Scentry is Scalatra’s optional authentication system. It is a port of Ruby’s Warden authentication framework for Scalatra. You write auth strategies to meet your needs, and then use Scentry to enforce security for your strategies.

There are a few moving parts here. In order to protect your application’s actions with Scentry, you need two things:

  • a strategy to enforce security, let’s call it YourStrategy. A strategy is a piece of logic which determines whether a user should be authenticated.
  • a trait that ties YourStrategy together with Scalatra’s built-in ScentrySupport class. You then mix this trait into your controllers in order to secure them. By convention, this trait is often called AuthenticationSupport, but you can call it whatever you want.

Multiple strategies can be registered with Scentry - for example, you could write a CookieStrategy, a UserPasswordStrategy, and a MyBasicAuthStrategy.

Scentry will cascade through the strategies, attempting to log in a user with each strategy, until either the user is authenticated or all available strategies are exhausted.

You can register strategies in controller code, like so:

override protected def registerAuthStrategies = {
    scentry.registerStrategy('UserPassword, app => new UserPasswordStrategy(app))
    scentry.registerStrategy('RememberMe, app => new RememberMeStrategy(app))

Alternately, you can register a strategy using init params in ScalatraBootstrap or your application’s web.xml file, using scentry.strategies as the key and the class name of your strategy as a value:

context.setInitParameter("scentry.strategies", "UserPasswordStrategy")

To write a Scentry Strategy, you’ll need to implement the methods in ScentryStrategy.

See Scalatra’s built-in BasicAuthStrategy for an example.


// Put this in project/build.scala:
"org.scalatra" %% "scalatra-auth" % "2.8.2"

You’ll need the scalatra-auth dependency in your project/build.scala for all subsequent examples. scalatra-auth handles both cookie-based auth and HTTP basic auth.

HTTP Basic Auth example

First things first. Let’s try the simplest possible example: HTTP basic auth.

See authentication-demo for a minimal and standalone project containing the example in this guide.

Write the strategy

The class OurBasicAuthStrategy will implement Scalatra’s built-in BasicAuthStrategy trait, which itself extends ScentryStrategy. Normally, you’ll want to extend ScentryStrategy when writing your own authentication logic, but let’s see the simple case first.

package org.scalatra.example

import org.scalatra.auth.strategy.{BasicAuthStrategy, BasicAuthSupport}
import org.scalatra.auth.{ScentrySupport, ScentryConfig}
import org.scalatra.{ScalatraBase}

class OurBasicAuthStrategy(protected override val app: ScalatraBase, realm: String)
  extends BasicAuthStrategy[User](app, realm) {

  protected def validate(userName: String, password: String): Option[User] = {
    if(userName == "scalatra" && password == "scalatra") Some(User("scalatra"))
    else None

  protected def getUserId(user: User): String =

The key thing here is the validate method, which attempts to log a user in using methods on a User model. This might be used in a login action on one of your controllers, to figure out whether a user should be granted a session.

An AuthenticationSupport trait

The next thing you’ll need is the trait that ties together OurBasicAuthStrategy with ScentrySupport. It might look like this:

trait AuthenticationSupport extends ScentrySupport[User] with BasicAuthSupport[User] {
  self: ScalatraBase =>

  val realm = "Scalatra Basic Auth Example"

  protected def fromSession = { case id: String => User(id)  }
  protected def toSession   = { case usr: User => }

  protected val scentryConfig = (new ScentryConfig {}).asInstanceOf[ScentryConfiguration]

  override protected def configureScentry = {
    scentry.unauthenticated {

  override protected def registerAuthStrategies = {
    scentry.register("Basic", app => new OurBasicAuthStrategy(app, realm))


The AuthenticationSupport trait has an extremely basic way of getting a User object from the session, and of pushing the user’s id into the session. It also takes care of registering our single available strategy with Scentry.

You’ll also need a User class. Let’s use a simple case class:

case class User(id: String)

You don’t need to call this class User. It can be named anything you want.

Mix in AuthenticationSupport

Next, we mix the AuthenticationSupport trait into a controller:

package org.scalatra.example

import org.scalatra._

class AuthDemo extends ScalatraServlet with AuthenticationSupport {

  get("/*") {
        <h1>Hello from Scalatra</h1>
        <p>You are authenticated.</p>


Users who hit either of these routes when not logged in will be presented with the browswer’s HTTP basic auth login prompt.

A few things are worth mentioning here. The basicAuth method comes from the pre-built BasicAuthStrategy included in Scalatra. If you’re defining your own authentication logic, you’ll need to implement a similar method yourself.

Here’s what basicAuth does:

protected def basicAuth() = {
  val baReq = new BasicAuthStrategy.BasicAuthRequest(request)
  if(!baReq.providesAuth) {
    response.setHeader("WWW-Authenticate", "Basic realm=\"%s\"" format realm)
    halt(401, "Unauthenticated")
  if(!baReq.isBasicAuth) {
    halt(400, "Bad Request")

When a browser hits the protected servlet for the first time, the basicAuth method is called.

The user hasn’t yet authenticated, so the unauthenticated method of Scentry’s BasicAuthStrategy is run. It presents a basic auth challenge to the user:

 override def unauthenticated() = {
    app.response.setHeader("WWW-Authenticate", challenge)
    app.halt(401, "Unauthenticated")

The user enters credentials, or cancels to close the basic auth box.

When good credentials are entered, the input is sent to Scentry’s validate method, which we’ve overridden in OurBasicAuthStrategy:

  protected def validate(userName: String, password: String): Option[User] = {
    if(userName == "scalatra" && password == "scalatra") Some(User("scalatra"))
    else None

If the validate method returns something other than a None, then Scentry considers the returned class as its User class, and decides that authentication has taken place; if it returns None, authentication has failed.

If authentication is granted, the BasicAuthStrategy sets up HTTP basic auth in the user’s browser. halt is called if the user is unauthenticated or not using basic auth.

What to protect

You might choose to run the basicAuth method in a before() filter in your controller, rather than hitting it in each action, to secure every method in MyController.

You might even set it up as a before() filter in the AuthenticationSupport trait, which would automatically secure any controller which mixed in the trait.

As with most things in Scalatra, it’s up to you.

We still need to write this up and finish the guide, but there’s now working example code for a UserPasswordStrategy and RememberMe strategy with fallback.

If you’re trying to secure an API rather than a user’s browser session, Jos Dirksen’s tutorial on the subject may help.