Security planning overview

When you access information on the Internet, you connect through Web servers and product servers to the enterprise data at the back end. This section examines some typical configurations and common security practices.

This section also examines the security protection that is offered by each security layer and common security practice for good quality of protection in end-to-end security. The following figure illustrates the building blocks that comprise the operating environment for security within WebSphere Application Server:

The following information describes each of the components of WAS security, Java security, and Platform security that are illustrated in the previous figure.

WebSphere Application Server security

WebSphere security

WebSphere Application Server security enforces security policies and services in a unified manner on access to Web resources, enterprise beans, and JMX administrative resources. It consists of WAS security technologies and features to support the needs of a secure enterprise environment.

Java security

J2EE security application programming interface (API)

The security collaborator enforces Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE)-based security policies and supports J2EE security APIs.

CORBA security (CSIv2)

Any calls made among secure Object Request Brokers (ORB) are invoked over the Common Security Interoperability V2 (CSIv2) security protocol that sets up the security context and the necessary quality of protection. After the session is established, the call is passed up to the enterprise bean layer.

For backward compatibility, WebSphere Application Server supports the SAS security protocol, which was used in prior releases of WAS and other IBM products.

Java 2 security

The Java 2 Security model offers fine-grained access control to system resources including file system, system property, socket connection, threading, class loading, and so on. Application code must explicitly grant the required permission to access a protected resource.

Java Virtual Machine (JVM) 1.4

The JVM security model provides a layer of security above the operating system layer. For example, JVM security protects the memory from unrestricted access, creates exceptions when errors occur within a thread, and defines array types.

Platform security

Operating system security

The security infrastructure of the underlying operating system provides certain security services for WebSphere Application Server. These services include the file system security support that secures sensitive files in the product installation for WebSphere Application Server. The system administrator can configure the product to obtain authentication information directly from the operating system user registry.

The security infrastructure of the underlying operating system provides certain security services for WebSphere Application Server. The operating system identity of the servant controller, and daemon Started Task, as established by the STARTED profile, is the identity that is used to control access to system resources such as files or sockets. Optionally, the operating system security can provide authentication services using the User Registry of local operating system, and/or authorization services using SAF Authorization for the WebSphere Administration console and for applications running under the application server.

In addition to knowledge of SSL and Transport Layer Security (TLS), the administrator must be familiar with System Authorization Facility (SAF) and Resource Access Control Facility (RACF), or an equivalent SAF based product.

The identity and verification of users can be managed by using a Local Operating System as the User Registry, RACF or equivalent SAF base product. Alternatively, an LDAP, Custom, or Federated User Registry can be used.

WebSphere can be configured to use SAF Authorization, which will use RACF or an equivalent SAF based product to manage and protect users and group resources. Alternatively, WebSphere can be configured to use WebSphere Authorization or a JACC External Authorization Provider.

When using either Local Operating System as the User Registry and/or using SAF Authorization, security auditing is an inherit feature of RACF or the equivalent SAF based products.

Network security

The Network Security layers provide transport level authentication and message integrity and confidentiality. You can configure the communication between separate application servers to use SSL. Additionally, use IP Security and VPN for added message protection.

WebSphere Application Server Network Deployment installation Important: A node agent instance exists on every computer node.

Each product application server consists of a Web container, an Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) container, and the administrative subsystem.

The WAS deployment manager contains only WAS administrative code and the administrative console.

The administrative console is a special J2EE Web application that provides the interface for performing administrative functions. WebSphere Application Server configuration data is stored in XML descriptor files, which must be protected by operating system security. Passwords and other sensitive configuration data can be modified using the administrative console. However, protect these passwords and sensitive data. For more information, see Encoding password in files .

The administrative console Web application has a setup data constraint that requires access to the administrative console servlets and JavaServer Pages (JSP) files only through an SSL connection when global security is enabled.

