Service Security Layers

Liferay’s remote services sit behind a layer of security that by default allows only local connections. Access to the remote APIs must be enabled as a separate step in order to call them from a remote machine. Behind this layer of security is Liferay’s standard security model: even if on the same machine, a user must have the proper permissions in Liferay’s permissions system to access remote services.

The first layer of security a client encounters when calling a remote service is called invoker IP filtering. Imagine you have have a batch job that runs on another machine in your network. This job polls a shared folder on your network and uploads documents to your site’s Documents and Media portlet on a regular basis, using Liferay’s web services. To get your batch job through the IP filter, the portal administrator has to allow the machine on which the batch job is running access to Liferay’s remote service. For example, if your batch job uses the SOAP web services to upload the documents, the portal administrator must add the IP address of the machine on which the batch job is running to the axis.servlet.hosts.allowed property. A typical entry might look like this:

axis.servlet.hosts.allowed=,, SERVER_IP

If the IP address of the machine on which the batch job is running is listed as an authorized host for the service, it’s allowed to connect to Liferay’s web services, pass in the appropriate user credentials, and upload the documents.

Figure 11.1:  Liferay SOAs first layer of security

Figure 11.1: Liferay SOA's first layer of security

Liferay’s security model is the second layer of security that’s triggered when services are remotely invoked, and it’s used for every object in the portal, whether accessing it locally or remotely. The user ID accessing the services remotely must have the proper permission to operate on the objects it’s trying to access. A remote exception is thrown if the user ID isn’t permitted. The Portal Administrator grants users access to these resources. For example, imagine you created a Documents and Media Library folder called Documents in a site and created a role called Document Uploaders that has the rights to add documents to your new folder. If your batch job accesses Liferay’s web services to upload documents into the folder, you have to call the web service using a user ID of a member of this group (or the user ID of a user with individual rights to add documents to this folder). If you don’t, Liferay denies you access to the Web Service.

Figure 11.2: Liferay SOAs second layer of security

Figure 11.2: Liferay SOA's second layer of security

With remote services, you can specify the user credentials using HTTP Basic authentication. Since those credentials are specified unencrypted; it’s recommended to use HTTPS whenever accessing these services in an untrusted network. Most HTTP clients let you specify the Basic authentication credentials in the URL–this is very handy for testing.

You’d use the following syntax to call the AXIS web service using credentials:

http://" + userIdAsString + ":" + password + "@[]:[port]/api/secure/axis/" + serviceName

The user ID is the user’s ID from the Liferay database. This may be obtained by logging in as the user and navigating to the My Account page of the control panel. On this page, the user ID appears below the user’s profile picture and above the birthday field.

Let’s pretend there’s a user whose ID is 2 and whose password is test. You can get Organization data with the following URL:


The authentication type specified for your Liferay Portal instance dictates the authentication type you’ll use to access your web service. The portal administrator can set the portal’s authentication type to any of the following:

  • screen name
  • user ID
  • email address

Your Liferay Portal Password Policies (see chapter User Management of Using Liferay Portal) should be reviewed, since they’ll be enforced on your administrative ID as well. If the portal is enforcing password policies on its users (e.g., requiring them to change their passwords on a periodic basis), an administrative ID accessing Liferay’s web services in a batch job will have its password expire too.

To prevent a password from expiring, the portal administrator can add a new password policy that doesn’t enforce password expiration and add your administrative user ID to it. Then your batch job can run as many times as you need it to, without your administrative ID’s password expiring.

To summarize, accessing Liferay remotely requires you to pass two layers of security checks:

  • First layer: The IP address must be pre-configured in the server’s portal properties.
  • Second layer: The user needs permission to access the related resources.

Next let’s talk about Liferay’s SOAP web services.

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