Spring Boot Java applications for CICS, Part 2: Security

This tutorial is the second in a series on Spring Boot Java applications for CICS.

Learning objectives

If you’re deploying a Spring Boot application into Liberty running in CICS, then security is an area you’ll definitely want to consider. Spring, Liberty, and CICS all offer powerful options for security, so you need work out which ones to choose, and how they’ll work together. In this tutorial we explain three different options:

  1. Continue to use Java EE security using a web.xml. This offers the ability to use standard Liberty authentication and authorization mechanisms, but does not support method-level authorization.
  2. Use pure Spring Security without integrating with Liberty or CICS security. This can be useful if you’re taking an existing Spring Boot application and deploying it in CICS. It probably won’t require any changes to the application.
  3. Integrate Spring Security with Liberty security. This is useful if you want to integrate security role authorization into your application when using a system authorization facility (SAF)-based external security manager such as RACF.

The sample code for this tutorial can be found in this CICSDev Git repo.


  • CICS TS V5.3 or later
  • A configured Liberty JVM server in CICS
  • Java SE 1.8 on the z/OS system
  • Java SE 1.8 on the workstation
  • An Eclipse development environment on the workstation
  • Either Gradle or Apache Maven on the workstation

This tutorial assumes that your Spring Boot application is packaged as a deployable WAR. This means you must have a class that extends SpringBootServletInitializer (normally your main application class), and declares the embedded web container as a provided dependency in your build script. For further details, refer to the previous tutorial, Spring Boot Java applications for CICS, Part 1: JCICS, Gradle, and Maven.

This sample uses the Thymeleaf template framework for creation of HTML-based pages with dynamic fields that are populated by the sample code. A Bootstrap CSS template is used to create the navigation bar in the home page of the application.

Estimated time

It should take you about 1 hour to complete this tutorial.

Option 1. Use Java EE Security

If you are familiar with Java EE security in Liberty, and wish to just use basic, form-, or certificate-based authentication, then you can use the same mechanism with Spring Boot applications deployed in Liberty. This allows you to use Liberty security to authenticate users, and either CICS transaction security or Liberty SAF authorization to authorise access to applications. However, you will not be able to use @RolesAllowed annotations in the Spring Boot application to control authorizations at the method level, as a Spring Boot application is not a servlet.

The following web.xml should be placed in the src/main/webapp/WEB-INF/ folder of your Spring Boot project. The specified security constraint protects all URLs via <url-pattern>/*</url-pattern> and uses HTTP basic authentication to request a user ID and password. Authorization is limited to the users in the role ROLE_USER.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<web-app xmlns="http://java.sun.com/xml/ns/javaee"
    xsi:schemaLocation="http://java.sun.com/xml/ns/javaee http://java.sun.com/xml/ns/javaee/web-app_3_0.xsd"
            <web-resource-name>Secured Areas</web-resource-name>

In order to deploy your Spring Boot application with Java EE security, you’ll need to configure a user registry and authorization method in the Liberty server.xml configuration file.

If you don’t yet have a Liberty JVM server configured, using CICS auto-configuration is a great way to start. If you enable auto-configuration in the JVM profile, it will generate a basic server.xml when the JVM server is enabled. When CICS security is enabled (SEC=YES is specified in the SIT), it will add almost everything you need. This includes the required Liberty features and the <safRegistry> element, along with configuration of the Liberty angel process as described in this tutorial.

