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Introduction to WS-Trust


The WS-Trust standard is based around a centralized security server (the Security Token Service), which is capable of authenticating clients and can issue tokens containing various kinds of authentication and authorization data.

WS-Trust specification

The WS-Trust features of Artix are based on the WS-Trust standard from Oasis:

Supporting specifications

Apart from the WS-Trust specification itself, several other specifications play an important role in the WS-Trust architecture, as follows:

WS-Trust architecture

Figure 7 shows a general overview of the WS-Trust architecture.

Figure 7. WS-Trust Architecture

WS-Trust Architecture


A requestor is an entity that tries to invoke a secure operation over a network connection. In practice, a requestor is typically a Web service client.

Relying party

A relying party refers to an entity that has some services or resources that must be secured against unauthorized access. In practice, a relying party is typically a Web service.


This is a term defined by the SAML specification, not by WS-Trust.

Security token

A security token is a collection of security data that a requestor sends inside a request (typically embedded in the message header) in order to invoke a secure operation or to gain access to a secure resource. In the WS-Trust framework, the notion of a security token is quite general and can be used to describe any block of security data that might accompany a request.

In principle, WS-Trust can be used with the following kinds of security token:

  • SAML token.

  • UsernameToken token.

  • X.509 certificate token.

  • Kerberos token.

SAML token

A SAML token is a particularly flexible kind of security token. The SAML specification defines a general-purpose XML schema that enables you to wrap almost any kind of security data and enables you to sign and encrypt part or all of the token.

SAML is a popular choice of token to use in the context of WS-Trust, because SAML has all of the necessary features to support typical WS-Trust authentication scenarios.


A SAML security token is formally defined to consist of a collection of claims. Each claim typically contains a particular kind of security data.


In WS-Trust scenarios, a policy can represent the security configuration of a participant in a secure application. The requestor, the relying party, and the security token service are all configured by policies. For example, a policy can be used to configure what kinds of authentication are supported and required.

Security token service

The security token service (STS) lies at the heart of the WS-Trust security architecture. In the WS-Trust standard, the following bindings are defined (not all of which are supported by Apache CXF):

  • Issue binding—the specification defines this binding as follows: Based on the credential provided/proven in the request, a new token is issued, possibly with new proof information.

  • Validate binding—the specification defines this binding as follows: The validity of the specified security token is evaluated and a result is returned. The result may be a status, a new token, or both.

  • Renew binding—the specification defines this binding as follows: A previously issued token with expiration is presented (and possibly proven) and the same token is returned with new expiration semantics.

  • Cancel binding—the specification defines this binding as follows: When a previously issued token is no longer needed, the Cancel binding can be used to cancel the token, terminating its use.

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