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JAAS Support

Jetty and JAAS
A Closer Look at JAASLoginService
Writing your Own LoginModule
Other Goodies

JAAS implements a Java version of the standard Pluggable Authentication Module (PAM) framework.

JAAS can be used for two purposes:

JAAS authentication is performed in a pluggable fashion. This permits applications to remain independent from underlying authentication technologies. New or updated authentication technologies can be plugged under an application without requiring modifications to the application itself. Applications enable the authentication process by instantiating a LoginContext object, which in turn references a configuration to determine the authentication technology(ies), or LoginModule(s), to be used in performing the authentication. Typical LoginModules may prompt for and verify a username and password. Others may read and verify a voice or fingerprint sample.

See Java Authentication and Authorization Service (JAAS) Reference Guide for more information about JAAS.

Jetty and JAAS

Many application servers support JAAS as a means of bringing greater flexibility to the declarative security models of the J2EE (now known as the JavaEE) specification. Jetty support for JAAS provides greater alternatives for servlet security, and increases 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.


Using JAAS with Jetty is very simply a matter of declaring a org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.JAASLoginService, 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 Jetty org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.JAASLoginService to match the <realm-name> in your web.xml file. For example, if the web.xml contains a realm called "xyz" like so:


Then you need to create a JAASLoginService with the matching name of "xyz":

<New class="org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.JAASLoginService">
  <Set name="Name">Test JAAS Realm</Set>
  <Set name="LoginModuleName">xyz</Set>


The name of the realm-name that you declare in web.xml must match exactly the name of your JAASLoginService.

You can declare your JAASLoginService in a couple of different ways:

  1. If you have more than one webapp that you would like to use the same security infrastructure, then you can declare your JAASLoginService in a top-level Jetty xml file as a bean that is added to the org.eclipse.jetty.server.Server. An example:

    <Configure id="Server" class="org.eclipse.jetty.server.Server">
      <Call name="addBean">
          <New class="org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.JAASLoginService">
            <Set name="name">Test JAAS Realm</Set>
            <Set name="LoginModuleName">xyz</Set>
  2. Alternatively, you can use a JAASLoginService with just a specific webapp by creating a context xml file for the webapp, and specifying the JAASLoginService in it:

    <Configure class="org.eclipse.jetty.webapp.WebAppContext">
      <Set name="securityHandler">
        <New class="">
         <Set name="loginService">
           <New class="org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.JAASLoginService">
             <Set name="name">Test JAAS Realm</Set>
             <Set name="loginModuleName">xyz</Set>

Step 2

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

xyz {
       com.acme.SomeLoginModule required debug=true;


It is imperative that the application name on the first line is exactly the same as the LoginModuleName of your JAASLoginService.

You may find it convenient to name this configuration file as etc/login.conf because, as we will see below, some of the wiring up for JAAS has been done for you.

Step 3

You now need to invoke Jetty with support for JAAS. There are 2 aspects to this:

  • adding JAAS-related jars to the Jetty container classpath
  • setting the System property

To accomplish the above, use the Jetty startup modules mechanism to add the JAAS module:

java -jar start.jar --add-to-startd=jaas


The top level of the distribution does not have the JAAS module enabled by default. However, there are several demo webapps - including a JAAS webapp - available in the demo-base directory of the distribution which has pre-enabled the JAAS module.

Now you will have a file named start.d/jaas.ini, which contains:


The jaas.login.conf property refers to the location of your LoginModule configuration file that you established in Step 2. If you called it etc/login.conf, then your work is done. Otherwise, change the value of the jaas.login.conf property to be the location of your LoginModule configuration file. Jetty will automatically use this property to set the value of the System property

A Closer Look at JAASLoginService

To allow the greatest degree of flexibility in using JAAS with web applications, the JAASLoginService 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: org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.StrictRoleCheckPolicy)
  • a CallbackHandler (Default: org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.callback.DefaultCallbackHandler)
  • a list of classnames for the Principal implementation that equate to a user role (Default: org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.JAASRole)

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

<New class="org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.JAASLoginService">
  <Set name="Name">Test JAAS Realm</Set>
  <Set name="LoginModuleName">xyz</Set>
  <Set name="RoleCheckPolicy">
    <New class="org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.StrictRoleCheckPolicy"/>
  <Set name="CallbackHandlerClass">
  <Set name="roleClassNames">
    <Array type="java.lang.String">


The RoleCheckPolicy must be an implementation of the org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.RoleCheckPolicy 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 org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.StrictRoleCheckPolicy, which will assess a user as having a particular role if that role is at the top of the stack of roles that have been temporarily pushed onto the user. 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 org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.JAASUserPrincipal 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 JAASLoginService instance.


