages, we have to clean up the SecurityContext from ThreadLocal. The SecurityContextPropagationChannelInterceptor provides the afterMessageHandled() interceptor method implementation. It cleans up operation by freeing the thread at the end of invocation from that propagated principal. This means that, when the thread that processes the handed-off message finishes processing the message (successful or otherwise), the context is cleared so that it cannot inadvertently be used when processing another message.


When working with an asynchronous gateway, you should use an appropriate AbstractDelegatingSecurityContextSupport implementation from Spring Security Concurrency Support, to let security context propagation be ensured over gateway invocation. The following example shows how to do so:

public class ContextConfiguration {

    public AsyncTaskExecutor securityContextExecutor() {
        return new DelegatingSecurityContextAsyncTaskExecutor(
                         new SimpleAsyncTaskExecutor());



@MessagingGateway(asyncExecutor = "securityContextExecutor")
public interface SecuredGateway {

    @Gateway(requestChannel = "queueChannel")
    Future<String> send(String payload);