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This project is a python written PAM module which enables users to login using their eduGAIN federated login account. To do so, it creates a new PAM library using Python's pam-python module. This spawns a HTTP server in a random port which allows the user to login using their eduGAIN enabled account, from where when receiving the callback we retrieve the user details from a JWT string and authenticate the user against a white-list.


The main motivation for this module is to replace the somewhat tricky configuration of the ssh module, as for non IT people it can be slightly difficult to create a private/public key and deploy it to the server. With this project we intend to provide a simple, fast and secure way to login into a server.


Manual configuration

In order to work properly, cyclone-pam-module fetches the hostname of the machine and uses it as a base of the URL to do the callbacks to this machine. Make sure that the hostname matches with an accessible URL to the machine. In the future this variable will be available from the SlipStream ENV variables configuration.

You can setup your custom hostname in the machine with sudo hostname your-new-name

Automatic setup script

The easiest way to install the project is fetching in your machine and execute it. It will clone the project, install everything and clean the unnecessary files for you.

You can use the next oneliner as superuser to execute the setup script:

wget -O - | sh

The next steps are the ones that the setup script does when executed:

  1. Install python-dev and python-pip apt-get install python-dev python-pip -y This will install in /lib/security and the necessary python dev packages
  2. Copy python script ( and its configuration (cyclone_pam.config) to /lib/security
  3. Install required pyton packages listed in requirements.pip
  4. Replace sshd PAM configuration in /etc/pam.d/sshd with the updated version in this repository (./etc/pam.d/sshd) This replaces the default UNIX authentication for our own custom federated authentication. It could be improved so it falls back to usual authentication if it fails.
  5. Update sshd configuration in /etc/ssh/sshd_config with the updated version in this repository (./etc/ssh/sshd_config)and restart service sshd restart Needed configuration changes:
    • UsePrivilegeSeparation yes : make sure the user doesn't execute not wanted code
    • PubkeyAuthentication yes : allow login with public key
    • ChallengeResponseAuthentication yes : specifies whether to use challenge-response authentication.
    • PasswordAuthentication no : we disable password authentication to replace it with our own authentication
    • UsePAM yes : we need PAM enabled so it uses our PAM module
    • PermitRootLogin yes : Enable only if you want to allow root login through ssh



In order to determine if someone can login as a specific user we are using a whitelisting technique. In this case, CYCLONE-PAM will search for an .edugain file located in the home folder of the user to check if a user is allowed to login.

Example case

  1. John Doe wants to login as user 'randomuser' so he does ssh randomuser@host
  2. When doing SSH he logs into the given server with his EduGain account.
  3. CYCLONE-PAM fetches John Doe's mail from his EduGain account data
  4. CYCLONE-PAM opens the file /home/randomuser/.edugain and checks that the mail provided by EduGain matches with the one found in the file
  5. If at any moment the file doesn't exist or the mail is not in the file, the authentication is rejected.

The structure of the .edugain file is as followed:

  "users": [

Available Ports

As there are clouds and servers that have a limited range of ports available to be used because of a firewall, this module integrates configuration to allow to define which ports can the service use.

To do so, edit the /lib/security/cyclone_config file to add your ports. Add single values for specific ports and a sub array with two values from min to max for ranges.

Then finally enable to load this configuration from the file changing the proper line in /etc/pam.d/ssh so it loads this configuration as an argument to the CYCLONE-PAM module.


Debugging the project

The best way to debug the module is to send back information to the SSH using messages (see examples in the code) This will print the variable information into the SSH login screen. Also, python errors will be excepted to the auth.log file in /var/log/auth.log.

For the server itself, it could be ran separately and tested as a usual Python script.


Enables eduGAIN login when login in with the ssh service using a custom PAM module



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