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Inbound SAML Tutorial#


This tutorial offers a step-by-step guide for setting up a basic proof-of-concept environment showcasing an Inbound SAML user authentication flow. Refer to general documentation describing each component for more details.


For the sake of illustration we'll use the following three abstract servers:

  • [passport_dns_name] is the host where Gluu Server v4.1 with Shibboleth IDP and Passport components is installed

  • [remote_idp_dns_name] is another Gluu Server v4.1 instance with Shibboleth IDP installed which will serve as remote IDP in this example

  • [sp_dns_name] is the remote SP Gluu Server with the Shibboleth SP v2.6.1 installed

Whenever you see any of the three placeholders in the text below, you'll have to substitute them with real DNS names used for corresponding machines in your environment.

You also need to make sure those names can be resolved at all three server machines, plus the device that will be used as the user's machine during the test (the device where web browser used to access servers is running), either through enlisting them in DNS server's registry, or by adding them to hosts files at each of the machine.

In case of Gluu Server machine(s), it needs to be done inside container, not outside of it.


Ensure that clocks are perfectly synced between all participating machines so the flow works without issues. An NTP daemon running on each machine is the easiest solution to this problem.


The setup described here uses minimalistic configuration developed with the sole purpose of showcasing how end-to-end Passport-driven inbound SAML flow functions in Passport. It is thus strongly discouraged to leave all involved applications running longer than they are needed for the sake of showcasing without taking additional measures to secure the setup.

Configure [sp_dns_name] host#

We'll need Shibboleth SP v3.x and Apache running on the [sp_dns_name] machine to procceed.

Install and configure Apache#


Install the required package:

yum install httpd mod_ssl

Start the httpd service and stop the iptables service.


  1. Issue a new self-signed certificate:
    • # mkdir /etc/httpd/ssl
    • Run this command to create a certificate; and : # openssl req -x509 -nodes -days 3650 -newkey rsa:2048 -keyout /etc/httpd/ssl/apache.key -out /etc/httpd/ssl/apache.crt
    • When asked for a "Common Name", provide [sp_dns_name]
  2. Prepare the directory/files layout for the test VirtualHost:
    • # mkdir /var/www/html/test_shib_protected_site
    • # mkdir /var/www/html/test_shib_protected_site/protected_dir
    • # echo "Hello I'm a public page"'!' > /var/www/html/test_shib_protected_site/index.html
    • # echo "Hi I'm a hidden page"'!' > /var/www/html/test_shib_protected_site/protected_dir/hidden.html
    • # chown -R apache:apache /var/www/html/test_shib_protected_site/
  3. Find the default "VirtualHost" definition in /etc/httpd/conf.d/ssl.conf (if present), and enclose it in "IfDefine" clause to not meddle with our custom VHost, as shown below:

      <IfDefine DontIgnoreDefaultVHost>
      <VirtualHost _default_:4.4>
  4. Create /etc/httpd/conf.d/test_site.conf file with contents provided below:

          DocumentRoot /var/www/html/test_shib_protected_site/
          ServerName [sp_dns_name]:4.4
          SSLEngine on
          SSLProtocol -ALL +TLSv1
          SSLCertificateFile /etc/httpd/ssl/apache.crt
          SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/httpd/ssl/apache.key
          UseCanonicalName On
          <Directory /var/www/html/test_shib_protected_site>
          AllowOverride All
          <Location /protected_dir>
            AuthType shibboleth
            ShibRequestSetting requireSession 1
      #       require shib-session
            require valid-user
  5. Restart the httpd service


Access https://[sp_dns_name]/index.html with your browser - you should see the welcome text of the public page you created before.

