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This feature is available in SVN as of 7 March 2006

What is JAAS?

JAAS provides a pluggable framework for authenticating and authorising users (more information is available on the JAAS pages @ Sun Developer Network). Many application servers support JAAS as a means of bringing greater flexibility to the declarative security models of the J2EE (now known as the Java EE) specifications. Whilst intentionally not a full-blown application server, jetty6 supports JAAS to provide greater alternatives for servlet security, and to increase the portability of web applications.

The JAAS support aims to dictate as little as possible whilst providing a sufficiently flexible infrastructure to allow users to drop in their own custom LoginModules. We will discuss how to configure jetty6 for JAAS, and describe the example LoginModules provided with the distribution.


Using JAAS with jetty is very simply a matter of declaring a, creating a jaas login module configuration file and specifying it on the jetty run line. Let's look at an example.

Step 1

Configure a jetty6 to match the <realm-name> in your web.xml file. For example, if the web.xml contains a realm called "xyzrealm":

Then the following JAASUserRealm would be declared in a jetty configuration file:



It is imperative that the contents of the <realm-name> and the <Set name="name"> of the JAASUserRealm instance are exactly the same

Step 2

Set up your LoginModule in a configuration file, following the syntax rules:



It is imperative that the application name to the left of the { is exactly the same as the <Set name="LoginModuleName">

Step 3

Invoke jetty with the jaas configuration file you created in step 2:

A Closer Look at the JAASUserRealm

To allow the greatest degree of flexibility in using JAAS with web applications, the JAASUserRealm supports a couple of configuration options. Note that you don't ordinarily need to set these explicitly, as jetty has defaults which will work in 99% of cases. However, should you need to, you can configure:

  • a policy for role-based authorization (Default:
  • a CallbackHandler (Default:
  • a list of classnames for the Principal implementation that equate to a user role (Default:

Here's an example of setting each of these (to their default values):


The RoleCheckPolicy must be an implementation of the interface and its purpose is to help answer the question "is User X in Role Y" for role-based authorization requests. The default implementation distributed with jetty is the, which will assess a user as having a particular role iff that role is at the top of the stack of roles that have been temporarily pushed onto the user or if the user has no temporarily assigned roles, the role is amongst those configured for the user.

Roles can be temporarily assigned to a user programmatically by using the pushRole(String rolename) method of the class.

For the majority of webapps, the default StrictRoleCheckPolicy will be quite adequate, however you may provide your own implementation and set it on your JAASUserRealm instance.


A CallbackHandler is responsible for interfacing with the user to obtain usernames and credentials to be authenticated.

Jetty ships with the which interfaces the information contained in the request to the Callbacks that are requested by LoginModules. You can replace this default with your own implementation if you have specific requirements not covered by the default.

Role Principal Implementation Class

When LoginModules authenticate a user, they usually also gather all of the roles that a user has and place them inside the JAAS Subject. As LoginModules are free to use their own implementation of the JAAS Principal to put into the Subject, jetty needs to know which Principals represent the user and which represent his/her roles when performing authorization checks on <security-constraint>s. The example LoginModules that ship with jetty all use the class. However, if you have plugged in some other LoginModules, you must configure the classnames of their role Principal implementations.

Sample Login Modules

At the time of writing, jetty6 ships with 2 sample LoginModule implementations:


We'll take a look at both of these, but first, a word about password handling in jetty6, as it applies to both LoginModules.


Passwords can be stored in clear text, obfuscated or checksummed. The class org.mortbay.util.Password should be used to generate all varieties of passwords,the output from which can be cut and pasted into property files or entered into database tables.


The JDBCLoginModule stores user passwords and roles in a database that are accessed via JDBC calls. You can configure the JDBC connection information, as well as the names of the table and columns storing the username and credential, and the name of the table and columns storing the roles.

Here is an example login module configuration file entry for it using an HSQLDB driver:

There is no particular schema required for the database tables storing the authentication and role information. The properties userTable, userField, credentialField, userRoleTable, userRoleUserField, userRoleRoleField configure the names of the tables and the columns within them that are used to format the following queries:

Credential and role information is lazily read from the database when a previously unauthenticated user requests authentication. Note that this information is only cached for the length of the authenticated session. When the user logs out or the session expires, the information is flushed from memory.

Note that passwords can be stored in the database in plain text or encoded formats, using the class.


The file parameter is the location of a properties file of the same format as the etc/ example file. The format is:

Here's an example:

The contents of the file are fully read in and cached in memory the first time a user requests authentication.

Writing Your Own

If you want to implement your own custom LoginModule, there are two classes to be familiar with:

The implements all of the methods. All you need to do is to implement the getUserInfo method to return a instance which encapsulates the username, password and role information for a user.

The AbstractLoginModule does not support any caching, so if you want to cache UserInfo (eg as does the then you must provide this yourself.

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private support for your internal/customer projects ... custom extensions and distributions ... versioned snapshots for indefinite support ... scalability guidance for your apps and Ajax/Comet projects ... development services from 1 day to full product delivery