A standard Spring Security configuration uses username / password based authentication. This always presents a tricky problem: how to securely store a user’s password in such a way that it can’t be read by anyone with access to our database. It’s naive to assume that our password database is 100% secure, just ask Adobe, Sony, Ashley Madison, and every other large organization that has had their database breached. Even if the database isn’t ‘breached’ or ‘leaked’, legitimate database admins or sys admins still have access to user passwords. A database containing user passwords is a liability that we’d rather not have.
The standard solution to this problem is store store a hash of the password rather than the plain text or even encrypted text. I don’t want to focus on why this is good or how it works as many others have done this already. I’ve found no better discussion of this (and password management in general) than Troy Hunt’s post on Everything you ever wanted to know about building a secure password reset feature.
Getting the details right when implementing password storage is critical. Some hash algorithms are vulnerable or just not suited to password hashing. If the salt is too short or predictable, it may be possible to retrieve the password from the hash. Any number of subtle bugs in coding could result in a password database that is vulnerable in one way or another. Fortunately, Spring Security includes password hashing out of the box. What’s more, since version 3.1, Spring Security automatically takes care of salting too.