Liferay’s remote services are secured by default. They sit behind a layer of security that allows only local connections. If you want to invoke Liferay services from a remote client, you must take deliberate steps to enable such access. Liferay’s core web services require user authentication and verification. This tutorial explains these processes. Lastly, regardless of whether the remote service is called from the same machine or via a web service, Liferay’s standard security model performs its function. The user invoking a web service must have the proper permissions (as defined by Liferay’s permissions system) in order for the remote service invocation to complete successfully.

The first layer of security that a client encounters when calling a remote service is called invoker IP filtering. Imagine that 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 Liferay site’s Documents and Media portlet on a regular basis, using Liferay’s web services. To get your batch job through the IP filter, you must grant web service access to the machine on which the batch job is running. For example, if your batch job uses Liferay’s SOAP web services to upload the documents, you must add the IP address of the machine where the batch job runs 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 where the batch job runs 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.

Next, if you’re invoking the remote service via web services (e.g., JSON WS, old JSON, Axis, REST, etc.), a two step process of authentication and authentication verification takes place. Each call to a Liferay portal web service must be accompanied by a user authentication token: p_auth. It’s up to the web service caller to produce the token (e.g., through Liferay’s utilities or through some third-party software). Liferay verifies that there is a Liferay user that matches the token. If the credentials are invalid, the web service invocation is aborted. Otherwise, processing enters Liferay’s user permission layer.

Liferay’s user permission layer is the last Liferay security layer triggered when services are invoked remotely. It’s used for every object in the portal, regardless of whether a local service or a remote service is involved. The user ID associated with a web service invocation must possess the proper permission to operate on the objects it’s trying to access. A remote exception is thrown if the user ID does not possess the required permissions. A portal administrator can grant users access to these resources. For example, suppose you created a Documents and Media Library folder called Documents in a site, created a role called Document Uploaders, and granted this role 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 must call the web service using a user ID of a member of this role (or using the user ID of a user with individual rights to add documents to this folder, such as a portal administrator). If you don’t, Liferay denies you access to the web service.

When invoking remote Liferay services from a non-browser client, you can specify the user credentials using HTTP basic authentication. For security reasons, you must be logged in and you must supply a valid p_auth authentication token to invoke a Liferay web service via a browser. Since you should never pass credentials over the network unencrypted, we recommend using HTTPS whenever accessing Liferay services on an untrusted network. Most HTTP clients (e.g., cURL) let you specify the basic authentication credentials in the URL–this is very handy for testing.

Use the following syntax to call the AXIS web service using credentials.

http://" + emailAddressOrScreenNameOrUserIdAsString + ":" + password + "@[]:\
[port]/api/axis/" + serviceName

The emailAddressOrScreenNameOrUserIdAsString should be the user’s email address, screen name, or user ID. The portal’s authentication type setting determines which one to use. A user can find his or her ID by logging in as the user and accessing My Account from the Dockbar. On this interface, the user ID appears below the user’s profile picture and above the birthday field.

Suppose that your portal’s authentication type is set to be by user ID and that there’s a user whose ID is 2 and whose password is test. You can access Liferay’s remote Organization service with the following URL:

http://2:[email protected]:8080/api/axis/Portal_OrganizationService

Note that if an email address appears in the URL path, it must be URL-encoded. E.g., [email protected] becomes

Suppose that your portal’s authentication is now set to be by email address. If the user with the user ID of 2 has the email address [email protected], the above URL should be changed to this:[email protected]:8080/api/axis/Portal_OrganizationService

As mentioned above, 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:

  • email address
  • screen name
  • user ID

You can set the authentication type via the Control Panel or via the file. To set the portal authentication type via the Control Panel, navigate to the Control Panel, click on Portal Settings, and then on Authentication. Under How do users authenticate?, make a selection. To set the portal authentication type via properties file, add the following lines to your Liferay instance’s file and uncomment the line for the appropriate authentication type:

Your Liferay Portal password policies (see the Password Policies documentation) should be reviewed, since they’ll be enforced on your administrative user 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 user accessing Liferay’s web services in a batch job will have its password expire too.

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

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

  • IP permission layer: The IP address must be pre-configured in the server’s portal properties.
  • Authentication/verification layer (web services only): Liferay verifies that the caller’s authorization token can be associated with a portal user.
  • User permission layer: The user needs permission to access the related resources.

If you’d like to develop client applications that can invoke Liferay’s web services, make sure that your Liferay instance’s web service security settings have been configured to allow access.

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