Please just take 2 minutes to read and understand this - it is really important. Really. The terms and concepts here are referred to everywhere in the documentation and it will greatly simplify your understanding of Shiro and security in general.
Security can be really confusing because of the terminology used. We’ll make life easier by clarifying some core concepts and you’ll see how nicely the Shiro API reflects them:
Ciphers come in different variations. Block Ciphers work on blocks of symbols usually of a fixed size while Stream Ciphers work on a continuous stream of symbols. Symmetric Ciphers use the same key for encryption and decryption while Asymmetric Ciphers use different keys. And if a key in an asymmetric cipher cannot be derived from the other, then one can be shared publicly creating public/private key pairs.
The idea is that for a principal, only one person would know the correct credential to ‘pair’ with that principal. If the current user/Subject provides the correct credential matching the one stored in the system, then the system can assume and trust that the current user/Subject is really who they say they are. The degree of trust increases with more secure credential types (e.g. biometric signature > password).
Some examples of permissions:
Shiro also references something we call a Subject’s primary principal. A Primary principal is any principal that uniquely identifies the Subject across the entire application. Ideal primary principals are things like a username or a user ID that is a RDBMS user table primary key. There is only one primary principal for users (Subjects) in an application.
Realms usually have a 1-to-1 correlation with a data source such as a relational database, LDAP directory, file system, or other similar resource. As such, implementations of the Realm interface use data source-specific APIs to discover authorization data (roles, permissions, etc), such as JDBC, File IO, Hibernate or JPA, or any other Data Access API.
This is a more concrete definition than the implicit one used by many applications. If you choose to have your data model reflect Shiro’s assumption, you’ll find you will have much more power in controlling security policies.
For those familiar with the HttpSession, a Shiro Session serves the same purpose, except Shiro sessions can be used in any environment even if there is no Servlet container or EJB container available.
While we hope this documentation helps you with the work you’re doing with Apache Shiro, the community is improving and expanding the documentation all the time. If you’d like to help the Shiro project, please consider corrected, expanding, or adding documentation where you see a need. Every little bit of help you provide expands the community and in turn improves Shiro.