Sun Java System Web Server 7.0 Update 4 Administrator's Guide

Digest Authentication

The server can be configured to perform digest authentication using either an LDAP-based or a file-based directory service.

Digest authentication enables the user to authenticate based on username and password without sending the username and password as cleartext. The browser uses the MD5 algorithm to create a digest value using the user’s password and some information provided by the Web Server.

When the server uses an LDAP-based directory service to perform digest authentication, this digest value is also computed on the server side using the Digest Authentication plug-in, and compared against the digest value provided by the client. If the digest values match, the user is authenticated. In order for this to work, your directory server needs access to the user’s password in cleartext. Sun Java System Directory Server includes a reversible password plug-in using a symmetric encryption algorithm to store data in an encrypted form, that can later be decrypted to its original form. Only the Directory Server holds the key to the data.

For LDAP-based digest authentication, you need to enable the reversible password plug-in and the digestauth-specific plug-in included with the server. To configure your web server to process digest authentication, set the digestauth property of the database definition in dbswitch.conf.

If you do not specify an ACL method, the server will use either digest or basic when authentication is required, or basic if authentication is not required. This is the preferred method.

Table 7–1 Digest Authentication Challenge Generation

ACL Method  

Digest Authentication Supported by Authentication Database  

Digest Authentication Not Supported by Authentication Database  


none specified 

digest and basic 








When processing an ACL with method = digest, the server attempts to authenticate by: