Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Adding a BASIC Authentication Policy to a Managed Service in JBoss apiman


In this, the fourth article in the series on apiman, JBoss’ new API Management framework, we’ll examine how apiman enables you to not just manage services, but implement a layer of security to the services by adding an authentication requirement when clients access a managed service.

Securing Client Access to your Managed Services

As we’ve seen in the previous articles in this series, apiman enables you to govern the usage of the services that it manages by defining policies in the Managament UI that are then applied at runtime by the API Gateway. The apiman API Gateway applies the policy rules that you define to requests that it proxies to the managed service:apiman_2.jpg
The OOTB policies that are packaged with apiman enable you to apply a variety of types of controls, including rate limiting (where access to a service is assigned a usage threshold) and black/whitelisting by IP address (where the client’s IP address governs their access to the service).

However, managing a service with apiman does not automatically make that service secure. Happily, however, apiman provides a policy that enables you to easily set up authentication to control access to your managed service. (Note that this policy governs the clients’ authenticated access to the managed service, and not establishing a secure connection where apiman authenticates the back-end services. In other words, in this article, we’re interested in adding authentication between the blue and pink boxes in the above diagram.)

Adding a BASIC Authentication Policy to a Managed Service

apiman is packaged with multiple pre-configured policies:

  • Authorization - Access to services’ resources is controlled by user roles.
  • BASIC Authentication - A username/password is required to access a service.
  • Ignored Resources - Paths to services’ resources that will not be accessible. Requests to these service resource paths return a 404 (not found) error.
  • IP Blacklist - Clients with specific IP address will be blocked from accessing a service.
  • IP Whitelist - And, clients with specific IP address will not  be blocked from accessing a service.
  • Rate Limiting - Access to a service is limited by the number of requests in a defined time period. We demonstrated an example of a rate limiting policy in the first article in this series.

We’re interested in the BASIC Authentication Policy. Let’s take a closer look. The dialog to add a BASIC authentication policy to a service looks like this:
In creating the BASIC policy, we define an Authentication Realm (think of this as an area to be protected, within which usernames and passwords exist) and an optional HTTP header. The optional HTTP header is used to optionally pass the user's principal to the back-end service through an HTTP header. This is useful if the back-end system needs to know the username of the user calling it (e.g. to do user-specific operation). The “Transport security required” checkbox, if enabled, will cause the policy to fail if a client tries to connect to the service over http. The Policy will only accept credentials over https.

We’ll keep the Identity Source simple and select “Static Identities” and then define a user. Note that while this static approach is fine for testing purposes, you will want use one of the other Identity Source options (JBDS or LDAP) for a production environment as they can better handle a large number of users.

It’s important to remember that, in BASIC authentication, one of the factors that makes this, well, basic in nature, is that the username/password that you define are encoded (this is unencrypted base64 encoded text) when they are sent to the server. Since the text is not encrypted, it’s at risk of being copied and then used in an attack. For this reason, it’s safer to select the transport security option to configure SSL encryption.

To illustrate, here’s Java code that can encode and then decode the username:password string:

 Base64.Encoder encoder = Base64.getEncoder();  
 String normalString = "user1" + ":" + "password1";  
 String encodedString = encoder.encodeToString(normalString.getBytes(StandardCharsets.UTF_8));  
 System.out.println ("The encoded string is: " + encodedString);  
 Decoder decoder = Base64.getDecoder();  
 byte[] unencodedStringArray = decoder.decode(encodedString);  
 String unencodedString = new String (unencodedStringArray);  
 System.out.println ("The unencoded string is: " + unencodedString);  
 The encoded string is: dXNlcjE6cGFzc3dvcmQx  
 The unencoded string is: user1:password1  

So - unlike encrypted strings, your encoded username and password strings are not secure!

When a Request is made to the Service

It’s interesting to see step-by-step what happens when a request is made to the service and the BASIC authentication policy is applied. Let’s take a look at the request and the responses. I used the “HttpFox” http analyzer ( to “listen in” on the requests sent to the server and the responses sent back.

Here’s the first request made to the service, notice that a username/password is not included.

