Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Security Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Vormetric Blog, Pat Romanski, Brad Thies

Related Topics: Java, Security

Java: Article

Effective Page Authorization In JavaServer Faces

Application security - the art of applications defending themselves - represents an important line of defence

Application security - the art of applications defending themselves - represents an important line of defence in an overall in-depth security strategy. Web applications that follow the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture can, and should, have security implemented on all three layers. Normally it's the controller component that handles page authorization in MVC, the view layer that hides controls and information based on user authorization, and the model that enforces the business rules and input validation. However, it's up to the developer, based on an individual security policy and the programming technology used, to decide where to put security. Using pluggable validator components in JavaServer Faces (JSF), for example, developers may decide to verify user input on the view layer as well as on the model layer.

 JavaServer Faces, the new J2EE standard for building feature-rich Web applications with JEE 1.5, has few integrated security features. JSF generously delegates the task of implementing application security such as page authorization to the application developer, leaving many developers pondering where to start, where best to put security, and which security technology to choose.

This article aims to answer such questions for authorization in JavaServer Faces, demonstrating how a custom PhaseListener that uses J2EE container-managed security can be used to implement access control for JSF pages. Besides page authorization, the security PhaseListener supports protocol switching between HTTP and HTTPS, a common requirement of applications that work with sensitive data on a Web page.

The J2EE Security Choices
The J2EE platform provides two built-in security technologies for the application developer to use: the Java Authentication and Authorization Service (JAAS) and container-managed security, also known as J2EE security.

The Java Authentication and Authorization Service is a J2SE 1.4 security standard designed for the Java desktop that's also used as an implementation technology for security in J2EE. The JAAS authentication infrastructure is built as a Java version of the Pluggable Authentication Module (PAM) architecture that allows one or more authentication providers to be used for user identification. Before JAAS, the Java 2 security platform was code-centric, determining access privileges based solely on the location of the Java sources. Using JAAS, Java security now also looks at the authenticated user when evaluating access control to resources. JAAS's benefit is its ability to implement fine-grained access control through external Java permission classes, which associate users with a list of resources and allowed actions.

Authentication and authorization in J2EE security is configured declaratively in the application's web.xml deployment descriptor and handled by the J2EE container at runtime. Working with APIs defined in the J2EE servlet standard, application developers don't have to worry about the implementation of security in a container. In container-managed security, authorization is enforced on URL patterns, which are absolute or relative URLs. This however also means that authorization is only enforced on requests that are initiated by the client, not as server-side forward requests.

Ease of use, the clean separation of security definition and application code, and portability across application servers are the main reasons for the wide adoption of container-managed security among business application developers. J2EE security is sufficient to implement many common security use cases. As a reflection of its popularity and its portability, container-managed security is used in the code examples of this article to illustrate effective page authorization in JavaServer Faces.

Container-Managed Security in J2EE
In container-managed security, a user is granted access to protected URL resources through security roles defined in the web.xml deployment descriptor. Security roles in J2EE are logical names used in Web applications that are mapped during or after deployment to user groups that exist on the target application server platform.

Listing 1 Web.xml excerpt granting the app_user security role access to the protected URL resource /faces/protected/*

<security-constraint>
    <Web-resource-collection>
    <Web-resource-name>Members</Web-resource-name>
    <url-pattern>/faces/protected/*</url-pattern>
    </Web-resource-collection>
    <auth-constraint>
       <role-name>app_user</role-name>
    </auth-constraint>
</security-constraint>
...
<security-role>
    <role-name>app_user</role-name>
</security-role>

To access a protected application resource, Web application users must first authenticate, which in container-managed security is handled by the J2EE container. Either the application developer or the application deployer configures the type of authentication in the web.xml deployment descriptor.