If you’re customizing an existing configuration, you’ll need to make sure you include the following:

  • CICS features cicsts:core-1.0 and cicsts:security-1.0
  • Registry configuration such as <safRegistry>
  • An application element for the deployed application

Here’s a complete server.xml example. It uses Java EE roles for authorization, mapping ROLE_USER to the SAF user ID, MYUSER. So this is the only user who will be allowed access to the application.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?><server description="CICS Liberty sample configuration">
<!-- Enable features -->

<httpEndpoint host="*" httpPort="28221" id="defaultHttpEndpoint"/>

<applicationMonitor dropins="dropins" dropinsEnabled="false" pollingRate="5s" updateTrigger="disabled"/>
<safRegistry enableFailover="false" id="saf"/>

<application location="${server.config.dir}/cics-java-liberty-springboot-security-0.1.0.war" type="war">
        <security-role name="ROLE_USER">
            <user name="MYUSER"/>

Alternatively, you can configure authorization using SAF role mapping and EJBROLE profiles. For more information, see Authorization using SAF role mapping in the IBM CICS Knowledge Center.

Option 2. Use pure Spring Security

If you’ve got an existing Spring Boot application and are happy with its current security model, and do not need to integrate with any CICS security, you might not need to make any changes to the application. When you run your Spring Boot application in CICS, Spring Security will continue to work exactly as before, and can still handle authentication and authorization. Java EE security doesn’t get involved at all, and none of the Liberty security configuration will affect your application, with the exception of SSL configuration for the endpoint. However, if you don’t take any action, work in CICS will run under the CICS default user ID, configured by the CICS DFLTUSER SIT parameter. This isn’t a great idea, as the default user should not have access to CJSA, the default transaction for work coming in through Liberty. In addition, you’ll see the following warning message in the Liberty messages.log for every request:

CWWKE0700W: [com.ibm.cics.wlp.security.zos] [CICSThreadIdentityServiceImpl] @Warning: set() - SJJS SWITCH_PTHREAD_CONTEXT, user ID ' ' does not exist in SAF - CICS transaction will run under the CICS DEFAULT user ID.

To avoid this, you can create a CICS URIMAP resource definition, mapping requests to a more specific transaction and user ID. You could create multiple URIMAPs for different parts of your application — for example, matching URLs with the path /admin to a different user ID in CICS. For more information about defining URIMAPs for Liberty applications, see the procedure in Authorizing users to run applications in a Liberty JVM server in the IBM CICS Knowledge Center.

Option 3. Integrate Spring Security with Java EE security

A key advantage to deploying a Spring Boot application in Liberty is the ability to integrate with CICS and Liberty security. If you’ve already got other web applications deployed in Liberty, you can share the same authentication and authorization methods. However, you might still want to take advantage of Spring Security, perhaps for the ease of defining role-based access to individual URLs, or to use method-level security. The good news is that it’s entirely possible to integrate Spring Security and Java EE security, and therefore get integration with Liberty and CICS security as well. This can be done with a few simple modifications to your application. You can use any supported means of authentication and authorization in Liberty, and the user ID used to login is propagated to the CICS task. This means you can use CICS transaction and resource security.

Pre-authentication in Spring Security

Spring Security supports pre-authentication, the ability to authenticate users by some other means. This provides a valid user ID and set of roles. Spring provides configuration options to use the Java EE container pre-authentication which is described in their documentation. We’ll use this mechanism to integrate with Liberty security. By doing this, Liberty is able to handle authentication and authorization as for any other web application. Spring Security also receives the user ID and set of authorized roles. It works by picking up the Principal associated with the servlet request, and calls isUserInRole()) for each of a predefined set of roles. To demonstrate this, there is a sample on GitHub. This takes a simple Spring Boot application with security and adds Java EE container preauthentication based on the Spring Security sample. The sample presents a single page which is only accessible to those who have access to the role ROLE_USER. The page displays the authenticated user and their roles, and the CICS user ID and transaction when running in a CICS environment. We will discuss the steps necessary to set up Spring Security to achieve this, how to configure Liberty, and how to deploy the application.

