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Have you ever needed to create a login authentication mechanism for an application? Odds are, you have, and probably more than once, with each new implementation being close, but not identical, to the previous one. For example, one implementation might use an Oracle database, another might use an NT authentication, and another, an LDAP (lightweight access directory protocol) directory. Wouldn't it be nice to support all these security mechanisms without changing any application-level code?
Now in the Java world, you can with the Java Authentication and Authorization Service (JAAS). This relatively new API was an extension in J2SE (Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition) 1.3, is a core API in J2SE 1.4, and is also part of the J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) 1.3 specification. In this article, we'll teach you JAAS essentials and show you how to effectively apply JAAS to real-world applications. We based this article's application on our own experiences integrating JAAS into an existing Java Web-based system that used an RDBMS (relational database management system) for storing user login information. With JAAS, we designed more robust, flexible, and consistent login and authentication mechanisms.
You can download a complete set of working examples from Resources below (includes Java sources, JSPs (JavaServer Pages), JAAS configuration, with database and build scripts). We tested these examples using the Resin server with JDBC (Java Database Connectivity) and the MySQL database.
Before JAAS, Java's security model was mostly shaped by its origin as a platform-independent language for distributed, networked
applications. In its early days, Java often appeared as mobile code, such as browser-based applets, and therefore, the initial
security model focused on protecting users based on where the code originated and who created it. Early Java security mechanisms such as
SecurityManagers, the sandbox concept, code signing, and policy files were all intended to protect users from the system.
The invention of JAAS reflects Java's evolution into a general-purpose programming language, used for implementing traditional client and server applications that require login and access control. JAAS protects the system from users by allowing or denying access based upon who or what runs the program. While JAAS can perform both authentication and authorization, in this article, we focus primarily on authentication.
JAAS can simplify your Java security development by putting an abstraction layer between your application and disparate underlying authentication and authorization mechanisms. This independence from platforms and algorithms allows you to use different security mechanisms without modifying your application-level code. As with most Java security APIs, JAAS achieves this implementation-independence through an extensible framework of pluggable service provider interfaces (SPIs): a set of abstract classes and interfaces to which specific implementations are developed.