Listing 2 Basic authentication defined for the jazn.com realm

<login-config>
     <auth-method>BASIC</auth-method>
     <realm-name>jazn.com</realm-name>
</login-config>

To check authorization programmatically in an J2EE application - like in JavaServer Faces - application developers use the isUserInRole method in the servlet API. This isUserInRole method is also exposed via a convenience method in JavaServer Faces through the static FacesContext class. Role names referenced in application code ought to be mapped to roles defined in the web.xml file using the <security-role-ref> element if the role names don't match. Using the <security-role-ref> element, developers don't have to be aware of the security role names that exist in the web.xml descriptor when developing an application.

Listing 3 Mapping the "user" role name used in the application code to the security role name "manager_role" defined in the web.xml file

<security-role-ref>
     <role-name>user</role-name>
     <role-link>app_user</role-link>
</security-role-ref>

If the authenticated user isn't authorized to access the requested URL resource, the J2EE container responds with HTTP error 403, indicating a bad request. A HTTP error 401 is returned if a user cancels the authentication process. HTTP error codes and Java exceptions are handled declaratively in the web.xml file using the <error-page> element.

Listing 4 Redirecting a request in response to unauthorized page access handling error code 403 and 401

<error-page>
     <error-code>403</error-code>
     <location>Error.jsp</location>
</error-page>
<error-page>
     <error-code>401</error-code>
     <location>Logon_cancelled.jsp</location>
</error-page>

If SSL is required to ensure secure communication when accessing a specific Web resource, the <security-constraint> element added for a protected resource contains an additional <user-data-constraint> element. Setting the transport guarantee to "confidential" indicates that SSL is required.


More Stories By Duncan Mills

Duncan Mills is senior director of product management for Oracle's Application Development Tools - including the JDeveloper IDE, and the Oracle Application Development Framework. He has been in the IT industry for the past 19 years working with Oracle, Java, and a variety of more obscure programming languages and frameworks along the way. Duncan is the co-author of the Oracle Press book: Oracle JDeveloper 10g for Forms and PL/SQL Developers - a Guide to Web Development with Oracle ADF.

More Stories By Frank Nimphius

Frank Nimphius is a principal product manager for application development tools at Oracle Corporation. As a conference speaker, Frank represents the Oracle J2EE development team at J2EE conferences world wide, including various Oracle user groups and the Oracle Open World conference.

Comments (6) 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
y_alomoush 09/01/08 04:29:19 PM EDT

Hi Duncan and Frank,

Thanks for your great efforts.

It is a job well done. In fact,I have installed the module and plugged it to my own application for evaluation purposes.However, I have found a scenario where a user can access into a unauthorized page, I don't know if I can call it as a bug or not.

The scenario is as the following:
1-start the application by calling a page that requires authentication and authorization.
2-the system shall direct you to the login page.

3-enter a correct username/password but not authorized to access that page.

3-system shall redirect you to error page using the sendError method.

4-call the same page again (using the same session). the system strangely forward you to the page that you are not authorized to access.(because the page is already cached as an authorized page)

I think after the page is redirected to the error page the handleSecurity method must return, in this case, false instead of retuning true, this in order not to cache an unauthorized page.

Thank yo once again.

keerthi 09/21/06 10:22:56 AM EDT

Hi Duncan and Frank,

This article is really an interesting one. I found it at a right moment of time as I was trying to implement Page level security in a Project based on JSF.
I was wondering the article is based on Container-Managed Security or reading roles from web.xml. I have a requirement where I need to read the roles from database and not from web.xml, can I achieve this security feature by implementing the points mentioned in this article.
Awaiting for your response.
Thanks and Regards,
Keerthi.

SYS-CON Italy News Desk 08/10/06 05:42:31 PM EDT

Application security - the art of applications defending themselves - represents an important line of defence in an overall in-depth security strategy. Web applications that follow the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture can, and should, have security implemented on all three layers. Normally it's the controller component that handles page authorization in MVC, the view layer that hides controls and information based on user authorization, and the model that enforces the business rules and input validation. However, it's up to the developer, based on an individual security policy and the programming technology used, to decide where to put security. Using pluggable validator components in JavaServer Faces (JSF), for example, developers may decide to verify user input on the view layer as well as on the model layer.

