Spring Data repositories allow you to easily query your entities with method names such as findByUserName(String name). However, it can get cumbersome to always retrieve, pass and match on the active user. Luckily Spring Security integrates well with Spring Data to minimize the overhead.


This project saves and retrieves user Preferences; taking care to limit access to the active user through annotations. Storing the active user in the SecurityContext is out of scope for this example.

Entities & repositories

We define two entities; User and Preferences, with a @OneToOne mapping between them.

We define a PreferencesRepository with the typical Spring Data save(Preferences), findById(Long) and findOne() methods.

Authorize active user

When saving Preferences we want to make sure the record affected belongs to the active user. For this we can use the @PreAuthorize annotation with a custom security expression.

@PreAuthorize("#entity.user.name == authentication.name")
Preferences save(Preferences entity);

When this method is invoked, Spring Security will evaluate the security expression and either allow or reject the method call.

Similarly, when retrieving preferences by ID, we want to ensure that the returned preferences belong to the active user. As we can not authorize on the ID argument, we can only validate access on the Preferences instance itself. In order to inspect the Preferences we need the method to execute first either way. For this we can use @PostAuthorize.

@PostAuthorize("returnObject != null and returnObject.user.name == authentication.name")
Preferences findById(Long id);

While the record will be retrieved from the database, it is only returned to the active user if the security expression evaluates to true.

Make sure to only use the @PostAuthorize on methods that do not make modifications, generate events etc. As the method will always execute regardless of authorization.

Lastly, we need to have Spring Security intercept calls to methods with these annotations, using the following configuration.

@EnableGlobalMethodSecurity(prePostEnabled = true)

Limit query result

The integration between Spring Security and Spring Data even allows us a have a no-argument method return only the data for the active user. To set this up we first need to enable using Spring Security expressions with in Spring Data @Query annotations.

public SecurityEvaluationContextExtension securityEvaluationContextExtension() {
  return new SecurityEvaluationContextExtension();

After that we can define a custom @Query which can pull information from the principal or authentication.

@Query("select p from #{ #entityName } p where p.user.name = ?#{ authentication.name }")
Optional<Preferences> findUserPreferences();

Limit collection access

As we’ve seen, both @PreAuthorize and @PostAuthorize validate access to a single object instance. If you want to instead limit access to a collection of entities, you can consider using @PreFilter and @PostFilter. However, both @PreFilter and @PostFilter operate on the full collection! So rather than retrieving all records from your database and filtering based on access, you might want to limit what you retrieve through a custom @Query method instead.


Our PreferencesRepositoryIT tests use mock users Alice and Bob, with a malicious third user Eve trying to manipulate and access data. You can see the correct users are granted access to store and retrieve records, whereas Eve will get an AccessDeniedException handled separately.