Getting ready to build, or struggling with, secure hardcoded cryptographic key? in your Java application? I’m excited to answer these questions, and more, for you in this tutorial!
Token Authentication The set of protocols an application uses to confirm user identity is authentication. Just like traditional authentication, users present verifiable credentials, but are now issued a set of tokens instead of a session ID. API keys, or even tokens from another service. Stormpath’s API Key Authentication Feature is an example of this. In most cases, standards do not specify a particular format for tokens. This means there is no inherent meaning to be gleaned from the token itself.
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This is also where JWTs make a big difference. Further reading:Using JWT with Spring Security OAuthA guide to using JSON Web Tokens with both symmetric and asymmetric signing in Spring Security OAuth. AngularJSLearn how to set up OAuth2 for a Spring REST API and how to consume that from an AngularJS client. Handle the Refresh Token in AngularJSWe learned how to store the Refresh Token in an AngularJS client app, how to refresh an expired Access Token and how to leverage the Zuul proxy. In this case, you can see that the token is much longer than in our previous example.
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The above token is cryptographically signed and therefore can be verified, providing proof that it hasn’t been tampered with. Also, JWTs are encoded with a variety of additional information. Let’s look at the anatomy of a JWT to better understand how we squeeze all this goodness out of it. Let’s take a closer look at each section individually. This shows that the JWT was signed with HMAC using SHA-256.
Within the payload, as you can see, there are a number of keys with values. When building a JWT, you can put in any custom claims you wish. The list above simply represents the claims that are reserved both in the key that is used and the expected type. The expiration time is exactly one minute past the issued at time. Note that the secret is always a byte array, and should be of a length that makes sense for the algorithm used. As long as you know the secret, you can generate the signature yourself and compare your result to the signature section of the JWT to verify that it has not been tampered with.
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This brings us back to the benefits of using a JWT as our CSRF token. We can verify the signature and we can use the information encoded in the JWT to confirm its validity. Well, we’ve covered a lot of ground here. Java library providing end-to-end JSON Web Token creation and verification.
The primary operations in using JJWT involve building and parsing JWTs. We’ll look at these operations next, then get into some extended features of the JJWT, and finally, we’ll see JWTs in action as CSRF tokens in a Spring Security, Spring Boot application. The code demonstrated in the following sections can be found here. Note: The project uses Spring Boot from the beginning as its easy to interact with the API that it exposes. One of the great things about Spring Boot is how easy it is to fire up an application.
I use httpie to interact with the application. The definition of the internal claims of the token, like Issuer, Subject, Expiration, and ID. The compaction of the JWT to a URL-safe string, according to the JWT Compact Serialization rules. The final JWT will be a three-part base64-encoded string, signed with the specified signature algorithm, and using the provided key. After this point, the token is ready to be shared with the another party.
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At this point, it’s worth talking about a few anti-patterns related to JWTs and signing. Any of the HS type signature algorithms takes a byte array. It’s convenient for humans to read to take a string and convert it to a byte array. This is problematic because the secret is weakened by being so short and it’s not a byte array in its native form. So, to keep it readable, we can base64 encode the byte array. However, anti-pattern 2 above takes the base64 encoded string and converts it directly to a byte array.
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What should be done is to decode the base64 string back into the original byte array. So, why is this one also an anti-pattern? It’s a subtle reason in this case. Notice that the signature algorithm is HS512. The byte array is not the maximum length that HS512 can support, making it a weaker secret than what is possible for that algorithm. At application startup time, a new set of secrets is created for each of the HS algorithms. There are endpoints to refresh the secrets as well as to explicitly set the secrets.
If you have the project running as described above, execute the following so that the JWT examples below match the responses from your project. This is the parsing operation, which we’ll get into in the next section. Now, let’s hit an endpoint that takes claims as parameters and will build a custom JWT for us. JSON parameters are strings by default.
As terse as this code is, we need something more specific to ensure that the claims that are passed are valid. This is where the type-safety of Java comes into the JJWT library. For each of the Registered Claims defined in the JWT specification, there’s a corresponding Java method in the JJWT that takes the spec-correct type. Integer cannot be cast to java. Right now, we only know that one of our claims is not the correct type. It also deals with a bug in the current code.
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Line 3 checks that the passed in value is of the expected type. Let’s circle back to that bug in our code. The issue has nothing to do with the JJWT library. The issue is that the JSON to Java Object mapper built into Spring Boot is too smart for our own good. If there’s a method that accepts a Java Object, the JSON mapper will automatically convert a passed in number that is less than or equal to 2,147,483,647 into a Java Integer.
Likewise, it will automatically convert a passed in number that is greater than 2,147,483,647 into a Java Long. If we’re expecting a Long, but the value is an instance of Integer, we still say it’s the correct type. Parsing JWTs with JJWT We saw earlier that our code example has an endpoint for parsing a JWT. This is one of the most powerful aspects of JJWT. The header of JWT indicates the algorithm used to sign it. However, we need to verify the JWT before we trust it. It would seem to be a catch 22.
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JWT validity cannot be asserted and should not be trusted. Cross Site Request Forgery is a security vulnerability whereby a malicious website tricks you into submitting requests to a website that you have established trust with. Spring Security has the synchronizer token pattern built in. Even better, if you are using the Spring Boot and Thymeleaf templates, the synchronizer token is automatically inserted for you.
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It’s just a series of letters and numbers. This approach is just fine and it works. In this section, we enhance the basic functionality by using JWTs as the token. In addition to verifying that the submitted token is the one expected, we validate the JWT to further prove that the token has not been tampered with and to ensure that it is not expired. To get started, we are going to configure Spring Security using Java configuration.
By default, all paths require authentication and all POST endpoints require CSRF tokens. We are going to relax that a bit so that what we’ve built so far still works. Let’s confirm that Spring Security is working the way we expect. This is all the confirmation you need to know that Spring Security is functioning and that the Thymeleaf templates are automatically inserting the CSRF token. Now our CSRF token is a JWT. However, this is only half the puzzle.
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By default, Spring Security simply saves the CSRF token and confirms that the token submitted in a web form matches the one that’s saved. We want to extend the functionality to validate the JWT and make sure it hasn’t expired. To do that, we’ll add in a filter. This closes the loop on overriding the default Spring Security CSRF token behavior with a JWT token repository and validator.
JJWT Extended Features We’ll close out our JJWT journey with a word on some of the features that extend beyond the specification. Enforce Claims As part of the parsing process, JJWT allows you to specify required claims and values those claims should have. This is very handy if there is certain information in your JWTs that must be present in order for you to consider them valid. It avoids a lot of branching logic to manually validate claims. This time, the required claim is present, but it has the wrong value.