 (Request-Line) GET /apiman-gateway/serviceProducerOrg/echossl/1.0?apikey=6f8784cd-5754-47b0-9b8b-b2eb8c5b190f HTTP/1.1  
 Host     localhost:8443  
 User-Agent     Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:24.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/24.0  
 Accept     text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8  
 Accept-Language     en-US,en;q=0.5  
 Accept-Encoding     gzip, deflate  
 Cookie     __utma=111872281.1348865079.1409020839.1411395889.1419258109.7; __utmz=111872281.1409020839.1.1.utmcsr=(direct)|utmccn=(direct)|utmcmd=(none); s_fid=72CCAD206D09146C-233B60F47DBEA290  
 Connection     keep-alive  

The response, as we expected, shows that the request has triggered an authentication failure. This is due to the authentication requirement that we defined and is being applied by the API Gateway. Note the 401 error code and the reference to BASIC authentication:

 (Status-Line)     HTTP/1.1 401 Unauthorized  
 X-Powered-By     Undertow/1  
 Server     WildFly/8  
 X-Policy-Failure-Type     Authentication  
 Date     Wed, 03 Jun 2015 13:43:26 GMT  
 Connection     keep-alive  
 WWW-Authenticate     BASIC realm="myRealm"  
 X-Policy-Failure-Code     10004  
 Content-Type     application/json  
 Content-Length     165  
 X-Policy-Failure-Message     BASIC authentication failed.  

The browser then automatically pops up a dialog for us to enter the username and password:


A request is then sent that includes the username and password encoded into a string. In this request, the encoded (but not encrypted) username and password are included:

 (Request-Line)     GET /apiman-gateway/serviceProducerOrg/echossl/1.0?apikey=6f8784cd-5754-47b0-9b8b-b2eb8c5b190f HTTP/1.1  
 Host     localhost:8443  
 User-Agent     Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:24.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/24.0  
 Accept     text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8  
 Accept-Language     en-US,en;q=0.5  
 Accept-Encoding     gzip, deflate  
 Cookie     __utma=111872281.1348865079.1409020839.1411395889.1419258109.7; __utmz=111872281.1409020839.1.1.utmcsr=(direct)|utmccn=(direct)|utmcmd=(none); s_fid=72CCAD206D09146C-233B60F47DBEA290  
 Connection     keep-alive  
 Authorization     Basic dXNlcjE6cGFzc3dvcmQx  

And, then we get the successful return code of 200 in a response:

 (Status-Line)     HTTP/1.1 200 OK  
 Connection     keep-alive  
 X-Powered-By     Undertow/1  
 Server     WildFly/8  
 Content-Length     755  
 Content-Type     application/json  
 Date     Wed, 03 Jun 2015 13:43:34 GMT  

In Conclusion

Just because a service is managed doesn’t automatically make it secure. JBoss apiman provides you with multiple options to add an authentication requirement when clients access your managed service.

Author’s Acknowledgements

As always, the author would like to acknowledge Eric Wittmann and the apiman team for their  review comments and suggestions on writing this post, and for adding new features to apiman!



Previous articles in this series:

HTTP Authentication: Basic and Digest Access Authentication

Monday, May 18, 2015

JBoss' apiman's API Manager REST services API

In this, the third article in our series on apiman, JBoss' new open source API Management framework, we'll examine apiman’s API Manager REST services API. apiman’s Management UI utilizes this API in the implementation for all of its user-visible features, and you can also use the same API to automate tasks with apiman.


It's inevitable that, after you work with a product's UI for a while that you encounter tasks that are better suited to a scripting or batch interface. For example, if you have to perform a similar task for a large of related data items, the time that it can require to perform these tasks through an interactive UI can be prohibitive. Also, it's easy for repetitive tasks to become error prone as you can lose focus, even if you are working in a well designed and easy to use interface such as apiman.

One solution to this problem is to augment the UI with a command line or scripting interface. This can lead to a whole separate set of issues if the new interface is built on a different set of underlying routines than the UI. A better approach to allow access to the same routines in which the UI is constructed. This approach removes any duplication, and also enables you to replicate manual UI based tasks with automated or scripted tools.  

JBoss apiman follows this second approach with its REST interface.  All the services provided by apiman in its Management UI are directly supported in the API Manager REST services API. You can also directly access these same services through the REST API.


Like a lot of things with JBoss open source software, installing the REST API is easy. In fact, if you have apiman installed, then you already have the REST API installed. (You can’t get much easier than that!)