After installation, the administrative console HTTPS port is configured to use DummyServerKeyFile.jks and DummyServerTrustFile.jks with the default self-signed certificate. Using the dummy key and trust store certificate is not safe and you need to generate your own certificate to replace dummy ones immediately. It is more secure if you first enable global security and complete other configuration tasks after global security is enforced.

The following figure shows a typical multiple-tier business computing environment.


Global security

WAS appservers interact with each other through CSIv2 and Secure Authentication Services (SAS) security protocols as well as the HTTP and HTTPS protocols.

You can configure these protocols to use SSL when you enable WebSphere Application Serverglobal security. The WebSphere Application Server administrative subsystem in every server uses SOAP, Java Management Extensions (JMX) connectors and Remote Method Invocation over the Internet Inter-ORB Protocol (RMI/IIOP) JMX connectors to pass administrative commands and configuration data. When global security is disabled, the SOAP JMX connector uses the HTTP protocol and the RMI/IIOP connector uses the TCP/IP protocol. When global security is enabled, the SOAP JMX connector always uses the HTTPS protocol. When global security is enabled, you can configure the RMI/IIOP JMX connector to either use SSL or to use TCP/IP. It is recommended that you enable global security and enable SSL to protect the sensitive configuration data.

Global security and administrative security configuration is at the cell level. When global security is enabled, you can disable application security at each individual application server by clearing the Enable global security option at the server level. For more information, see Securing specific application servers . Disabling application server security does not affect the administrative subsystem in that application server, which is controlled by the global security configuration only. Both administrative subsystem and application code in an application server share the optional per server security protocol configuration.


Security for J2EE resources

Security for J2EE resources is provided by the Web container and the EJB container. Each container provides two kinds of security: declarative security and programmatic security.

In declarative security, an application security structure includes network message integrity and confidentiality, authentication requirements, security roles, and access control. Access control is expressed in a form that is external to the application. In particular, the deployment descriptor is the primary vehicle for declarative security in the J2EE platform. WebSphere Application Server maintains J2EE security policy, including information that is derived from the deployment descriptor and specified by deployers and administrators in a set of XML descriptor files. At runtime, the container uses the security policy that is defined in the XML descriptor files to enforce data constraints and access control.

When declarative security alone is not sufficient to express the security model of an application, you might use programmatic security to make access decisions. When global security is enabled and application server security is not disabled at the server level, J2EE applications security is enforced. When the security policy is specified for a Web resource, the Web container performs access control when the resource is requested by a Web client. The Web container challenges the Web client for authentication data if none is present according to the specified authentication method, ensures that the data constraints are met, and determines whether the authenticated user has the required security role. The Web security collaborator enforces role-based access control by using an access manager implementation. An access manager makes authorization decisions that are based on security policy derived from the deployment descriptor. An authenticated user principal can access the requested servlet or JSP file if the user principal has one of the required security roles. Servlets and JSP files can use the HttpServletRequest methods, isUserInRole and getUserPrincipal.

When global security is enabled and application server security is not disabled, the EJB container enforces access control on EJB method invocation.

The authentication occurs regardless of whether method permission is defined for the specific EJB method. The EJB security collaborator enforces role-based access control by using an access manager implementation. An access manager makes authorization decisions that are based on security policy derived from the deployment descriptor. An authenticated user principal can access the requested EJB method if it has one of the required security roles. EJB code can use the EJBContext methods, isCallerInRole and getCallerPrincipal. Use the J2EE role-based access control to protect valuable business data from access by unauthorized users through the Internet and the intranet. Refer to Securing Web applications using an assembly tool , and Securing enterprise bean applications .


Role-based security

WebSphere Application Server extends the security, role-based access control to administrative resources including the JMX system management subsystem, user registries, and Java Naming and Directory Interface (JNDI) name space. WebSphere administrative subsystem defines four administrative security roles:

Monitor role

A monitor can view the configuration information and status but cannot make any changes.

Operator role

An operator can trigger run-time state changes, such as start an application server or stop an application but cannot make configuration changes.

Configurator role

A configurator can modify the configuration information but cannot change the state of the runtime.

