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Storing passwords in Java web application

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Storing passwords in Java web application

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First of all, you should never store passwords. Then why the heck am I writing this post? Okay, Let me rephrase the first sentence – You should never store passwords as plain text anywhere in your application. of course, for the obvious reasons. If you store passwords as plain text, in a database or in a log file, then even Rajinikanth couldn’t save your application getting **cked.. I mean hacked. (Btw, Rajinikanth is the Chuck Norris of India, if you are not aware of him)

Then what’s the right way to deal with the asterisks? You could use encryption. But if there’s a way to encrypt it, then there should be a way to decrypt it. So, encryption is also vulnerable to hacker’s attack.

Isn’t there a better solution to this? It’s there and it's known as Password Hashing.

How password hashing works?

In hashing, you take a input string (in our case, a password), add a salt to the string, generate the hash value (using SHA-1 algorithm for example), and store the hash value in DB. For matching passwords while login, you do the same hashing process again and match the hash value instead of matching plain passwords and authenticate users.

Hashing is different from encryption. Because, encryption is two way, means that you can always decrypt the encrypted text to get the original text. But Hashing is one way, you can never get the original text from the hash value. Thus it gives more security than encryption.

To generate hash, you can make use of any hashing algorithms out there – MD5, SHA-1, etc. Before generating a hash, adding a salt to the password will give added security. Salt is nothing but a simple text that is known only to you/your application. It can be “zebra” or “I’mGod” or anything you wish.

Below, I’m giving a Java example of how to do password hashing in an login module.

Password hashing example in Java

This is simple example containing two methods – signup() and login(). As their names suggest, signup would store username and password in DB and login would check the credentials entered by user against the DB. Let’s dive into the code.

package com.sandbox;

import java.security.MessageDigest;
import java.security.NoSuchAlgorithmException;
import java.util.HashMap;
import java.util.Map;

public class PasswordHashingDemo {

	Map<String, String> DB = new HashMap<String, String>();
	public static final String SALT = "my-salt-text";

	public static void main(String args[]) {
		PasswordHashingDemo demo = new PasswordHashingDemo();
		demo.signup("john", "dummy123");

		// login should succeed.
		if (demo.login("john", "dummy123"))
			System.out.println("user login successfull.");

		// login should fail because of wrong password.
		if (demo.login("john", "blahblah"))
			System.out.println("User login successfull.");
			System.out.println("user login failed.");

	public void signup(String username, String password) {
		String saltedPassword = SALT + password;
		String hashedPassword = generateHash(saltedPassword);
		DB.put(username, hashedPassword);

	public Boolean login(String username, String password) {
		Boolean isAuthenticated = false;

		// remember to use the same SALT value use used while storing password
		// for the first time.
		String saltedPassword = SALT + password;
		String hashedPassword = generateHash(saltedPassword);

		String storedPasswordHash = DB.get(username);
			isAuthenticated = true;
			isAuthenticated = false;
		return isAuthenticated;

	public static String generateHash(String input) {
		StringBuilder hash = new StringBuilder();

		try {
			MessageDigest sha = MessageDigest.getInstance("SHA-1");
			byte[] hashedBytes = sha.digest(input.getBytes());
			char[] digits = { '0', '1', '2', '3', '4', '5', '6', '7', '8', '9',
					'a', 'b', 'c', 'd', 'e', 'f' };
			for (int idx = 0; idx < hashedBytes.length; ++idx) {
				byte b = hashedBytes[idx];
				hash.append(digits[(b & 0xf0) >> 4]);
				hash.append(digits[b & 0x0f]);
		} catch (NoSuchAlgorithmException e) {
			// handle error here.

		return hash.toString();


So, that’s it. I guess the above code is self explanatory. Do let me know in case you have any doubts.


From http://veerasundar.com/blog/2010/09/storing-passwords-in-java-web-application/

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