Install and configure Shibboleth SP v3.x in CentOS 6#


Run these commands to install the required packages:

# cd /etc/yum.repos.d
# wget
# yum install shibboleth
# service shibd start
# chkconfig shibd on


Edit /etc/shibboleth/shibboleth2.xml:

  • In "ApplicationDefaults" element change "entityID" property to "https://[sp_dns_name]/shibboleth"
  • Within the "Sessions" element find "SSO" child element and change its "entityID" property to "https://[passport_dns_name]/idp/shibboleth"
  • Right after "Sessions" element find a section where "MetadataProvider" elements are grouped, and add element provided below:
            <MetadataProvider type="XML"
  • Restart the shibd service
  • Make sure it's started with no critical issues by checking /var/log/shibboleth/shibd.log and running the status command on the shibd service

Testing combined Apache + Shibboleth SP setup#

Access https://[sp_dns_name]/protected_dir/hidden.html with your browser - you should be sent to your Gluu Server ([passport_dns_name]) machine; it will respond with an error page, as it's not yet prepared to serve such a request.

Make sure you've achieved the described result before proceeding further.

Configure [passport_dns_name] host#

Install Passport (if needed)#

Passport is available as an optional component during Gluu Server installation. If it's missing in your instance, you can add it by performing the following actions (requires Internet access):

  1. Move into Gluu Server's container

  2. # cd /install/community-edition-setup/

  3. Run # ./ --install-passport

You may need to restart gluu server after successfully installed passport.

Enable Passport#

  1. Enable the required custom scripts:

    • In oxTrust, navigate to Configuration > Custom scripts
    • Navigate to the Person Authentication tab, expand the script labelled passport_saml, check enabled, and click Update
    • Navigate to the UMA RPT Policies tab, expand the script labelled scim_access_policy, check enabled, and click Update
  2. Enable Passport support:

    • In oxTrust navigate to Configuration > Organization configuration > System configuration
    • For Passport support choose Enabled
    • Click Update

Configure SAML authentication strategy in Passport#

Passport expects to find information about supported remote SAML IDPs in the configuration file at /etc/gluu/conf/passport-saml-config.json. Every supported external IDP should be added as a separate JSON object.

Copy the default file into a safe location in case you need it later, clear its contents and put the following structure into it:

  "idp1": {
    "entryPoint": "https://[remote_idp_dns_name]/idp/profile/SAML2/POST/SSO",
    "issuer": "urn:test:pass-saml:showcase",
    "identifierFormat": "urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:nameid-format:transient",
    "authnRequestBinding": "HTTP-POST",
    "additionalAuthorizeParams": "",
    "skipRequestCompression": "true",
    "logo_img": "",
    "enable": "true",
    "cert": "MIIDbDCCAlQCCQCuwqx2PNP....SEE.BELOW.......YsMw==",
    "reverseMapping": {
      "email": "email",
      "username": "urn:oid:0.9.2342.19200300.100.1.1",
      "displayName": "urn:oid:2.16.840.1.113730.3.1.241",
      "id": "urn:oid:0.9.2342.19200300.100.1.1",
      "name": "urn:oid:",
      "givenName": "urn:oid:",
      "familyName": "urn:oid:",
      "provider": "issuer"

To acquire the value for the "cert" property in the structure above, SSH into [remote_idp_dns_name] host, move into the Gluu Server's container and execute this command: # cat /etc/certs/idp-signing.crt | grep -v '^---' | tr -d '\n'; echo It will return a single-string representation of the remote IDP's signing certificate you need.

Now restart the passport service and check its status to make sure it starts with no errors and is running.

Once configuration is successfully validated, Passport will automatically generate SAML SP metadata for the single IDP listed in passport-saml-config.json under /opt/gluu/node/passport/server/idp-metadata/ and will publish it at a URL like https://[passport_dns_name]/passport/auth/meta/idp/idp1 - you'll need this metadata for one of the next steps. This IDP will also be displayed on the selector pane located at the right on Passport's login page.

