Welcome!

Security Authors: Elizabeth White, Vormetric Blog, Trevor Parsons, Liz McMillan, Peter Dyer

Related Topics: Java, Security

Java: Article

SOA Focus - Web Services Security in Java EE

The present and future

In my earlier article "Moving to SOA in J2EE 1.4" published in the February issue of JDJ I introduced you to the new object distribution model based on Web Services that became available to Enterprise Java applications with the advent of Java EE 1.4. In this article I want to look at the security features available in Java EE SOA.

Here you'll get thehands-on knowledge of Web Services security in Java EE that we acquired when adding security support to OptimalJ-generated SOA applications. It's based on the J2EE 1.4 specification itself as well as on what is actually supported and it works in three major J2EE 1.4 application servers - JBoss 4.0.4, WebSphere 6.0.2.x, and WebLogic 9.1. You'll also learn about the new mandatory security features available to Web Service endpoints in Java EE 5.0.

Overview of Security in Java EE
Java EE comes with a mature security model that provides for the guaranteed features that have to be supported by all compliant application servers: authentication, authorization, confidentiality, and integrity. Though not yet required by the specification, most high-end application servers also support some sort of auditing of security-related events and non-repudiation - in other words a way of preventing an invocation sender from denying responsibility for the action - for communicating with Web Service components.

Authorization is based on logical security roles that are simple names defined by the component provider or application assembler in XML deployment descriptors. The code underneath all Java EE components - JSPs, servlets, and Enterprise JavaBeans - can be restricted declaratively based on logical security roles. In the case of EJBs, access can be limited on an Enterprise Bean's method level, whereas access to JSPs and servlets is enforced based on their URL and the HTTP method utilized (e.g. POST, GET, etc.). Besides declarative authorization, programmatic authorization is also supported so that a component's code can dynamically inquire whether the security context of the current user is associated with a particular logical security role and make a decision based on this analysis. How a given principal is actually mapped to a set of security roles depends on the Java EE notion of a security domain and the principal authentication mechanisms associated with the domain.

The confidentiality and integrity requirements are met at the transport layer with the help of the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL 3.0) protocol and the related IETF standard Transport Layer Security (TLS 1.0) protocol. For SSL and TLS only X.509 certificates are supported for authenticating principals. Kerberos-based authentication mechanisms in TLS are presently regarded as optional and aren't implemented by the application servers this article concentrates on.

The authentication security requirement is by far the most difficult to explain since it requires understanding the Java EE notion of a security domain, which is essentially a security mechanism used to authenticate the user. Here are the three arbitrary examples of security domains:

  1. A security domain where users are authenticated based on their X509 certificates presented during an SSL handshake. In this case the protocol used by the client for communicating with the application server can be HTTPS, IIOP/SSL, or JRMP/SSL.
  2. A security domain that uses the SRP protocol in communicating a user's name and password to the server in a secure fashion. Here the communications protocol that the client uses can be JRMP.
  3. A security domain that uses the HTTP Basic Authentication in communicating a user name and password to the server. Such a security domain will use either HTTP or HTTPS as the supported communications protocol.
Different security domains entail different types of principals for representing users. In the first security domain presented above, a principal will be derived from an X509 certificate or a certificate chain that the user presented during an SSL handshake. In the second example, a principal will be taken from the user name specified by the client. Here's a code sample taken from JBoss that shows how a certificate chain can be mapped to a principal:

public Principal toPrinicipal(
       X509Certificate[] certs) {
    Principal subject = certs[0].getSubjectDN();
    return subject;
}

Thus a security domain deals with a set of principals of a particular kind (e.g., based on X509 certificates, Kerberos tickets, plain user names, etc.). This set is termed a principal realm. For each principal realm, there's mapping between its principals and the one or more logical security roles that are used in Java EE applications. Application servers offer a plethora of ways to represent a principal realm, the most common of which are a local OS user registry, an LDAP server, an RDBMS schema, a Kerberos KDC, or a simple .properties files.

Modern Java EE application servers support different security domains or let users define their own based on the JAAS login modules available. See the sidebar "What is JAAS?" for more information on using JAAS in Java EE.

When a Java EE application is deployed, the deployer assigns the application modules to the security domains that have been configured in the targeted application server installation. Typically, the components of a Java EE module (an EJB .jar module or a Web .war module) are all assigned to the same security domain; some application servers let the components of a given module be assigned to different security domains, but this practice is generally avoided since it can easily lead to confusion. Java EE doesn't standardize the scope of a security domain and leaves it up to vendors. At the moment all high-end application servers let a security domain span multiple application server installations (which typically form a cluster).

