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1. Overview

This tutorial will show how to enable and configure Remember Me functionality in a web application with Spring Security. Setting up the MVC application with security and a simple form login has already been discussed.

The mechanism will be able to identify the user across multiple sessions – so the first thing to understand is that Remember Me only kicks in after the session times out. By default, this happens after 30 minutes of inactivity, but timeout can be configured in the web.xml.

Note: this tutorial focuses on the standard cookie-based approach. For the persistent approach, have a look at the Spring Security – Persistent Remember Me guide.

2. The Security Configuration

Let's see how to set up the security configuration using Java:

@Configuration
@EnableWebSecurity
public class SecSecurityConfig extends WebSecurityConfigurerAdapter {

    @Bean("authenticationManager")
    @Override
    public AuthenticationManager authenticationManagerBean() throws Exception {
            return super.authenticationManagerBean();
    }

    @Autowired
    public void configureGlobal(AuthenticationManagerBuilder auth) throws Exception {
        auth.inMemoryAuthentication()
            .withUser("user1").password("{noop}user1Pass").roles("USER")
            .and()
            .withUser("admin1").password("{noop}admin1Pass").roles("ADMIN");
    }

    @Override
    protected void configure(final HttpSecurity http) throws Exception {
        http.authorizeRequests()
            .antMatchers("/anonymous*").anonymous()
            .antMatchers("/login*").permitAll()
            .anyRequest().authenticated()
            
            .and()
            .formLogin()
            .loginPage("/login.html")
            .loginProcessingUrl("/login")
            .failureUrl("/login.html?error=true")
            
            .and()
            .logout().deleteCookies("JSESSIONID")
            
            .and()
            .rememberMe().key("uniqueAndSecret")
            ;
    }
}

As you can see, the basic configuration using the rememberMe() method is extremely simple while remaining very flexible through additional options. The key is important here – it is a private value secret for the entire application and it will be used when generating the contents of the token.

Additionally, the time the token is valid can be configured from the default of 2 weeks to – for example – one day using tokenValiditySeconds():

rememberMe().key("uniqueAndSecret").tokenValiditySeconds(86400)

We can also have a look at the equivalent XML configuration:

<http use-expressions="true">
    <intercept-url pattern="/anonymous*" access="isAnonymous()" />
    <intercept-url pattern="/login*" access="permitAll" />
    <intercept-url pattern="/**" access="isAuthenticated()" />

    <form-login login-page='/login.html' 
      authentication-failure-url="/login.html?error=true" />
    <logout delete-cookies="JSESSIONID" />

    <remember-me key="uniqueAndSecret"/>
</http>

<authentication-manager id="authenticationManager">
    <authentication-provider>
        <user-service>
            <user name="user1" password="{noop}user1Pass" authorities="ROLE_USER" />
            <user name="admin1" password="{noop}admin1Pass" authorities="ROLE_ADMIN" />
        </user-service>
    </authentication-provider>
</authentication-manager>

3. The Login Form

The login form is similar to the one we used for form login:

<html>
<head></head>

<body>
    <h1>Login</h1>

    <form name='f' action="login" method='POST'>
        <table>
            <tr>
                <td>User:</td>
                <td><input type='text' name='username' value=''></td>
            </tr>
            <tr>
                <td>Password:</td>
                <td><input type='password' name='password' /></td>
            </tr>
            <tr>
                <td>Remember Me:</td>
                <td><input type="checkbox" name="remember-me" /></td>
            </tr>
            <tr>
                <td><input name="submit" type="submit" value="submit" /></td>
            </tr>
        </table>
    </form>

</body>
</html>

Notice the newly added checkbox input – mapping to remember-me. This added input is enough to log in with remember me active.

This default path can also be changed as follows:

.rememberMe().rememberMeParameter("remember-me-new")

4. The Cookie

The mechanism will create an additional cookie – the “remember-me” cookie – when the user logs in.

The Remember Me cookie contains the following data:

  • username – to identify the logged-in principal
  • expirationTime – to expire the cookie; default is 2 weeks
  • MD5 hash – of the previous 2 values – username and expirationTime, plus the password and the predefined key

The first thing to notice here is that both the username and the password are part of the cookie – this means that, if either is changed, the cookie is no longer valid. Also, the username can be read from the cookie.

Additionally, it is important to understand that this mechanism is potentially vulnerable if the remember me cookie is captured. The cookie will be valid and usable until it expires or the credentials are changed.

