Spring Security: SecurityContextHolder

In this blog post, we will discuss the SecurityContextHolder component of Spring Security with practical examples, how it works, and its key features.

Understanding the SecurityContextHolder

At its core, the SecurityContextHolder is where Spring Security stores the details of the current security context, which includes the currently authenticated user, their granted authorities, and other related security details. It plays a crucial role in Spring Security's authentication and authorization processes, enabling developers to access the user's security context anywhere within the application.

Key Features of SecurityContextHolder

Global Access: It allows global access to the current authentication details.

Thread-local Storage: By default, it stores authentication details in a thread-local variable, ensuring the security context is isolated to individual threads.

Context Propagation: It supports the propagation of the security context across threads, which is crucial for asynchronous processing.

How SecurityContextHolder Works

The SecurityContextHolder utilizes a SecurityContext to hold the Authentication object, representing the currently authenticated user. The Authentication object contains the principal, credentials, and granted authorities.

When a user authenticates, Spring Security updates the SecurityContextHolder with the authentication details. Throughout the request lifecycle, the application can access the SecurityContextHolder to retrieve the user's authentication details and make security-related decisions.

Strategies for Storing Security Context

Spring Security provides several strategies for storing the security context. The default is MODE_THREADLOCAL, which stores the context in a thread-local variable. Other options include MODE_INHERITABLETHREADLOCAL for inheritance in child threads and MODE_GLOBAL for a global context, which is rarely used due to potential security risks.

Practical Examples

Example 1: Accessing the Authenticated User's Details

A common use case is accessing the authenticated user's details, such as their username or roles, within a controller or service.
Authentication authentication = SecurityContextHolder.getContext().getAuthentication();
String username = authentication.getName();
Collection<? extends GrantedAuthority> authorities = authentication.getAuthorities();
This snippet retrieves the current Authentication object from the SecurityContextHolder, allowing access to the authenticated user's username and authorities. 

Example 2: Programmatically Setting Authentication 

There might be scenarios where you must manually set the Authentication object in the SecurityContextHolder, such as during testing or when performing authentication programmatically.
Authentication authentication = new UsernamePasswordAuthenticationToken(user, null, user.getAuthorities());
Here, a new Authentication object is created and set in the SecurityContextHolder, effectively authenticating the user for the current context. 

Example 3: Securing Methods Using Authentication Information 

The authentication details stored in the SecurityContextHolder can also be used to secure methods, for instance, by restricting method execution based on the user's roles.
public void sensitiveAction() {
    Authentication authentication = SecurityContextHolder.getContext().getAuthentication();
    if (authentication.getAuthorities().contains(new SimpleGrantedAuthority("ROLE_ADMIN"))) {
        // Perform action
    } else {
        throw new AccessDeniedException("This action is restricted to administrators.");
This method checks if the currently authenticated user has the ROLE_ADMIN authority before proceeding with a sensitive action, leveraging the SecurityContextHolder for role-based access control. 


The SecurityContextHolder is a cornerstone of Spring Security, providing essential mechanisms for managing the security context of authenticated users. Its ability to globally store and provide access to the authentication details enables developers to build secure, sophisticated applications. By understanding and effectively utilizing the SecurityContextHolder and its capabilities, you can enhance your application's security model, ensuring that sensitive operations and data are protected according to the principles of authentication and authorization.