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About Securing Web Applications with Keycloak

Securing a web application can be easier than you think. Keycloak is a convenient and powerful alternative to implementing your own security mechanism by providing an SSO and IDM implementation.

Programmers like to think about the problem in-hand and hate repeating themselves to do non-problem related tasks such as securing the application, implementing a mail subsystem etc. For this reason, there exist Web development frameworks.

I prefer using decent programming languages such as Java (sic), Scala or Lisp. Sometimes, I have to use specialized programming languages like R. But just to get rid of boring tasks like user management, going back to Django or using Play or choose-a-famous-name-framework really sucks.

My latest attempt was to maintain a Maven archetype to bootstrap a Java EE-backed, REST-enabled application, develop a powerful API (both internal and external) and complete the UI development in pure HTML/CSS/Javascript, preferably in Ember.js or Angular.js. To secure the application, I have been using PicketLink, Red Hat's security and identity management subsystem for Java applications.

Now, I decided to give it a go for Keycloak, which gives an out-of-box solution for browser applications and RESTful web services. Keycloak is under the hood of the PicketLink family. It is very easy to setup and even deploy a production grade SSO system. Fun part is that you don't even need to know Java to use Keycloak. It will integrate well into your existing Web project regardless of the programming language which you are using. You can use Google Authenticator for TOTP, too!

Here is how you can start and see yourself:

  1. Watch the introductory videos and take a glance at the Keycloak documentation.
  2. Get yourself a Wildfly.
  3. Setup Keycloak in your Wildfly.
  4. Play with the examples which come along with the Keycloak distribution.

If you are not an absolute beginner, you will get the js-console example up-and-running in about 2 hours after reading these lines.