Key authentication module

The authkey module for GeoServer allows for a very simple authentication protocol designed for OGC clients that cannot handle any kind of security protocol, not even the HTTP basic authentication.

For these clients the module allows a minimal form of authentication by appending a unique key in the URL that is used as the sole authentication token. Obviously this approach is open to security token sniffing and must always be associated with the use of HTTPS connections.

A sample authenticated request looks like:


Where authkey=ef18d7e7-963b-470f-9230-c7f9de166888 is associated to a specific user (more on this later). The capabilities document contains backlinks to the server itself, linking to the URLs that can be used to perform GetMap, GetFeatureInfo and so on. When the authkey parameter is provided the backlinks will contain the authentication key as well, allowing any compliant WMS client to access secured resources.


The authkey module is meant to be used with OGC services. It won’t work properly against the administration GUI, nor RESTConfig.

The authkey module replaces the default basic authentication provider, therefore when editing a user the Enabled checkbox does not affect the authkey provider and you cannot disable users this way.

Key providers

Key providers are responsible for mapping the authentication keys to a user. The authentication key itself is a UUID (Universally Unique IDentifier (UUID)). A key provider needs a user/group service and it is responsible for synchronizing the authentication keys with the users contained in this service.

Key provider using user properties

This key provider uses a user property UUID to map the authentication key to the user. User properties are stored in the user/group service. Synchronizing is simple since the logic has to search for users not having the property UUID and add it. The property value is a generated UUID.


If the user/group service is read only, the property has to be added from outside, no synchronizing is possible.

Key provider using a property file

This key provider uses a property file named The default user/group service is named default. The for this service would be located at


A sample file looks as follows:

# Format is authkey=username

This key provider also works for read only user/group services. Synchronizing adds new users not having an entry in this file and removes entries for users deleted in the user/group service.

Key provider using an external web service

This key provider calls an external URL to map the authentication key to the user. This allows GeoServer to integrate into an existing security infrastructure, where a session token is shared among applications and managed through dedicated web services.

The web service URL and some other parameters can be specified to configure the mapper in detail:



Web Service URL, with key placeholder

the complete URL of the key mapping webservice, with a special placeholder ({key}) that will be replaced by the current authentication key

Web Service Response User Search Regular Expression

a regular expression used to extract the username from the webservice response; the first matched group (the part included in parentheses) in the regular expression will be used as the username; the default (^\s*(.*)\s*$) takes all the response text, trimming spaces at both ends

Connection Timeout

timeout to connect to the webservice

Read Timeout

timeout to read data from the webservice

The mapper will call the webservice using an HTTP GET request (webservice requiring POST are not supported yet), replacing the {key} placeholder in the configured URL with the actual authentication key.

If a response is received, it is parsed using the configured regular expression to extract the username from it. New lines are automatically stripped from the response. Some examples of regular expression that can be used are:

Regular Expression



all text trimming spaces at both ends


json response where the username is contained in a property named user


xml response where the username is contained in a tag named username

Synchronizing users with the user/group service means clearing the current Security context cache. The keys cached in memory will be removed and re-created at the next call.

AuthKEY WebService Body Response UserGroup Service

When using an external web service to get Auth details, it is possible to define a custom GeoServer UserGroup Service being able to fetch Authorities - aka user’s Roles - from the HTTP Body Response.

The rationale is mostly the same; that kind of GeoServer UserGroup Service will apply a rolesRegex - Roles Regular Expression - to the body response - which can be either XML, JSON or Plain Text/HTML - in order to fetch the list of available Authorities.

In order to do this, it is possible to configure instances of AuthKEY WebService Body Response User Group Service.

First thing to do is to:

  1. Login as an Administrator

  2. Move to Security > Users, Groups, Roles and select Add new from User Group Services

  3. Click on AuthKEY WebService Body Response

  4. Provide a Name and select anything you want from Passwords - those won’t be used by this service, but they are still mandatory for GeoServer -

  5. Provide a suitable Roles Regex to apply to your Web Service Response


    This is the only real mandatory value to provide. The others are optional and will allow you to customize the User Group Service behavior (see below)


Once the new GeoServer UserGroup Service has been configured, it can be easily linked to the Key Provider Web Service Mapper.