5. In Practice

To easily see the remember me mechanism working, you can:

  • log in with remember me active
  • wait for the session to expire (or remove the JSESSIONID cookie in the browser)
  • refresh the page

Without remember me active, after the cookie expires the user should be redirected back to the login page. With remember me, the user now stays logged in with the help of the new token/cookie.

6. Conclusion

This tutorial showed how to set up and configure Remember Me functionality in the security configuration, and briefly described what kind of data goes into the cookie.

The implementation can be found in the example Github project – this is an Eclipse-based project, so it should be easy to import and run as it is.

When the project runs locally, the login.html can be accessed on localhost.

Security bottom

I just announced the new Learn Spring Security course, including the full material focused on the new OAuth2 stack in Spring Security 5:

>> CHECK OUT THE COURSE
21 Comments
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Robert Golabek
6 years ago

Nice Blog! Thanks

Muzimil Basha
Muzimil Basha
6 years ago

Great Info. Thanks. I am trying to implement this. I have a customized login form with 3 login fields. We also have renamed j_username and j_password to username and password respectively. Can you tell me if I use this, does this still work. If not what do I need to do make this work

Eugen Paraschiv
6 years ago
Reply to  Muzimil Basha

Hey Basha – yes, it will work just fine. Renaming the defaults is a good practice to hide any specific information about what security framework the application is using. So – since you’re no longer using the defaults, you will need to specify the new values in your Spring Security config, but other than that, there shouldn’t be any problem. And on the 3 fields – without seeing the code and knowing what the 3rd field is I’d say that you should be fine, but – it does depend on what you’re trying to do. Hope that helps. Cheers,
Eugen.

Muzimil Basha
Muzimil Basha
6 years ago

Thanks for the quick reply. I have already defined new names in spring security config. Can we also rename _spring_security_remember_me to any other name.

Eugen Paraschiv
6 years ago
Reply to  Muzimil Basha

No worries – every default should not be changeable – it wasn’t for a while, but this JIRA took care of it.

Muzimil Basha
Muzimil Basha
6 years ago

Wow. That’s really helpful. Thanks a bunch.

Eugen Paraschiv
6 years ago
Reply to  Muzimil Basha

Glad to help – good luck with securing your app. Cheers,
Eugen.

Ashwani kumar
Ashwani kumar
6 years ago

Great and very simple to apply !!!

sagar
sagar
5 years ago

Great post , really helpful and easy to implement ! Can we use database to store user credentials instead of cookie ? If yes then how to implement ?

Eugen Paraschiv
5 years ago
Reply to  sagar

Hey Sagar,
These are 2 separate things. Yes, you can use the DB to store user credentials (the username and a hash of the password). For that, you can check out my last few security articles. As for the cookie – that’s simply used for authentication, so it doesn’t stop you from storing the credentials in any way. The implementation is in these last few articles. Hope it helps. Cheers,
Eugen.

Eugen Paraschiv
5 years ago
Reply to  sagar

Hey Sagar – yes, you can go down that route as well. It’s a bit more complex but also safer – here’s how to do it: Spring Security – Persistent Remember Me. Hope it helps. Cheers,
Eugen.

ALI IMRAAN
ALI IMRAAN
5 years ago

Is it working with Firefox with no expiration time i.e infinite expiry. As Firefox automatically removes cookies when closed.

Eugen Paraschiv
5 years ago
Reply to  ALI IMRAAN

Firefox does not remove your persistent cookies when closed. If it does that – you may have some non-standard configuration, as that’s not the default behavior. Cheers,
Eugen.

ALI IMRAAN
ALI IMRAAN
5 years ago

If i set Expiry on server to -1. and also set cookies expiry to -1 i.e never expire. Now if i login and then close the browser window. If i open up it’s not maintaing session. Also Remember Me Checkbox is not got checeked as well. So as a workaround i implemented Remeber Me in Pure JSF Mode as in current project i am using Spring+JSF.

Eugen Paraschiv
5 years ago
Reply to  ALI IMRAAN

I’m not quite clear on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re only working with session cookies, these will of course get cleared when the session is closed (and closing the browser will close the session). If you want your cookie to survive the closing/expiration of the session, you’ll need to use a persistent cookie. And one good way to do that – so that you don’t have to roll your own solution (which I would strongly recommend against) – is to use Remember Me. Hope I understood what you’re aiming to do correctly, and that it helps. Cheers,
Eugen.

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