AJAXWorld News Desk 08/10/06 05:26:41 PM EDT

Application security - the art of applications defending themselves - represents an important line of defence in an overall in-depth security strategy. Web applications that follow the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture can, and should, have security implemented on all three layers. Normally it's the controller component that handles page authorization in MVC, the view layer that hides controls and information based on user authorization, and the model that enforces the business rules and input validation. However, it's up to the developer, based on an individual security policy and the programming technology used, to decide where to put security. Using pluggable validator components in JavaServer Faces (JSF), for example, developers may decide to verify user input on the view layer as well as on the model layer.

JDJ News Desk 07/26/06 05:18:34 PM EDT

Application security - the art of applications defending themselves - represents an important line of defence in an overall in-depth security strategy. Web applications that follow the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture can, and should, have security implemented on all three layers. Normally it's the controller component that handles page authorization in MVC, the view layer that hides controls and information based on user authorization, and the model that enforces the business rules and input validation. However, it's up to the developer, based on an individual security policy and the programming technology used, to decide where to put security. Using pluggable validator components in JavaServer Faces (JSF), for example, developers may decide to verify user input on the view layer as well as on the model layer.

JDJ News Desk 07/26/06 04:40:02 PM EDT

Application security - the art of applications defending themselves - represents an important line of defence in an overall in-depth security strategy. Web applications that follow the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture can, and should, have security implemented on all three layers. Normally it's the controller component that handles page authorization in MVC, the view layer that hides controls and information based on user authorization, and the model that enforces the business rules and input validation. However, it's up to the developer, based on an individual security policy and the programming technology used, to decide where to put security. Using pluggable validator components in JavaServer Faces (JSF), for example, developers may decide to verify user input on the view layer as well as on the model layer.