Administrator role

An operator as well as a configurator, which additionally can modify sensitive security configuration and security policy such as setting server IDs and passwords, enable or disable global security and Java 2 security, and map users and groups to the administrator role.

A user with the configurator role can perform most administrative work including installing new applications and application servers. Certain configuration tasks exist that a configurator does not have sufficient authority to do when global security is enabled, including modifying a WAS identity and password, Lightweight Third-Party Authentication (LTPA) password and keys, and assigning users to administrative security roles. Those sensitive configuration tasks require the administrative role because the server ID is mapped to the administrator role.

WebSphere Application Server administrative security is enforced when global security is enabled. Enable WAS global security to protect administrative subsystem integrity. Application server security can be selectively disabled if no sensitive information is available to protect. For securing administrative security, refer to Authorizing access to administrative roles and Assigning users and groups to roles .


Java 2 security permissions

WebSphere Application Server uses the Java 2 security model to create a secure environment to run application code. Java 2 security provides a fine-grained and policy-based access control to protect system resources such as files, system properties, opening socket connections, loading libraries, and so on. The J2EE Version 1.4 specification defines a typical set of Java 2 security permissions that Web and EJB components expect to have. These permissions are shown in the following table.

Table 1. J2EE security permissions set for Web components
Security Permission Target Action
java.lang.RuntimePermission loadLibrary  
java.lang.RuntimePermission queuePrintJob * connect * read, write
java.util.PropertyPermission * read

Table 2. J2EE security permissions set for EJB components
Security Permission Target Action
java.lang.RuntimePermission queuePrintJob * connect
java.util.PropertyPermission * read

The WAS Java 2 security default policies are based on the J2EE V1.4 specification. The specification grants Web components read and write file access permission to any file in the file system, which might be too broad. The WAS default policy gives Web components read and write permission to the subdirectory and the subtree where the Web module is installed. The default Java 2 security policies for all Java virtual machines and WAS processes are contained in the following policy files:


This file is used as the default policy for the Java virtual machine (JVM).


This file is used as the default policy for all product server processes.

To simplify policy management, WebSphere Application Server policy is based on resource type rather than code base (location). The following files are the default policy files for a WebSphere Application Server subsystem. These policy files, which are an extension of the WAS runtime, are referred to as Service Provider Programming Interfaces (SPI), and shared by multiple J2EE applications:

In general, applications do not require more permissions to run than those recommended by the J2EE specification to be portable among various application servers. However, some applications might require more permissions. WebSphere Application Server supports the packaging of a was.policy file with each application to grant extra permissions to that application. Attention: Grant extra permissions to an application only after careful consideration because of the potential of compromising the system integrity.

Loading libraries into WAS does allow applications to leave the Java sandbox. WAS uses a permission filtering policy file to alert you when an application installation fails because of additional permission requirements. For example, it is recommended that you not give the java.lang.RuntimePermission exitVM permission to an application so that application code cannot terminate WebSphere Application Server.

The filtering policy is defined by the filtermask in the profile_root/config/cells/cell/filter.policy file. Moreover, WAS also performs run-time permission filtering that is based on the run-time filtering policy to ensure that application code is not granted a permission that is considered harmful to system integrity.

Therefore, many applications developed for prior releases of WebSphere Application Server might not be Java 2 security ready. To quickly migrate those applications to the latest version of WebSphere Application Server, you might temporarily give those applications the permission in the was.policy file. Test those applications to ensure that they run in an environment where Java 2 security is active. For example, identify which extra permissions, if any, are required, and grant only those permissions to a particular application. Not granting the AllPermission permission to applications can reduce the risk of compromising system integrity. For more information on migrating applications, refer to Migrating Java 2 security policy .

The WebSphere Application Server runtime uses Java 2 security to protect sensitive run-time functions. Applications that are granted the AllPermission permission not only have access to sensitive system resources, but also WebSphere Application Server run-time resources and can potentially cause damage to both. In cases where an application can be trusted as safe, WebSphere Application Server does support having Java 2 security disabled on a per application server basis. You can enforce Java 2 security by default in the administrative console and clear the Java 2 security flag to disable it at the particular application server.