  1. From Authentication > Authentication Filters, select - or add new - AuthKEY using Web Service as key mapper

  2. Select the newly defined UserGroup Service and save


Additional Options

  1. Optional static comma-separated list of available Groups from the Web Service response

    It is worth notice that this UserGroup Service will always translate fetched Roles in the form ROLE_<ROLENAME>

    As an instance, if the Roles Regular Expression will match something like:

    my_user_role1, another_custom_user_role, role_External_Role_X

    this will be converted into 3 different GeoServer User Roles named as:


    Of course the role names are known only at runtime; nevertheless it is possible to statically specify associated GeoServer User Groups to be mapped later to other internal GeoServer User Roles.

    What does this mean? A GeoServer User Group can be defined on the GeoServer Catalog and can be mapped by the active Role Services to one or more specific GeoServer User Roles.

    This mainly depends on the GeoServer Role Service you use. By default, the internal GeoServer Role Service can map Roles and Groups through static configuration stored on the GeoServer Data Dir. This is possible by editing GeoServer User Group details from the Users, Groups, and Roles panel


    Now, this custom UserGroup Service maps dynamically GeoServer User Role to GeoServer User Group as follows:

    ROLE_MY_USER_ROLE1              <> GROUP_MY_USER_ROLE1

    In order to be able to assign any GeoServer User Group to other internal GeoServer User Roles, since those are known only at runtime, the UserGroup Service allows us to statically specify the GeoServer User Groups the Web Service can use; this possible by setting the Optional static comma-separated list of available Groups from the Web Service response option:


    Once this is correctly configured, it will be possible to edit and assign GeoServer User Roles to the Groups by using the standard way

  2. Role Service to use

    By default, if no Role Service specified, the UserGroup Service will use the GeoServer Active Role Service to resolve GeoServer User Roles from GeoServer User Groups - as specified above -


    It is possible to define a Custom Role Service to use instead, to resole GeoServer User Roles; this is possible simply by selecting the Role Service to use from the Role Service to use option



Configuration can be done using the administrator GUI. There is a new type of authentication filter named authkey offering the following options.

  1. URL parameter name. This the name of URL parameter used in client HTTP requests. Default is authkey.

  2. Key Provider. GeoServer offers the providers described above.

  3. User/group service to be used.

Some of the key providers can require additional configuration parameter. These will appear under the Key Provider combo-box when one of those is selected.

After configuring the filter it is necessary to put this filter on the authentication filter chain(s).


The administrator GUI for this filter has button Synchronize. Clicking on this button saves the current configuration and triggers a synchronize. If users are added/removed from the backing user/group service, the synchronize logic should be triggered.

Enabling Mappers’ Auto-Synchronization

The following check is available for all provides.


If enabled, the service will automatically invoke the corresponding mapper synchronize method; the one associated to the current AuthKey provider.

By default the synchronization happens every 60 seconds. In the case an administrator needs to change the auto-sync frequency, he will need to:

  1. Edit the file applicationContext.xml within the gs-authkey jar file

  2. Edit the property autoSyncDelaySeconds of the authenticationKeyProvider bean

  3. Restart GeoServer

Provider pluggability

With some Java programming it is possible to programmatically create and register a new key to user name mapper that works under a different logic. For example, you could have daily tokens, token generators and the like.

In order to provide your custom mapper you have to implement the interface and then register said bean in the Spring application context. Alternatively it is possible to subclass from A mapper (key provider) has to implement

 * Maps a unique authentication key to a username. Since usernames are
 * unique within a {@link GeoServerUserGroupService} an individual mapper
 * is needed for each service offering this feature.
 * @author Andrea Aime - GeoSolution
public interface AuthenticationKeyMapper extends BeanNameAware {

     * Maps the key provided in the request to the {@link GeoServerUser} object
     * of the corresponding user, or returns null
     * if no corresponding user is found
     * Returns <code>null</code> if the user is disabled
     * @param key
     * @return
    GeoServerUser getUser(String key) throws IOException;

     * Assures that each user in the corresponding {@link GeoServerUserGroupService} has
     * an authentication key.
     * returns the number of added authentication keys
     * @throws IOException
    int synchronize() throws IOException;

     * Returns <code>true</code> it the mapper can deal with read only u
     * user/group services
     * @return
    boolean supportsReadOnlyUserGroupService();

    String getBeanName();

    void setUserGroupServiceName(String serviceName);
    String getUserGroupServiceName();

    public GeoServerSecurityManager getSecurityManager();
    public void setSecurityManager(GeoServerSecurityManager securityManager);


The mapper would have to be registered in the Spring application context in a applicationContext.xml file in the root of your jar. Example for an implementation named

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
  <bean id="superpowersMapper" class=""/>

At this point you can drop the authkey jar along with your custom mapper jar and use it in the administrator GUI of the authentication key filter.