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

Jetty ships with the org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.DefaultCallbackHandler 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>. The example LoginModules that ship with Jetty all use the org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.JAASRole class. However, if you have plugged in other LoginModules, you must configure the classnames of their role Principal implementations.

Sample LoginModules


Passwords can be stored in clear text, obfuscated or checksummed. The class should be used to generate all varieties of passwords,the output from which can be put in to property files or entered into database tables. See more on this under the Configuration section on securing passwords.


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 names of the table and columns storing the roles.

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

jdbc {
      org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.spi.JDBCLoginModule required

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:

  select <credentialField> from <userTable>
          where <userField> =?
  select <userRoleRoleField> from <userRoleTable>
          where <userRoleUserField> =?

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 - see the note on "Passwords/Credentials" above.


Similar to the JDBCLoginModule, but this LoginModule uses a DataSource to connect to the database instead of a JDBC driver. The DataSource is obtained by performing a JNDI lookup on java:comp/env/${dnJNDIName}.

A sample login module configuration using this method:

ds {
     org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.spi.DataSourceLoginModule required


With this login module implementation, the authentication and role information is read from a property file.

props {
        org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.spi.PropertyFileLoginModule required

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

<username>: <password>[,<rolename> ...]

Here’s an example:

fred: OBF:1xmk1w261u9r1w1c1xmq,user,admin
harry: changeme,user,developer
tom: MD5:164c88b302622e17050af52c89945d44,user
dick: CRYPT:adpexzg3FUZAk,admin

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


Here’s an example:

ldaploginmodule {
   org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.spi.LdapLoginModule required
   bindDn="cn=Directory Manager"

Writing your Own LoginModule

If you want to implement your own custom LoginModule, there are two classes to be familiar with: org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.spi.AbstractLoginModule and org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.spi.UserInfo.

The org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.spi.AbstractLoginModule implements all of the methods. All you need to do is to implement the getUserInfo method to return a org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.UserInfo instance which encapsulates the username, password and role names (note: as java.lang.Strings) for a user.

The AbstractLoginModule does not support any caching, so if you want to cache UserInfo (eg as does the org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.spi.PropertyFileLoginModule) then you must provide this yourself.

Other Goodies


As all servlet containers intercept and process a form submission with action j_security_check, it is usually not possible to insert any extra input fields onto a login form with which to perform authentication: you may only pass j_username and j_password. For those rare occasions when this is not good enough, and you require more information from the user in order to authenticate them, you can use the JAAS callback handler org.eclipse.jetty.jaas.callback.RequestParameterCallback. This callback handler gives you access to all parameters that were passed in the form submission. To use it, in the login() method of your custom login module, add the RequestParameterCallback to the list of callback handlers the login module uses, tell it which params you are interested in, and then get the value of the parameter back. Here is an example:

public class FooLoginModule extends AbstractLoginModule
     public boolean login()
        throws LoginException

        Callback[] callbacks = new Callback[3];
        callbacks[0] = new NameCallback();
        callbacks[1] = new ObjectCallback();

        //as an example, look for a param named "extrainfo" in the request
        //use one RequestParameterCallback() instance for each param you want to access
        callbacks[2] = new RequestParameterCallback ();
        ((RequestParameterCallback)callbacks[2]).setParameterName ("extrainfo");

        String userName = ((NameCallback)callbacks[0]).getName();
        Object pwd = ((ObjectCallback)callbacks[1]).getObject();
        List paramValues = ((RequestParameterCallback)callbacks[2]).getParameterValues();

        //use the userName, pwd and the value(s) of the parameter named "extrainfo" to
        //authenticate the user


Example JAAS WebApp

An example webapp using JAAS can be found in the Jetty GitHub repository:

See an error or something missing? Contribute to this documentation at Github!(Generated: 2016-07-21)