Security Concepts

This section provides the concepts used throught this security guide, and present the basic interfaces.


Authentication is the process of establishing and confirming the authenticity of a principal. A principal in GigaSpaces terms, means a user (human or software) performing an action in your application. GigaSpaces's authentication layer is equipped with standard encryption algorithms (such as AES and MD5), and can be customized to integrate with other security standards (i.e. Spring Security).

Authenticating a user is achieved by supplying credentials (usually username and password) to be confirmed as authentic against a secured service. Authentication fails either due to an unknown user or an invalid password, resulting in an AuthenticationException. A successful authentication results in an authenticated session used for further correspondence.

interface SecurityManager {
     * Attempts to authenticate the passed user represented by 
     * UserDetails, returning a fully populated UserDetails 
     * object (including granted authorities) if successful.
    Authentication authenticate(UserDetails userDetails) 
      throws AuthenticationException

The service (e.g. SpaceClosed Where GigaSpaces data is stored. It is the logical cache that holds data objects in memory and might also hold them in layered in tiering. Data is hosted from multiple SoRs, consolidated as a unified data model. Instance) receives a request for authentication. Usually this is done by supplying a UserDetails object which holds the credentials of a user. This is passed along to the SecurityManager which is responsible for authenticating the request.

An attempt to authenticate the passed UserDetails object, returns a fully populated Authentication object (including granted authorities) if successful. On failure, an AuthenticationException is thrown.

Further correspondence are done via this authenticated session context. The service has security interceptors which intercept each method call to verify the granted privileges. An AccessDeniedException is thrown if the user lacks sufficient privileges to perform an operation.


Authorization refers to the process of deciding whether a principal is allowed to perform an action/operation. A principal is first established by the authentication process, and then authorized by the authorization decision process, when performing actions. The authorization layer is used to intercept unauthorized access to data and restrict operations. It also maps users to specific authorities and allows grouping of authorities into roles.

GigaSpaces Security architecture has been designed to meet the needs of enterprise application security. GigaSpaces provides a complete experience throughout all the components, for a useful, configurable and extend-able security system.


A two-way encryption is used to protect the credentials passed as part of the authentication process. The UserDetails object is encrypted before it is sent along the stream, and decrypted at the service. Of course, it is best to use SSL for transport layer security, but nevertheless we ensure these details are encrypted. The two-way encryption is done using a private key available to both client and server. A generated AES compliant key can be kept in a gs-keystore.key file located in the classpath. See ContentEncoder interface for more details.

interface ContentEncoder {

    /** Decode the byte array returning a decrypted object. */
    Object decode(byte[] bytes) 

    /** Encode the object returning an encrypted byte array. */
    byte[] encode(Object obj) 

The UserDetails password field can also be encrypted separately using a one-way hash function, e.g. an MD5 algorithm. This one-way encryption allows to store a non-plain text password, and is an implementation detail of the SecurityManager. This should not be confused with the two-way encryption done at the transport layer of an authentication call. See PasswordEncoder interface for more details.

interface PasswordEncoder {
    /* Encodes the specified raw password with an implementation 
     * specific algorithm. */
    String encodePassword(String rawPass) 
    /* Validates a specified "raw" password against an 
     * encoded password. */
    boolean isPasswordValid(String encPass, String rawPass)     

As noted, the SecurityManager implementation is responsible for handling an authentication request. The UserDetails supplied are used to extract the user by-name, and validate that the supplied password matches the stored password. Usually passwords are stored after they have been hashed with a one-way function (such as MD5). When validating, the supplied password is encrypted using this algorithm and compared to the stored password.