Security Context Propagation and Single Sign-on
A Java EE application server features three different containers (there's also an applet container that is typically embodied by a Web browser program): a Web Container that hosts JSPs and servlet components, an EJB Container where EJB components are deployed, and an Application client container (see the sidebar "Application client containers" for more details on this concept). EJB and Web Containers are typically collocated, and components running in the Web Container can access EJBs of the corresponding EJB container. Figure 1 depicts the relationships between the three containers and various ways in which a client can access a Java EE application. For simplicity's sake I depicted all the enterprise components as running in the same application server on a single node, but it doesn't have to be this way; modern application servers let them be distributed among multiple nodes.

The following are the two typical usage scenarios shown in Figure 1 involving access to an enterprise Java application:

1.  A user accesses a JSP or a servlet component deployed in a Web Container with a Web browser. He authenticates himself to the Web Container using either 1) a username and password that his Web browser prompts him to enter (Basic HTTP Authentication) or 2) an X509 certificate that the browser lets the user choose from a pre-installed set of user certificates. The servlet component carries out the presentation-related activities and invokes an EJB Session component (using a local invocation in the same JVM or RMI-based protocol) to carry out the business logic-related tasks. To fulfill the business logic task the session bean can invoke an Entity EJB, call on an EIS with a help of a JCA resource adapter, or carry out some JDBC-based data access. After completing its work, the session component returns the processing results to the servlet component, which in turn renders them to the user in HTML.

The user can then invoke the servlet or some Web component or JSP again.The application server maintains a session with the user's browser and doesn't require re-authentication.

2.  A Java client application uses either RMI-IIOP or RMI-JRPM to access the server. The application prompts the user for a name and credentials and authenticates itself to the server with the help of JAAS and one or more JAAS the login modules provided by the vendor. For RMI-IIOP, the CSIv2 SAS protocol will most likely be used to communicate authentication data to the server. The client application accesses an EJB deployed in an EJB Container. Like the first scenario, the invoked EJB can call other EJBs or enterprise services.

The client application then goes on to invoke another EJB without having to re-authenticate the user. Listing 1 is an example of such a client application for WebSphere.

A lot can be gathered from these scenarios and from Figure 1.

First, they show that external clients can access components running in the WEB container by using either HTTP or HTTPS and components hosted in the EJB container with RMI-IIOP or RMI-JRMP. They also show that components can use 1) local invocations in the same JVM, 2) RMI-IIOP, or 3) RMI-JRMP for inter-component communication. Which of the three is used depends on the vendor and the configuration of the application server.

Second, in both examples the clients authenticated themselves to the container before being able to use a component, and the application server propagated the established client security context when the component invoked the other EJBs.

Third, the samples demonstrate Java EE support for single sign-on (frequently abbreviated as SSO), thanks to which needless re-authentications are avoided for subsequent application are avoided server access. The propagation of the client security context and single sign-on are two important security characteristics of Java EE.

Application servers let the client security context be propagated if local JVM invocations, RMI-IIOP, or RMI-JRMP are used as inter-component communication transports and the component targeted belongs to the same security domain. A client security context typically consists of a principal object (whose type depends on the security domain of the Java EE application) and zero or more associated credentials presented during authentication. Java EE specifies RMI-IIOP and the accompanying CSIv2 OMG spec as the only interoperable way of propagating a client security context that must be understood and supported by all compliant application servers (a security context propagated with RMI-JRMP is only meaningful if the targeted component runs in an application server from the same vendor). Using CORBA-related standards for interoperability among disparate application servers reflects the CORBA-oriented nature of the early Java EE specifications that holds to this day.


More Stories By Andrei Iltchenko

Andrei Iltchenko is a development lead at Compuware Corporation where he works on the MDA product OptimalJ and is responsible for the business logic area of OptimalJ-generated J2EE applications. He is also a Sun certified Java developer for Java Web Services, a Sun Certified Business Component Developer, a Sun Certified Developer, and a Sun Certified Programmer.

Comments (4) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Andrei Iltchenko 08/17/06 01:36:29 PM EDT

Gerald, thank you very much for your words and for the correction you found! I am glad you found the article of use.

Gerald Loeffler 07/26/06 06:57:59 AM EDT

Brilliant article - precise, accurate and comprehensive, including valuable real-world information that goes beyond "spec knowledge". A pleaseure to read!

cheers,
gerald

P.S.: there is a bug in listing 2: the variable to downcast should be "bean1Stub" and not "port".

http://www.gerald-loeffler.net

SYS-CON Australia News Desk 07/25/06 01:53:42 PM EDT

In my earlier article 'Moving to SOA in J2EE 1.4' published in the February issue of JDJ I introduced you to the new object distribution model based on Web Services that became available to Enterprise Java applications with the advent of Java EE 1.4. In this article I want to look at the security features available in Java EE SOA.

