20. JSP Tag Libraries

Spring Security has its own taglib which provides basic support for accessing security information and applying security constraints in JSPs.

20.1 Declaring the Taglib

To use any of the tags, you must have the security taglib declared in your JSP:

    <%@ taglib prefix="sec" uri="http://www.springframework.org/security/tags" %>

20.2 The authorize Tag

This tag is used to determine whether its contents should be evaluated or not. In Spring Security 3.0, it can be used in two ways [25]. The first approach uses a web-security expression, specified in the access attribute of the tag. The expression evaluation will be delegated to the SecurityExpressionHandler<FilterInvocation> defined in the application context (you should have web expressions enabled in your <http> namespace configuration to make sure this service is available). So, for example, you might have

<sec:authorize access="hasRole('supervisor')">

This content will only be visible to users who have
the "supervisor" authority in their list of <tt>GrantedAuthority</tt>s.


A common requirement is to only show a particular link, if the user is actually allowed to click it. How can we determine in advance whether something will be allowed? This tag can also operate in an alternative mode which allows you to define a particular URL as an attribute. If the user is allowed to invoke that URL, then the tag body will be evaluated, otherwise it will be skipped. So you might have something like

<sec:authorize url="/admin">

This content will only be visible to users who are authorized to send requests to the "/admin" URL.


To use this tag there must also be an instance of WebInvocationPrivilegeEvaluator in your application context. If you are using the namespace, one will automatically be registered. This is an instance of DefaultWebInvocationPrivilegeEvaluator, which creates a dummy web request for the supplied URL and invokes the security interceptor to see whether the request would succeed or fail. This allows you to delegate to the access-control setup you defined using intercept-url declarations within the <http> namespace configuration and saves having to duplicate the information (such as the required roles) within your JSPs. This approach can also be combined with a method attribute, supplying the HTTP method, for a more specific match.

The boolean result of evaluating the tag (whether it grants or denies access) can be stored in a page context scope variable by setting the var attribute to the variable name, avoiding the need for duplicating and re-evaluating the condition at other points in the page.

20.2.1 Disabling Tag Authorization for Testing

Hiding a link in a page for unauthorized users doesn't prevent them from accessing the URL. They could just type it into their browser directly, for example. As part of your testing process, you may want to reveal the hidden areas in order to check that links really are secured at the back end. If you set the system property spring.security.disableUISecurity to true, the authorize tag will still run but will not hide its contents. By default it will also surround the content with <span class="securityHiddenUI">...</span> tags. This allows you to display hidden content with a particular CSS style such as a different background colour. Try running the tutorial sample application with this property enabled, for example.

You can also set the properties spring.security.securedUIPrefix and spring.security.securedUISuffix if you want to change surrounding text from the default span tags (or use empty strings to remove it completely).

20.3 The authenticationTag

This tag allows access to the current Authentication object stored in the security context. It renders a property of the object directly in the JSP. So, for example, if the principal property of the Authentication is an instance of Spring Security's UserDetails object, then using <sec:authentication property="principal.username" /> will render the name of the current user.

Of course, it isn't necessary to use JSP tags for this kind of thing and some people prefer to keep as little logic as possible in the view. You can access the Authentication object in your MVC controller (by calling SecurityContextHolder.getContext().getAuthentication()) and add the data directly to your model for rendering by the view.

20.4 The accesscontrollist Tag

This tag is only valid when used with Spring Security's ACL module. It checks a comma-separated list of required permissions for a specified domain object. If the current user has any of those permissions, then the tag body will be evaluated. If they don't, it will be skipped. An example might be

<sec:accesscontrollist hasPermission="1,2" domainObject="${someObject}">

This will be shown if the user has either of the permissions 
represented by the values "1" or "2" on the given object.


The permissions are passed to the PermissionFactory defined in the application context, converting them to ACL Permission instances, so they may be any format which is supported by the factory - they don't have to be integers, they could be strings like READ or WRITE. If no PermissionFactory is found, an instance of DefaultPermissionFactory will be used. The AclServicefrom the application context will be used to load the Acl instance for the supplied object. The Acl will be invoked with the required permissions to check if any of them are granted.

This tag also supports the var attribute, in the same way as the authorize tag.

[25] The legacy options from Spring Security 2.0 are also supported, but discouraged.