We covered installing apiman in the first article in this series (see:, so we won't repeat that information here. A minimal set of install instructions are always available on the apiman site ( The current set of instructions as of this writing are:

 mkdir ~/apiman-1.1.2.Final  
 cd ~/apiman-1.1.2.Final  
 unzip -o -d wildfly-8.2.0.Final  
 cd wildfly-8.2.0.Final  
 ./bin/ -c standalone-apiman.xml  

Now that our apiman server is up and running, we can start to access the API Manager REST services API. However, before we start placing calls to services through the REST API, let’s take a look at how the API is organized.

The Organization of the API

The documentation for the apiman REST API is available (for free, of course), here:

The services and their endpoints represented in the API are divided into these groups:

Within each group, GET operations are defined to return information, and GET and POST operations are defined to make changes to apiman elements. Data passed to and returned from services through the API is in the form of JSON along with a return code.

Accessing Services in the API Manager REST services API

The best way to learn about the API Manager REST services API is to see it in action. Since these are REST services, it’s easy to access them. For example, we should be able to access the system status service with a simple GET operation at this endpoint:

Let’s try this with curl. If we execute the following command, we should see the current system status:

Well, that error is not exactly what we expected. There was no output.

What went wrong? What’s missing? The answer is that our call to the service was missing authorization. In the same way that a user must login and be authorized to use the apiman Management UI, calls to the REST API must be authorized.

For our example, we’ll keep things simple and stick to using basic authorization. (We’ll take a more extensive look at apiman and security in a later article in this series.)

In order to resolve this failure, we have to send a properly encoded basic authorization header with every request you make. In Java8, we can generate a key by base64 encoding this string for the OOTB admin username and password: admin:admin123! with this statememt:

base64encode(concat('admin', ':', 'admin123!'))

This yields a key with a value of: YWRtaW46YWRtaW4xMjMh

Now, let’s try that curl command again, but this time, we’ll include the key in the authorization header:

$ curl -H "Authorization: Basic YWRtaW46YWRtaW4xMjMh"

And the result is:


As we mentioned earlier in this article, the responses returned by calls to the REST API are in in the form of JSON. In the case of our call to the http://localhost:8080/apiman/system/status endpoint, the expected format of the response is:


Let’s carry on by looking at a more extensive example, where we use the REST API to automate a task that would be tedious if performed in the apiman Management UI.

A Larger Example

Let’s say that you want to create multiple new organizations. You could of course manually enter these into the apiman Management UI. But, if you have a large number of organizations, for example, one for each of the countries in the EU, or each of the states in the USA, this would be a tedious and error prone task. This is an ideal candidate task for automation with the REST API.

The coding for this example is simple. All you have to do is account for the encoding of the authorization to access the API Manager REST services API, and pass the information related to each organization that you create to this endpoint: http://localhost:8080/apiman/organizations

Here’s an example program with an ice hockey flavor - the highlights are noted below:

1:  package apimanExample; 
2:  import;  
3:  import;  
4:  import;  
5:  import;  
6:  import java.nio.charset.StandardCharsets;  
7:  import java.util.Base64;  

8:  public class SimplePutOrg {  

9:    public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception {  

10:     String [] [] originalSix = {  
11:         { "Boston", "Chicago", "Detroit", "Montreal", "New York", "Toronto"},  
12:         { "Bruins", "BlackHawks", "Red Wings", "Canadiens", "Rangers", "Maple Leafs"}  
13:     };  
14:     for (int i = 0; i < 6; i++) {  
15:       System.out.println ("Creating new apiman org for: " + originalSix [0][i] + ":" + originalSix [1][i]);  
16:       System.out.println ("Return code = " + createNewOrg (originalSix [0][i], originalSix [1][i]));  
17:     }  
18:    }  

19:    private static int createNewOrg (String newOrgName, String newOrgDescription) throws IOException {  
20:      URL url = new URL("http://localhost:8080/apiman/organizations");  
21:      HttpURLConnection connection = (HttpURLConnection) url.openConnection();  

22:      Base64.Encoder encoder = Base64.getEncoder();  
23:      String normalString = "admin:admin123!";  
24:      String encodedString = encoder.encodeToString(normalString.getBytes(StandardCharsets.UTF_8));  

25:      connection.setRequestProperty("Authorization", "Basic "  + encodedString);  
26:      connection.setRequestMethod("POST");  
27:      connection.setDoOutput(true);  
28:      connection.setRequestProperty("Content-Type", "application/json");  
29:      connection.setRequestProperty("Accept", "application/json");  

