Java Authentication and Authorization Service (JAAS) Provider

20.1 Overview

Spring Security provides a package able to delegate authentication requests to the Java Authentication and Authorization Service (JAAS). This package is discussed in detail below.

Central to JAAS operation are login configuration files. To learn more about JAAS login configuration files, consult the JAAS reference documentation available from Sun Microsystems. We expect you to have a basic understanding of JAAS and its login configuration file syntax in order to understand this section.

20.2 Configuration

The JaasAuthenticationProvider attempts to authenticate a user’s principal and credentials through JAAS.

Let’s assume we have a JAAS login configuration file, /WEB-INF/login.conf, with the following contents:

JAASTest {
    sample.SampleLoginModule required;

Like all Spring Security beans, the JaasAuthenticationProvider is configured via the application context. The following definitions would correspond to the above JAAS login configuration file:

<bean id="jaasAuthenticationProvider"
 <property name="loginConfig" value="/WEB-INF/login.conf"/>
 <property name="loginContextName" value="JAASTest"/>
 <property name="callbackHandlers">
  <property name="authorityGranters">
      <bean class=""/>

The CallbackHandlers and AuthorityGranters are discussed below.

20.2.1 JAAS CallbackHandler

Most JAAS LoginModules require a callback of some sort. These callbacks are usually used to obtain the username and password from the user.

In a Spring Security deployment, Spring Security is responsible for this user interaction (via the authentication mechanism). Thus, by the time the authentication request is delegated through to JAAS, Spring Security's authentication mechanism will already have fully-populated an Authentication object containing all the information required by the JAAS LoginModule.

Therefore, the JAAS package for Spring Security provides two default callback handlers, JaasNameCallbackHandler and JaasPasswordCallbackHandler. Each of these callback handlers implement JaasAuthenticationCallbackHandler. In most cases these callback handlers can simply be used without understanding the internal mechanics.

For those needing full control over the callback behavior, internally JaasAuthenticationProvider wraps these JaasAuthenticationCallbackHandlers with an InternalCallbackHandler. The InternalCallbackHandler is the class that actually implements JAAS’ normal CallbackHandler interface. Any time that the JAAS LoginModule is used, it is passed a list of application context configured InternalCallbackHandlers. If the LoginModule requests a callback against the InternalCallbackHandlers, the callback is in-turn passed to the JaasAuthenticationCallbackHandlers being wrapped.

20.2.2 JAAS AuthorityGranter

JAAS works with principals. Even "roles" are represented as principals in JAAS. Spring Security, on the other hand, works with Authentication objects. Each Authentication object contains a single principal, and multiple GrantedAuthority[]s. To facilitate mapping between these different concepts, Spring Security's JAAS package includes an AuthorityGranter interface.

An AuthorityGranter is responsible for inspecting a JAAS principal and returning a set of Strings, representing the authorities assigned to the principal. For each returned authority string, the JaasAuthenticationProvider creates a JaasGrantedAuthority (which implements Spring Security’s GrantedAuthority interface) containing the authority string and the JAAS principal that the AuthorityGranter was passed. The JaasAuthenticationProvider obtains the JAAS principals by firstly successfully authenticating the user’s credentials using the JAAS LoginModule, and then accessing the LoginContext it returns. A call to LoginContext.getSubject().getPrincipals() is made, with each resulting principal passed to each AuthorityGranter defined against the JaasAuthenticationProvider.setAuthorityGranters(List) property.

Spring Security does not include any production AuthorityGranters given that every JAAS principal has an implementation-specific meaning. However, there is a TestAuthorityGranter in the unit tests that demonstrates a simple AuthorityGranter implementation.