Apereo CAS - Global Access Strategy & Enforcement

Posted by Misagh Moayyed on October 23, 2021 · 7 mins read ·

Apereo CAS is now able to offer features to control authorization and entry access to the application at a global level, in addition to providing options for overrides at the application level. This post can be viewed as an extension of Privileged Access Management features in Apereo CAS that specifically focus on options to determine user access at a global level.

This tutorial specifically requires and focuses on:

  • CAS 6.5.x
  • Java 11


Typically, options and features that exist in CAS to control entry access and authorization are defined at the application policy level, RBAC style. For example, to access an application that is registered with CAS, the following policy may be defined to ensure the principal (i.e. authenticated user) must have a cn attribute with the value of admin AND a givenName attribute with the value of Administrator:

  "@class" : "org.apereo.cas.services.RegexRegisteredService",
  "serviceId" : "testId",
  "name" : "testId",
  "id" : 1,
  "accessStrategy" : {
    "@class" : "org.apereo.cas.services.DefaultRegisteredServiceAccessStrategy",
    "requiredAttributes" : {
      "@class" : "java.util.HashMap",
      "cn" : [ "java.util.HashSet", [ "admin" ] ],
      "givenName" : [ "java.util.HashSet", [ "Administrator" ] ]

While this approach may be sufficient in certain cases, it can prove difficult to maintain and manage rules for each application definition at this layer, especially if the rules are too many, the variety is diverse, and the applications grow in number.

Furthermore, one could consider that the authorization rules and logic could be outsourced to a different, external system, all combined and managed in one place, with a friendly interface and API which can answer and respond to authorization queries for user access and policy. Such systems often tend to interact with other sources of truth, group management software, and family that drive authorization decisions by group membership and entitlements, etc.

What’s important here is that CAS ought to have the ability to interact with such external systems, seen as a black box, via a proven API to determine user access requirements in one place for a given application and user attributes, etc. The definition and request for access are made in one place, globally, and the calculation rules and the responses are also handled and outsourced in one [external] place.

How might we go about accomplishing that?

Global Access Strategy

Rather than placing the authorization policy definition in each application record, Apereo CAS starts simple and allows one to script the authorization logic globally inside a Groovy script:

import org.apereo.cas.audit.*
import org.apereo.cas.services.*

def run(Object[] args) {
    def context = args[0] as AuditableContext
    def logger = args[1]
    logger.debug("Checking access for ${context.registeredService}")
    def result = AuditableExecutionResult.builder().build()
    result.setException(new UnauthorizedServiceException("Service unauthorized"))
    return result

The script execution is set to return a type of response that would signal to CAS whether access should be granted, given arbitrary logic and context. One could consider that such logic might at some point be about reaching out to an external authorization system, passing along needed details in the request, and processing the response to determine access rules.

This is a rather flexible one-ring-to-rule-them-all type of solution to the global access strategy use case; of course, as APIs and authorization systems mature, well-defined dedicated integrations and extensions can be built to handle matters directly and in an opinionated fashion without asking one to script their way into the system.

What About…?

As is almost always the case with Apereo CAS, one can surely take direct control of the access strategy component with custom logic and code:

public AuditableExecution registeredServiceAccessStrategyEnforcer() {
    return new MyAccessStrategy(...);

…and of course, MyAccessStrategy looks as humble as ever:

public AuditableExecutionResult execute(AuditableContext context) {

Need Help?

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I hope this review was of some help to you and I am sure that both this post as well as the functionality it attempts to explain can be improved in any number of ways. Please feel free to engage and contribute as best as you can.

Happy Coding,

Misagh Moayyed