30:      OutputStreamWriter osw = new OutputStreamWriter(connection.getOutputStream());  
31:      osw.write(String.format("{\"name\":\"" + newOrgName + " a new org\",\"description\":\"" + newOrgDescription + "\"}"));  
32:      osw.flush();  
33:      osw.close();  

34:      return connection.getResponseCode();     
35:    }  
36:  }  

Code highlights:
  • Lines 10-13: Here's where we define the test data. For this example, we'll use the National Hockey League's "original 6" teams. 
  • Line 20: Here's the URL for the service to which we'll connect to create the new organizations.
  • Lines 22-24 - Here's where we set up the encoding for the BASIC authorization.
  • Lines 25-29 - And here's where we create the HttpURLConnection that we will use to connect to the service.
  • Line 26: Note that we will be performing a POST operation. 
  • Lines 30-33 - And finally, here's where we connect to the service and send our POST requests to create the new organizations.

When we run this example, the following output indicates that the calls to the service through the REST API were successful, based on the return code of 200:

 Creating new apiman org for: Boston:Bruins  
 Return code = 200  
 Creating new apiman org for: Chicago:BlackHawks  
 Return code = 200  
 Creating new apiman org for: Detroit:Red Wings  
 Return code = 200  
 Creating new apiman org for: Montreal:Canadiens  
 Return code = 200  
 Creating new apiman org for: New York:Rangers  
 Return code = 200  
 Creating new apiman org for: Toronto:Maple Leafs  
 Return code = 200  

And - here’s the server output that tracks the creation of the new organizations:

 21:17:53,205 INFO [stdout] (default task-19) Created organization Boston a new org: OrganizationBean [id=Bostonaneworg, name=Boston a new org, description=Bruins, createdBy=admin, createdOn=Sun May 17 21:17:53 GMT-05:00 2015, modifiedBy=admin, modifiedOn=Sun May 17 21:17:53 GMT-05:00 2015]  
 21:17:53,233 INFO [stdout] (default task-21) Created organization Chicago a new org: OrganizationBean [id=Chicagoaneworg, name=Chicago a new org, description=BlackHawks, createdBy=admin, createdOn=Sun May 17 21:17:53 GMT-05:00 2015, modifiedBy=admin, modifiedOn=Sun May 17 21:17:53 GMT-05:00 2015]  
 21:17:53,253 INFO [stdout] (default task-23) Created organization Detroit a new org: OrganizationBean [id=Detroitaneworg, name=Detroit a new org, description=Red Wings, createdBy=admin, createdOn=Sun May 17 21:17:53 GMT-05:00 2015, modifiedBy=admin, modifiedOn=Sun May 17 21:17:53 GMT-05:00 2015]  
 21:17:53,275 INFO [stdout] (default task-25) Created organization Montreal a new org: OrganizationBean [id=Montrealaneworg, name=Montreal a new org, description=Canadiens, createdBy=admin, createdOn=Sun May 17 21:17:53 GMT-05:00 2015, modifiedBy=admin, modifiedOn=Sun May 17 21:17:53 GMT-05:00 2015]  
 21:17:53,295 INFO [stdout] (default task-27) Created organization New York a new org: OrganizationBean [id=NewYorkaneworg, name=New York a new org, description=Rangers, createdBy=admin, createdOn=Sun May 17 21:17:53 GMT-05:00 2015, modifiedBy=admin, modifiedOn=Sun May 17 21:17:53 GMT-05:00 2015]  
 21:17:53,316 INFO [stdout] (default task-29) Created organization Toronto a new org: OrganizationBean [id=Torontoaneworg, name=Toronto a new org, description=Maple Leafs, createdBy=admin, createdOn=Sun May 17 21:17:53 GMT-05:00 2015, modifiedBy=admin, modifiedOn=Sun May 17 21:17:53 GMT-05:00 2015]  

And finally, here are the organizations as displayed in the apiman Management UI:


(It’s been a tough year for Boston Bruins’ fans. It’s nice to see the team listed first, even if it’s just an alphabetic list.  ;-)

In Conclusion

The architecture of the apiman Management UI is that the UI is built on top of a REST API. This architecture makes it possible for you to directly access the services exposed by the API, and enables you to automate the tasks that you perform in the UI.

Author Acknowledgements

As always, the author thanks the members of the apiman team (especially Eric Wittman) for their input and for their efforts in creating apiman!