Sun Java System Web Server 7.0 Update 4 Developer's Guide to Java Web Applications

Understanding Message Security in the Web Server

The Web Server offers integrated support for the WS-Security standard in the server-side container. This functionality is integrated with Web Services security and enforced by the container of the Web Server on behalf of applications. Web Server can protect any web service application without requiring changes to the implementation of the application. The Web Server achieves this effect by providing facilities to bind SOAP layer message security providers and message protection policies to container and to applications deployed in container.

Assigning Message Security Roles

In the Web Server, the system administrator and application deployer roles are expected to take primary responsibility for configuring message security. In some situations, the application developer also contribute, although in the typical case either of the roles might secure an existing application without changing its implementation and therefore without involving the developer. The responsibilities of the various roles are defined in the following sections.

System Administrator Tasks

The system administrator is responsible for the following tasks:

A system administrator uses the Admin Console to manage server security settings. Web Server stores certificates and private keys in an NSS database, the administrator can manage them using certutil. For an overview of message security tasks, see Configuring the Web Server for Message Security.

Application Deployer Tasks

The application deployer is responsible for the following tasks:

The application developer can setup message security but is not responsible for doing so. The system administrator can set the message security so that all Web Services are secured. The application deployer can set the message security when the provider or protection policy bound to the application must be different from that bound to the container.

Application Developer Tasks

The application developer or assembler is responsible for the following tasks:

Security Tokens and Security Mechanisms

The WS-Security specification provides an extensible mechanism for using security tokens to authenticate and encrypt SOAP Web Services messages. Use the SOAP-layer message security providers installed with the Web Server to employ username, password and X.509 certificate security tokens to authenticate and encrypt SOAP Web Services messages.

Username Tokens

The Web Server uses username tokens in the SOAP messages to establish the authentication identity of the message sender. The recipient of a message containing a Username token within an embedded password validates that the message sender is authorized to act as the user (identified in the token) by confirming that the sender knows the users secret password.

When using a Username token, a valid user database must be configured on the Web Server.

Digital Signatures

The Web Server uses XML Digital signatures to bind an authentication identity to the message content. Clients use digital signatures to establish their caller identity, analogous to basic authentication or SSL client certificate authentication. Digital signatures are verified by the message receiver to authenticate the source of the message content, which might be different from the sender of the message. When using digital signatures, valid keystore and truststore files must be configured on the Web Server.


The purpose of encryption is to modify the data such that it can only be understood by its intended audience. This modification is accomplished by substituting an encrypted element for the original content. When predicated on public key cryptography, encryption establishes the identity of the parties who can read the message.

Message Protection Policies

Message protection policies are defined for request message processing and response message processing. These policies are expressed in terms of requirements for source or recipient authentication. A source authentication policy requires that the identity of the entity that sent a message or that defined the content of a message be established in the message so that the message receiver can authenticate it. A recipient authentication policy represents a requirement that the message be sent such that the identity of the entities that can receive the message can be established by the message sender. The providers apply specific message security mechanisms so that the message protection policies are in SOAP Web Services messages.

Request and response message protection policies are defined when a provider is configured in a container. You can also configure application-specific message protection policies at the granularity of the web service port or operation within the Sun deployment descriptors of the application or application client. Where message protection policies are defined, the request and response message protection policies of the client must match the request and response message protection policies of the server.