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pac4j v4 is coming

A few days ago, I released pac4j v4.0.0-RC3 as well as three of the main implementations:

based on it.

We are close to the final release which should happen in a month or two. It’s high time for testing, but also to take a closer look of what’s new in pac4j v4.

Although pac4j v3 is a very mature version, several major new features are coming with pac4j v4.

1) User profiles

The signature of the Client interface has moved from Client<C extends Credentials, U extends CommonProfile> to Client<C extends Credentials>.

It means that the returned profile is no longer a constraint and that even from the FacebookClient, you can return a DbProfile and not only a FacebookProfile. This is useful when you have linked accounts and want to use the Facebook authentication to finally returned a linked account found in the database for example.

The root class for the profiles was the CommonProfile, but it’s now the UserProfile and the CommonProfile extends the BasicUserProfile which implements the UserProfile. All pac4j components still return an instance of the CommonProfile, but you can now return more minimal user profiles from your own clients.

2) HTTP actions and web context

In pac4j v3, requesting a redirection was actually applying the redirection on the web context (that is, setting the Location header and the 302 status). This is no longer the case in pac4j v4. HTTP actions are just actions which must be explicitly applied to the web context by the HttpActionAdapater (JEEActionHttpAdapter). The idea is to have a clear separation of concerns between the pac4j machinery and the resulting action on the web context.

Thus, the setResponseStatus and writeResponseContent methods have been removed from the WebContext interface and are now internally handled in the HttpActionAdapter. Multiple HTTP actions (inheriting from HttpAction) have been created to handle the necessary HTTP actions. The RedirectAction is replaced by the new HTTP actions inheriting from RedirectionAction. The redirect method of the Client interface is renamed as getRedirectionAction.

Nonetheless, some operations are still performed on the web context like adding a cookie (addResponseCookie method). In the final release, these operations should be delayed until the HttpActionAdapter kicks in.

3) Optional

The APIs have been changed in many places to return Optional when the returned value could be null.

For example, to get a request parameter, the call: j2eContext.getRequestParameter(name) becomes jeeContext.getRequestParameter(name).orElse(null).

4) Default authorizers and matchers

In pac4j v3, all web checks were performed by authorizers, like adding the X-Frame-Options header (to DENY) to ensure the web application could not be included in an iframe:

public class XFrameOptionsHeader implements Authorizer<CommonProfile> {

    @Override
    public boolean isAuthorized(final WebContext context, final List<CommonProfile> profiles) {
        context.setResponseHeader("X-Frame-Options", "DENY");
        return true;
    }
}

The problem with this approach was that this kind of authorizers were not applied until the user has a profile and on a redirection for login.

In pac4j v4, most web checks are now matchers (that always returned true):

public class XFrameOptionsMatcher implements Matcher {

    @Override
    public boolean matches(final WebContext context) {
        context.setResponseHeader("X-Frame-Options", "DENY");
        return true;
    }
}

Now, the default matchers are: hsts, nosniff, securityheaders, xssprotection, allowAjaxRequests, nocache, csrfToken (CSRF token generation), get, post, put and delete. And the default authorizers are: csrfCheck (CSRF token check), isAnonymous, isAuthenticated, isFullyAuthenticated and isRemembered.

If no configuration is provided for the matchers, the securityHeaders,csrfToken matchers are applied. If no configuration is provided for the authorizers, the csrfCheck authorizer is applied.

5) FindBest

There has been always questions on the order of using components in the pac4j framework and in its implementations.

Now, the FindBest utility must be used as much as possible to make things consistent:

public static HttpActionAdapter httpActionAdapter(final HttpActionAdapter localAdapter, final Config config,
                                                  final HttpActionAdapter defaultAdapter) {
    if (localAdapter != null) {
        return localAdapter;
    } else if (config != null && config.getHttpActionAdapter() != null) {
        return config.getHttpActionAdapter();
    } else {
        CommonHelper.assertNotNull("defaultAdapter", defaultAdapter);
        return defaultAdapter;
    }
}

which is used in the SecurityInterceptor component of the spring-webmvc-pac4j implementation as follows: final HttpActionAdapter<Boolean, JEEContext> bestAdapter = FindBest.httpActionAdapter(httpActionAdapter, config, JEEHttpActionAdapter.INSTANCE);.

If we have a local component (that is, only defined in this filter), we use it first. Then, we try to use the same kind of component defined at the Config level. Finally, we fall back to the default one.

6) Other things

As you can read on the release notes, there are many other smaller improvements and fixes:

Enjoy pac4j v4!

Jérôme LELEU - February 2020