Tomcat ignores FORM based authentication, uses BASIC authentication

Here’s a week of my life down the drain. I’m setting up a new production site with Apache AJP fronting Tomcat and when the Tomcat webapp needs authentication, it ignores the FORM authentication directive, presenting a BASIC authentication dialog, instead!

I thought it had to do with AJP and SSL tunneling. It didn’t. I finally confirmed that by firing up a text-only browser (this is a remote hosting location with no GUI) and bypassing the firewall, Apache, AJP and everything but Tomcat itself.

The culprit turned out to be insidious. I was overriding an authentication option in order to fine-tune client caching. However, the examples I’d been pilfering from were using BASIC authentication, not FORM authentication. So when I added the config option, it was the Tomcat Valve for BasicAuthenticator.

Turns out that if you do that, the BasicAuthenticator silently takes over, overriding the FORM authentication configuration in web.xml.

The cure: use the FormAuthenticator Valve!