JDJ News Desk 07/25/06 01:33:45 PM EDT

In my earlier article 'Moving to SOA in J2EE 1.4' published in the February issue of JDJ I introduced you to the new object distribution model based on Web Services that became available to Enterprise Java applications with the advent of Java EE 1.4. In this article I want to look at the security features available in Java EE SOA.

@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
There is no doubt that Big Data is here and getting bigger every day. Building a Big Data infrastructure today is no easy task. There are an enormous number of choices for database engines and technologies. To make things even more challenging, requirements are getting more sophisticated, and the standard paradigm of supporting historical analytics queries is often just one facet of what is needed. As Big Data growth continues, organizations are demanding real-time access to data, allowing immediate and actionable interpretation of events as they happen. Another aspect concerns how to deliver ...
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect at GE, and Ibrahim Gokcen, who leads GE's advanced IoT analytics, focused on the Internet of Things / Industrial Internet and how to make it operational for business end-users. Learn about the challenges posed by machine and sensor data and how to marry it with enterprise data. They also discussed the tips and tricks to provide the Industrial Internet as an end-user consumable service using Big Data Analytics and Industrial Cloud.
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, addressed the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. Rodney Rogers, chairman and CEO of Virtustream; Brendan O'Brien, co-founder of Aria Systems, Bart Copeland, president and CEO of ActiveState Software; Jim Cowie, chief scientist at Dyn; Dave Wagstaff, VP and chief architect at BSQUARE Corporation; Seth Proctor, CTO of NuoDB, Inc.; and Andris Gailitis, C...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
Technology is enabling a new approach to collecting and using data. This approach, commonly referred to as the "Internet of Things" (IoT), enables businesses to use real-time data from all sorts of things including machines, devices and sensors to make better decisions, improve customer service, and lower the risk in the creation of new revenue opportunities. In his General Session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Dave Wagstaff, Vice President and Chief Architect at BSQUARE Corporation, discuss the real benefits to focus on, how to understand the requirements of a successful solution, the flow of ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Performance is the intersection of power, agility, control, and choice. If you value performance, and more specifically consistent performance, you need to look beyond simple virtualized compute. Many factors need to be considered to create a truly performant environment. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, discussed how to take advantage of a multitude of compute options and platform features to make cloud the cornerstone of your online presence.
In this Women in Technology Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Anne Plese, Senior Consultant, Cloud Product Marketing at Verizon Enterprise, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO at MetraTech; Evelyn de Souza, Data Privacy and Compliance Strategy Leader at Cisco Systems; Seema Jethani, Director of Product Management at Basho Technologies; Victoria Livschitz, CEO of Qubell Inc.; Anne Hungate, Senior Director of Software Quality at DIRECTV, discussed what path they took to find their spot within the technology industry and how do they see opportunities for other women in their area of expertise.
Wearable devices have come of age. The primary applications of wearables so far have been "the Quantified Self" or the tracking of one's fitness and health status. We propose the evolution of wearables into social and emotional communication devices. Our BE(tm) sensor uses light to visualize the skin conductance response. Our sensors are very inexpensive and can be massively distributed to audiences or groups of any size, in order to gauge reactions to performances, video, or any kind of presentation. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Jocelyn Scheirer, CEO & Founder of Bionolux, will discuss ho...
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
We’re no longer looking to the future for the IoT wave. It’s no longer a distant dream but a reality that has arrived. It’s now time to make sure the industry is in alignment to meet the IoT growing pains – cooperate and collaborate as well as innovate. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, will examine the key ingredients to IoT success and identify solutions to challenges the industry is facing. The deep industry expertise behind this presentation will provide attendees with a leading edge view of rapidly emerging IoT oppor...
“With easy-to-use SDKs for Atmel’s platforms, IoT developers can now reap the benefits of realtime communication, and bypass the security pitfalls and configuration complexities that put IoT deployments at risk,” said Todd Greene, founder & CEO of PubNub. PubNub will team with Atmel at CES 2015 to launch full SDK support for Atmel’s MCU, MPU, and Wireless SoC platforms. Atmel developers now have access to PubNub’s secure Publish/Subscribe messaging with guaranteed ¼ second latencies across PubNub’s 14 global points-of-presence. PubNub delivers secure communication through firewalls, proxy ser...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...