Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Some recent WS-Trust client topics in Apache CXF

There are a number of minor new features and changes in recent versions of Apache CXF with respect to the client side of WS-Trust, which will be documented in this post.

1) STSClient configuration

CXF's STSClient is responsible for communicating with a Security Token Service (STS) via the WS-Trust protocol, in order to issue/validate/renew/etc. a security token. To support WS-Trust on the client side in CXF, it is necessary to construct an STSClient instance, and then reference it via the JAX-WS property key "ws-security.sts.client". Here is a typical example in spring.

However, there are some alternatives to configuring an STSClient per JAX-WS client object (see the CXF documentation for additional information). Strictly speaking these alternatives have been available in previous versions of CXF, however some bugs were fixed in the latest releases to enable them to work properly:

a) If no STSClient is directly configured on the JAX-WS client, then the CXF runtime will look for an STSClient bean with a name that corresponds to the Endpoint name with the suffix ".sts-client". Here is an example:

<bean id="stsClient" class=""

b) If no STSClient is configured either directly on the client, or else via the approach given in (a) above, then the security runtime tries to fall back to a "default" client. All that is required here is that the name of the STSClient bean should be "default.sts-client". Here is an example:

<bean id="stsClient" class=""

2) Falling back to Issue after a failed Renew

When a cached SecurityToken is expired, the STSClient tries to renew the token. However, not all STS instances support the renewal binding of WS-Trust. Therefore a new configuration parameter was introduced:
  • SecurityConstants.STS_ISSUE_AFTER_FAILED_RENEW ("ws-security.issue.after.failed.renew") -  Whether to fall back to calling "issue" after failing to renew an expired token. The default is "true".
 3) Renewing security tokens that are "about to" expire

There is a potential issue when a cached security token is "about to" expire. The CXF client will retrieve the cached token + check to see whether the token is expired or not. If it is expired, then it renews the token. If the token is valid, then it uses it in the service request. However, if the security token expires "en route" to the service, then the service will reject the token, and the service invocation will fail.

In CXF 2.7.13 and 3.0.2, support has been added to forcibly renew tokens that are about to expire, rather than risk letting them expire en route. A new configuration parameter has been introduced:
  • SecurityConstants.STS_TOKEN_IMMINENT_EXPIRY_VALUE ("ws-security.sts.token.imminent-expiry-value") - The value in seconds within which a token is considered to be expired by the client, i.e. it is considered to be expired if it will expire in a time less than the value specified by this tag.
The default value for this parameter for CXF 3.0.2 is "10", meaning that if a security token will expire in less than 10 seconds, it will be renewed by the client. For CXF 2.7.13, the default value is "0" for backwards compatibility reasons, meaning that this functionality is disabled.

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