When you specify the Enable global security and Enable Java 2 security options on the Global security panel of the administrative console, the information and other sensitive configuration data, are stored in a set of XML configuration files. Both role-based access control and Java 2 security permission-based access control are employed to protect the integrity of the configuration data. The example uses configuration data protection to illustrate how system integrity is maintained.


Other runtime resources

Other WAS runtime resources are protected by a similar mechanism, as described previously. It is very important to enable WAS global security and to enforce Java 2 security. J2EE Specification defines several authentication methods for Web components: HTTP Basic Authentication, Form-Based Authentication, and HTTPS Client Certificate Authentication. When you use client certificate login, it is more convenient for the browser client if the Web resources have integral or confidential data constraint. If a browser uses HTTP to access the Web resource, the Web container automatically redirects the browser to the HTTPS port. The CSIv2 security protocol also supports client certificate authentication. You can also use SSL client authentication to set up secure communication among a selected set of servers based on a trust relationship.

If you start from the WebSphere Application Server plug-in at the Web server, you can configure SSL mutual authentication between it and the WAS HTTPS server. When using a certificate, you can restrict the WAS plug-in to communicate with only the selected two WAS appservers as shown in the following figure. Note that use self-signed certificates to reduce administration and cost.

For example, you want to restrict the HTTPS server in WAS A and in WebSphere Application Server B to accept secure socket connections only from the WAS plug-in W. To complete this task, you can generate three certificates using the IKEYMAN and the certificate management utilities. Also, use certificate W and trust certificate A and B. Configure the HTTPS server of WAS A to use certificate A and to trust certificate W. Configure the HTTPS server of WAS B to use certificate B and to trust certificate W. For more information on IKEYMAN, refer to Starting the key management utility (iKeyman) .

The trust relationship that is depicted in the previous figure is shown in the following table.

Server Key Trust
WebSphere Application Server plug-in W A, B
WebSphere Application Server A A W
WebSphere Application Server B B W

The WebSphere Application Server Deployment Manager is a central point of administration. System management commands are sent from the deployment manager to each individual application server. When global security is enabled, you can configure WAS appservers to require SSL and mutual authentication.

You might want to restrict WebSphere Application Server A so that it can communicate with WAS C only and WAS B can communicate with WAS D only. All WAS appservers must be able to communicate with WebSphere Application Server deployment manager E; therefore, when using self-signed certificates, you might configure the CSIv2 and SOAP/HTTPS Key and trust relationship, as shown in the following table.

Server Key Trust
WebSphere Application Server A A C, E
WebSphere Application Server B B D, E
WebSphere Application Server C C A, E
WebSphere Application Server D D B, E
WebSphere Application Server Deployment Manager E E A, B, C, D

When WAS is configured to use Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) user registry, you also can configure SSL with mutual authentication between every application server and the LDAP server with self-signed certificates so that a password is not visible when it is passed from WAS to the LDAP server.

In this example, the node agent processes are not discussed. Each node agent must communicate with application servers on the same node and with the deployment manager. Node agents also must communicate with LDAP servers when configured to use an LDAP user registry. It is reasonable to let the deployment manager and the node agents use the same certificate. Suppose application server A and C are on the same computer node. The node agent on that node needs to have certificates A and C in its trust store.

WebSphere Application Server does not provide a user registry configuration or management utility. In addition, it does not dictate the user registry password policy. It is recommended that you use the password policy recommended by your user registry, including the password length and expiration period.

Before securing your WAS environment, determine which versions of WebSphere Application Server you are using, review the WebSphere Application Server security architecture, and review each of the following topics:

Related concepts
Overview and new features for securing applications and their environment Related tasks
Migrating Java 2 security policy Authorizing access to administrative roles Assigning users to naming roles




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