Configure Trust Relationship between [passport_dns_name] and [sp_dns_name] hosts#

  1. Download metadata of the Shibboleth SP you configured before at https://[sp_dns_name]/Shibboleth.sso/Metadata and save it as gluu_shibboleth_sp_metadata.xml
  2. Log in to oxTrust at [passport_dns_name]
  3. Move to SAML > Trust Relationships page
  4. Create a new trust relationship using the metadata you've just downloaded
  5. Check "Configure Relying Party", add the "SAML2SSO" profile to the list and configure it as follows:

    • signResponses: conditional
    • signAssertions: never
    • signRequests: conditional
    • encryptAssertions: never
    • encryptNameIds: never
  6. Release the "transientID", "email" and "Username" attributes

Test the bond you've created between [passport_dns_name] and [sp_dns_name] hosts#

So far the regular SAML Trust Relationship is formed between those two. To test it, wait a few minutes until IDP loads the updated configuration and access https://[sp_dns_name]/protected_dir/hidden.html again. You'll have to be redirected to [passport_dns_name] and land at the default oxAuth's login page this time. Log in as any user there, and you'll have to be sent back to [sp_dns_name] and be able to see the welcome text of the hidden.html page.

Don't proceed further until this flow is fully functional.

Configure [remote_idp_dns_name] host#

  1. Create Trust Relationship with Passport running at [passport_dns_name]:
    • Download metadata of the SP Passport created for this remote IDP published at https://[passport_dns_name]/passport/auth/meta/idp/idp1 and save it as 'gluu_passport_sp_metadata.xml'
    • Log in to oxTrust at [remote_idp_dns_name]
    • Move to SAML > Trust Relationships page
    • Create a new trust relationship using the metadata you've just downloaded
    • Check "Configure Relying Party", add "SAML2SSO" profile to the list and configure it as follows:
      • signResponses: conditional
      • signAssertions: never
      • signRequests: conditional
      • encryptAssertions: never
      • encryptNameIds: never
    • Release "transientID", "email" and "Username" attributes
  2. Move to Users > Manage People page, locate the user you intend to log in with during the test phase and make sure it has non-empty and unique values for "email" and "Username" attributes. Both of the values ideally must not match corresponding attributes for any user at the [passport_dns_name] (thus it's not recommended to use the default "admin" user as a test account)
  3. Log out of the web UI to prevent the "admin" session from providing user attributes in future tests

Test the end-to-end flow from [sp_dns_name] through [passport_dns_name] to [remote_idp_dns_name] (and back)#

Two different browsers must be installed on your personal machine that you use to access all three mentioned hosts. Before proceeding with the final test, it's strongly recommended to clear all cookies still remaining in your browser(s) related to all three machines participating in this flow. Then follow these steps to enable Passport-SAML authentication method and test your completed setup:

  1. In your first browser, log in to the oxTrust web UI of [passport_dns_name] as administrator and leave this session running. You'll need it as an emergency backdoor if anything goes wrong, to revert your authentication settings. Make sure this session won't be terminated due to inactivity!
  2. In your second browser, log in to oxTrust web UI of [passport_dns_name] as administrator. From now on it will be your main working session
  3. Move to Configuration > Manage Authentication > Default Authentication Method
  4. Choose "passport_saml" for "Default acr" and click the "Update" button
  5. Log out from this session (remember to keep you other browser's session running!) and wait for a minute
  6. Access https://[sp_dns_name]/protected_dir/hidden.html again

If everything is working as expected after step 6, you must be redirected to the [passport_dns_name] host for authentication. You must land at Passport's login page and see "idp1" authentication option in the selector pane to the right. When selected, it must send you to [remote_idp_dns_name] host where you'll have to log in as your test user, then you'll be sent back to [passport_dns_name] host and be logged in there automatically (it will auto-enroll an user entry for you). Finally you must be sent back to [sp_dns_name] host and be able to see the welcome text of the hidden.html page.

In case it doesn't work, you probably will want to revert your authentication settings changes and resort to troubleshooting:

  1. Use the still active admin session at [passport_dns_name] host in your first browser
  2. Move to Configuration > Manage Authentication > Default Authentication Method
  3. Choose "auth_ldap_server" for "Default acr" and click the "Update" button