How is Spring Security the Perfect Java Security Framework?

Applications that run on the network are often vulnerable to privacy, integrity problems and security. The solution is simple – to protect the network by an array of security frameworks. This not only ensures the security of your application but also supports the fast processing of the apps. In a sense, the security framework is a developer’s friend as it allows the application to run in a seamless manner.

However, installing a framework only after studying its functional aspects and your individual requirements around encryption, authentication and more elements is necessary to obtain better results.

This is where Java Security Technology with its APIs, Tools, automatic garbage collection and implementation of security algorithms, protocols, and other mechanisms comes into the picture. They provide a comprehensive security framework to protect the application and data and are an invariable and distinct part of any java security framework.

These frameworks also facilitate the user or administrator with a set of tools to securely manage applications. In fact, Java APIs have a wide coverage which includes several parameters such as cryptography, authentication, secure communication, public key infrastructure as well as controlled access. They include both open source and commercial frameworks.

According to the Open Web Application Security Project, these are the most critical security risk areas:

  • Control
  • Broken authentication and session management
  • Sensitive Data Exposure
  • Using Components with Known Vulnerabilities
  • Unvalidated Redirects and Forwards
  • SQL Injection
  • Missing Function Level Access Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
  • Insecure Direct Object References
  • Security Misconfiguration
  • Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF).SQL Injection.

There are a variety of frameworks that can be incorporated with Java-based applications, both web, and standalone applications to make them secure.  A few have been listed below:

  • Spring Security
  • Apache Shiro
  • OACC
  • PicketLink
  • Wicket
  • JGaurd
  • HDIV

Now that we have a general idea of Java security frameworks, let us proceed toward discussing the star amongst Java frameworks – Spring Security.

Spring Security Framework

Spring Security’s functionality is formed around authentication and authorization. The prime feature of this network is that it is lightweight and can be used with a spring-less application as well as with the Spring-based ones. Spring Security is container-independent which makes it suitable for both kinds of applications.

It undertakes the authentication and access control (authorization) issues in Enterprise based applications built on Java, integrates seamlessly with Spring MVC and has many tested known security algorithms. What’s more, it covers more than 20 authentication models (better than any other security framework), and is highly customizable and flexible, making it the top choice among developers.

However, it is important that we compare Spring Security’s features with that of other equally adopted Java frameworks (we will take Java EE Security and Apache Shiro frameworks for the purpose of this comparison) to understand why it scores above the other two.

A Comparative Study: Spring Security Framework vs Java EE vs Apache Shiro Frameworks

Community Support

Spring Security has a huge community compared to those commanded by either Java EE Security or Apache Shiro framework.

Shiro provides rather average support, given that there is infrequent activity on its official user forum. This means if you are searching for help on the internet you will find the same people replying to even fresh queries which takes time to solve unexpected questions. 

On the other hand, the biggest demerit about Java EE Security support is that you also have to rely on the community of the container you are using. Therefore, the support, effort, and time needed to solve problems tend to differ.

Documentation

Spring Security’s documentation is comprehensive. You can easily read and continue reading if you want to learn more. Relevant components are mentioned so it may leave you feeling a bit inundated. However, it still trumps both lengthy explanations of how security features should be used (Java EE) or only explain basic terms leaving some empty “TODO” sections for the user to comprehend and navigate (in case of Apache Shiro).

Differentiating Features

Spring Security’s automatic protection mechanisms offer an advantage in the context of web-applications and are far-reaching in their range and capacity. Java EE Security is rather lacking here in that it is quite basic. Apache Shiro, on the other hand, is an in-between alternative when assessed against these two security frameworks.

Usability and Configuration

For a very basic configuration using a declarative style, the Spring Security framework is somewhat ahead of Java EE Security in that it facilitates ease of use saving a lot of time and effort.

Configuration of Java EE via web.xml is lengthy and arduous in that it also requires you to configure your application server. This inevitably looks frustrating when you attempt to implement more advanced features such as the JDBC realm. And although Apache Shiro can be configured using only a simple INI file, it is Spring Security that has the easiest configuration process. Not only will it create a login page for you (in case you don’t have one), it will also provide protection against CSRF and session fixation.

Conclusion

An overview of Spring Security as against equally popular security frameworks such as Java EE and Apache Shiro aptly indicates the respective strengths each holds.  While Java EE and Apache Shiro have their share of loyal users, if your application is Spring-based, are seeking support for Oauth, Kerberos, and SAML, and/or are a Spring loyalist, you would do best to use Spring Security due to its extensibility and other enviable features described above.

Now all you need to do is experiment with the Spring Security Framework to find out if this security framework indeed suits you the best among all others.

Author Bio:

Johnny Morgan Technical writer with a keen interest in new technology and innovation areas. He focuses on web architecture, web technologies, Java/J2EE, open-source, WebRTC, big data and CRM. He is also associated with Aegis Infoways which offers Microsoft Dynamics 365 Services.