Configuring Spring Security

It’s simple to add Java EE pre-authentication to your Spring Security configuration. You’ll need an @Configuration class that extends WebSecurityConfigurerAdapter; it looks something like the following. In the provided sample application, you can find this in Application.java.

protected static class ApplicationSecurity extends WebSecurityConfigurerAdapter {

    protected void configure(HttpSecurity http) throws Exception {
                .antMatchers("/login", "/resources/**", "/j_security_check","css/**").permitAll()
           .jee().mappableRoles("USER", "ADMIN");

Java EE preauthentication is enabled by calling HttpSecurity.jee(). You can chain this onto the end of any existing Spring Security configuration. You need to provide a list of the roles that you want propagated into Spring Security, which should match those defined in web.xml. You don’t need to configure the actual authentication method here (e.g. basic authentication). However, if you’re using form login for authentication as we have in the sample, then it will be necessary to explicitly permit unauthenticated access to j_security_check. This is the URL that form credentials are POSTed to in Java EE. Without this, you’ll get a 403 from Spring Security when the user submits the login form. You also need to allow access to any other URLs that users require access to in order to log in, such as /login and any resources used in the login page.

Configuring web.xml

You need to configure security in web.xml, the web application deployment descriptor, in the same way as you would for a normal Java EE application. In the sample project, the following web.xml can be found in the src/main/webapp/WEB-INF folder.

<web-app version="2.5" xmlns="http://java.sun.com/xml/ns/javaee"
    xsi:schemaLocation="http://java.sun.com/xml/ns/javaee https://java.sun.com/xml/ns/javaee/web-app_2_5.xsd">

            <description>Matches unconstrained pages</description>
            <web-resource-name>Secured Areas</web-resource-name>

This uses the standard Java EE format for defining the authentication method, roles, and what roles are required for each URL. Here we’ve used form authentication, defining a single role called ROLE_USER, which has access to the whole application. In addition, unauthenticated users are granted access to a subset of URLs to allow them to log in. This should match the list in the Spring Security configuration.

Configuring Liberty

To deploy the sample into a CICS Liberty JVM server, you need to first build the application as a WAR. Maven pom.xml and Gradle build.gradle files are provided in the sample Git repository to simplify this task. You will then need to:

  • Configure your CICS Liberty JVM server to use a SAF user registry.
  • Define the application to the Liberty server using an <application> element in the Liberty server.xml just as you did for scenario 1 above.
  • Configure an authorization method, using either Java EE roles or EJBROLE profiles defined in SAF.
  • Start the Liberty server and login to the application using the login form on the landing page as shown here.

Login form

The “Hello Home” page below should be returned with details of the Spring Security user name and roles, and the CICS transaction ID and task user ID. If Spring Security integration is working correctly, the Spring Security user should be the same as the CICS user ID.

Hello Home page


Debugging a security configuration can be a tricky business, and it’s even more tricky when two security models are involved. In particular, if you see an HTTP error code like 403 Forbidden, it’s not always obvious whether it’s coming from Liberty itself or from Spring Security. Testing the application on your workstation can help reduce the time it takes to make changes and try out alternatives. There are a number of ways to download and install Liberty, described here. Of course, you won’t be able to try out integration with SAF security when running on your workstation, however you can use a basic registry instead. For example:

    <user name="Fred" password="password"/>
    <user name="Bob" password="password"/>

This configures a couple of users that you can map to roles to try things out. It allows you to test your Spring Security configuration and ensure it’s receiving credentials from Liberty. Of course, a basic registry should not be used in production. Also, bear in mind you’ll only be able to test the parts of the application that don’t use the JCICS API, as this is only available when running in CICS. Spring Security provides comprehensive debugging information. To enable this, put @EnableWebSecurity(debug = true) in your security configuration class. Also, add logging.level.org.springframework.security: DEBUG to your application.properties file. Spring Security will then produce verbose logging on each request. This should help you identify exactly which security check led to an error.


Running your Spring Boot application in CICS provides a flexible set of options for integrating Spring Security with existing CICS and Liberty security controls. After completing this tutorial, you should be able to go on to integrate other parts of your Spring Boot application with other CICS qualities of service such as transactionality and relational database access. Be sure to check out the other tutorials in the Spring Boot Java applications for CICS learning path.