@ThingsExpo Stories
One of the biggest impacts of the Internet of Things is and will continue to be on data; specifically data volume, management and usage. Companies are scrambling to adapt to this new and unpredictable data reality with legacy infrastructure that cannot handle the speed and volume of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and president of Infobright, will discuss how companies need to rethink their data infrastructure to participate in the IoT, including: Data storage: Understanding the kinds of data: structured, unstructured, big/small? Analytics: What kinds and how responsiv...
Since 2008 and for the first time in history, more than half of humans live in urban areas, urging cities to become “smart.” Today, cities can leverage the wide availability of smartphones combined with new technologies such as Beacons or NFC to connect their urban furniture and environment to create citizen-first services that improve transportation, way-finding and information delivery. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Laetitia Gazel-Anthoine, CEO of Connecthings, will focus on successful use cases.
The Workspace-as-a-Service (WaaS) market will grow to $6.4B by 2018. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Seth Bostock, CEO of IndependenceIT, will begin by walking the audience through the evolution of Workspace as-a-Service, where it is now vs. where it going. To look beyond the desktop we must understand exactly what WaaS is, who the users are, and where it is going in the future. IT departments, ISVs and service providers must look to workflow and automation capabilities to adapt to growing demand and the rapidly changing workspace model.
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, will examine the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps stil...
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.
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., showed what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform your business. He discussed opportunities and challenges ahead for the IoT from a market and technical point of vie...
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold. Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Pa...
Hadoop as a Service (as offered by handful of niche vendors now) is a cloud computing solution that makes medium and large-scale data processing accessible, easy, fast and inexpensive. In his session at Big Data Expo, Kumar Ramamurthy, Vice President and Chief Technologist, EIM & Big Data, at Virtusa, will discuss how this is achieved by eliminating the operational challenges of running Hadoop, so one can focus on business growth. The fragmented Hadoop distribution world and various PaaS solutions that provide a Hadoop flavor either make choices for customers very flexible in the name of opti...
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are increasing at an unprecedented rate. The threat landscape of today is drastically different than just a few years ago. Attacks are much more organized and sophisticated. They are harder to detect and even harder to anticipate. In the foreseeable future it's going to get a whole lot harder. Everything you know today will change. Keeping up with this changing landscape is already a daunting task. Your organization needs to use the latest tools, methods and expertise to guard against those threats. But will that be enough? In the foreseeable future attacks w...
Disruptive macro trends in technology are impacting and dramatically changing the "art of the possible" relative to supply chain management practices through the innovative use of IoT, cloud, machine learning and Big Data to enable connected ecosystems of engagement. Enterprise informatics can now move beyond point solutions that merely monitor the past and implement integrated enterprise fabrics that enable end-to-end supply chain visibility to improve customer service delivery and optimize supplier management. Learn about enterprise architecture strategies for designing connected systems tha...
Dale Kim is the Director of Industry Solutions at MapR. His background includes a variety of technical and management roles at information technology companies. While his experience includes work with relational databases, much of his career pertains to non-relational data in the areas of search, content management, and NoSQL, and includes senior roles in technical marketing, sales engineering, and support engineering. Dale holds an MBA from Santa Clara University, and a BA in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.
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...
The cloud is now a fact of life but generating recurring revenues that are driven by solutions and services on a consumption model have been hard to implement, until now. In their session at 16th Cloud Expo, Ermanno Bonifazi, CEO & Founder of Solgenia, and Ian Khan, Global Strategic Positioning & Brand Manager at Solgenia, will discuss how a top European telco has leveraged the innovative recurring revenue generating capability of the consumption cloud to enable a unique cloud monetization model to drive results.
As organizations shift toward IT-as-a-service models, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and now cloud environments grows with it. CommVault can ensure protection &E-Discovery of your data – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud, or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enterprise. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Randy De Meno, Chief Technologist - Windows Products and Microsoft Partnerships, will discuss how to cut costs, scale easily, and unleash insight with CommVault Simpana software, the only si...
Analytics is the foundation of smart data and now, with the ability to run Hadoop directly on smart storage systems like Cloudian HyperStore, enterprises will gain huge business advantages in terms of scalability, efficiency and cost savings as they move closer to realizing the potential of the Internet of Things. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Paul Turner, technology evangelist and CMO at Cloudian, Inc., will discuss the revolutionary notion that the storage world is transitioning from mere Big Data to smart data. He will argue that today’s hybrid cloud storage solutions, with commodity...
Every innovation or invention was originally a daydream. You like to imagine a “what-if” scenario. And with all the attention being paid to the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) you don’t have to stretch the imagination too much to see how this may impact commercial and homeowners insurance. We’re beyond the point of accepting this as a leap of faith. The groundwork is laid. Now it’s just a matter of time. We can thank the inventors of smart thermostats for developing a practical business application that everyone can relate to. Gone are the salad days of smart home apps, the early chalkb...
Cloud data governance was previously an avoided function when cloud deployments were relatively small. With the rapid adoption in public cloud – both rogue and sanctioned, it’s not uncommon to find regulated data dumped into public cloud and unprotected. This is why enterprises and cloud providers alike need to embrace a cloud data governance function and map policies, processes and technology controls accordingly. In her session at 15th Cloud Expo, Evelyn de Souza, Data Privacy and Compliance Strategy Leader at Cisco Systems, will focus on how to set up a cloud data governance program and s...
Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, had reached 30,000 page views on his home page - http://RobertoMedrano.SYS-CON.com/ - on the SYS-CON family of online magazines, which includes Cloud Computing Journal, Internet of Things Journal, Big Data Journal, and SOA World Magazine. He is a recognized executive in the information technology fields of SOA, internet security, governance, and compliance. He has extensive experience with both start-ups and large companies, having been involved at the beginning of four IT industries: EDA, Open Systems, Computer Security and now SOA.
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...