Monday, April 9, 2012

Part 3 - x509 Authentication with Spring, Eclipse, Jetty and Maven


I've seen a few posts to Stack Overflow recently regarding x509 authentication using Spring. I know from my own experience that finding a single tutorial that has everything in one place is difficult, so I'd thought I would put one together that covers pretty much everything you need to get a simple web application going

I'm going to break this up into 4 parts:
  • Part 1 : Generation of a client & server self-signed certificates (with common self-signed CA root certificate)
  • Part 2 : Maven web application archetype generation and maven-jetty-plugin configuration
  • Part 3 : Using a simple in-memory authorization provider
  • Part 4 : Web application debugging using Eclipse

Part 3 - Using a simple authorization provider

In this installment I'm going to configure spring security for x509 Pre authentication, extract the users name from their client certificate and look up their credentials in an in-memory authorization provider

Maven Dependencies

We need to add a Spring filter to our web application, this filter will be responsible for providing the security layer for the web app. Firstly we need to add some Spring dependencies to our Maven pom.xml:

Web Application Deployment Descriptor

Next we need to amend the deployment descriptor (web.xml) to add in a Spring DelegatingProxyFilter filter and a listener:

Base Spring Configuration

Now we need to create the base Spring configuration XML files. For this we need to create the file referenced in the web.xml: /WEB-INF/applicationContext.xml: This configuration file simply calls out to another configuration file, this time via the classpath prefix. This allows us to amend the classpath order during testing, allowing for different settings for test vs production environments.

Security Configuration

Now for the security configuration file: src/main/webapp/WEB-INF/classes/config/security.xml:

Displaying User Information

To display the user information, we can amend the index.jsp to dump the contents of the request's user Principal and the user name:

Testing It All Works

To test everything we just configured, restart your jetty test server Point your browser to https://localhost:8443/whitey-webapp/ and again, with some luck, you should get the following:

Spring Security

User principal: Principal: Username: jsmith; Password: [PROTECTED]; Enabled: true; AccountNonExpired: true; credentialsNonExpired: true; AccountNonLocked: true; Granted Authorities: ROLE_ADMIN,ROLE_USER; Credentials: [PROTECTED]; Authenticated: true; Details: RemoteIpAddress:; SessionId: null; Granted Authorities: ROLE_ADMIN, ROLE_USER
User name: jsmith


  1. Nice article
    Question: How can you handle the client certificate on the browser Java side, for example ready cert expiry date & other info from the certificate ?

  2. Do you have a zip of this project please