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Shibboleth Authentication for Moodle
- Shibboleth Service Provider 1.3 or newer. Recommended is 2.1 or newer.
See documentation for your Shibboleth federation on how to set up Shibboleth.
- 11. 2004: Created by Markus Hagman
- 05. 2005: Modifications to login process by Martin Dougiamas
- 05. 2005: Various extensions and fixes by Lukas Haemmerle
- 06. 2005: Adaptions to new field locks and plugin config structures by Martin
Langhoff and Lukas Haemmerle
- 10. 2005: Added better error messages and moved text to language directories
- 02. 2006: Simplified authentication so that authorization works properly
Added instructions for IIS
- 11. 2006: User capabilities are now loaded properly as of Moodle 1.7+
- 03. 2007: Adapted authentication method to Moodle 1.8
- 07. 2007: Fixed a but that caused problems with uppercase usernames
- 10. 2007: Removed the requirement for email address, surname and given name
attributes on request of Markus Hagman
- 11. 2007: Integrated WAYF Service in Moodle
- 12. 2008: Shibboleth 2.x and Single Logout support added
- 1. 2008: Added logout hook and moved Shibboleth config strings to utf8 auth
language files.
- 3. 2009: Added various improvements and bug fixes reported by Ina Müller from
university Tuebingen and Peter Ellis of University of Washington
Moodle Configuration with Dual login
1. Protect the directory moodle/auth/shibboleth/index.php with Shibboleth.
The page index.php in that directory actually logs in a Shibboleth user.
For Apache you have to define a rule like the following in the Apache config:
<Location ~ "/auth/shibboleth/index.php">
AuthType shibboleth
ShibRequireSession On
require valid-user
To restrict access to Moodle, replace the access rule 'require valid-user'
with something that fits your needs, e.g. 'require affiliation student'.
For IIS you have protect the auth/shibboleth directory directly in the
RequestMap of the Shibboleth configuration file (shibboleth.xml or
<Path name="moodle" requireSession="false" >
<Path name="auth/shibboleth/index.php" requireSession="true" >
Also see: and
2. As Moodle admin, go to the 'Administrations >> Users >> Authentication' and
click on the the 'Shibboleth' settings.
3. Fill in the fields of the form. The fields 'Username', 'First name',
'Surname', etc. should contain the name of the environment variables of the
Shibboleth attributes that you want to map onto the corresponding Moodle
variable (e.g. 'Shib-Person-surname' for the person's last name, refer
the Shibboleth documentation or the documentation of your Shibboleth
federation for information on which attributes are available).
Especially the 'Username' field is of great importance because
this attribute is used for the Moodle authentication of Shibboleth users.
Shibboleth Attributes needed by Moodle:
For Moodle to work properly Shibboleth should at least provide the attribute
that is used as username in Moodle. It has to be unique for all Shibboleth
Be aware that Moodle converts the username to lowercase. So, the overall
behaviour of the username will be case-insensitive.
All attributes used for moodle must obey a certain length, otherwise Moodle
cuts off the ends. Consult the Moodle documentation for further information
on the maximum lengths for each field in the user profile.
4.a If you want Shibboleth as your only authentication method with an external
Where Are You From (WAYF) Service , set the 'Alternate Login URL' in the
'Common settings' in 'Administrations >> Users >> Authentication Options'
to the the URL of the file 'moodle/auth/shibboleth/index.php'.
This will enforce Shibboleth login.
4.b If you want to use the Moodle integrated WAYF service, you have to activate it
in the Moodle Shibboleth authentication settings by checking the
'Moodle WAYF Service' checkbox and providing a list of entity IDs in the
'Identity Providers' textarea together with a name and an optional
SessionInitiator URL, which usually is an absolute or relative URL pointing
to the same host. If no SessionInitiator URL is given, the default one
'/Shibboleth.sso' (only works for Shibboleth 1.3.x) will be used. For
Shibboleth 2.x you have to add '/Shibboleth.sso/DS' as a SessionInitiator.
Also see
Important Note: If you upgraded from a previous version of Moodle and now
want to use the integrated WAYF, you have to make sure that
in step 1 only the index.php script in
moodle/auth/shibboleth/ is protected but *not* the other
scripts and especially not the login.php script.
5. Save the changes for the 'Shibboleth settings'.
Important Note: If you went for 4.b (integrated WAYF service), saving the
settings will overwrite the Moodle Alternate Login URL
using the Moodle web root URL.
6. If you want to use Shibboleth in addition to another authentication method
not using the integrated WAYF service from 4.b, change the 'Instructions' in
'Administrations >> Users >> Manage authentication' to contain a link to the
moodle/auth/shibboleth/index.php file which is protected by
Shibboleth (see step 1.) and causes the Shibboleth login procedure to start.
You can also use HTML code in that field, e.g. to include an image as a
Shibboleth login button.
Note: As of now you cannot use dual login together with the integrated
WAYF service provided by Moodle (4.b).
7. Save the authentication changes.
How the Shibboleth authentication works
To get Shibboleth authenticated in Moodle a user basically must access the
Shibboleth-protected page /auth/shibboleth/index.php. If Shibboleth is the only
authentication method (see 4.a), this happens automatically when a user selects
his home organization in the Moodle WAYF service or if the alternate login URL
is configured to be the protected /auth/shibboleth/index.php
Otherwise, the user has to click on the link on the dual login page you
provided in step 5.b.
Moodle basically checks whether the Shibboleth attribute that you mapped
as the username is present. This attribute should only be present if a user is
Shibboleth authenticated.
If the user's Moodle account has not existed yet, it gets automatically created.
To prevent that every Shibboleth user can access your Moodle site you have to
adapt the 'require valid-user' line in your webserver's config (see step 1) to
allow only specific users. If you defined some authorization rules in step 1,
these are checked by Shibboleth itself. Only users who met these rules
actually can access /auth/shibboleth/index.php and get logged in.
You can use Shibboleth AND another authentication method (it was tested with
manual login). So, if there are a few users that don't have a Shibboleth
login, you could create manual accounts for them and they could use the manual
login. For other authentication methods you first have to configure them and
then set Shibboleth as your authentication method. Users can log in only via one
authentication method unless they have two accounts in Moodle.
Shibboleth dual login with custom login page
You can create a dual login page that better fits your needs. For this
to work, you have to set up the two authentication methods (e.g. 'Manual
Accounts' and 'Shibboleth') and specify an alternate login link to your own dual
login page. On that page you basically need a link to the Shibboleth-protected
page ('/auth/shibboleth/index.php') for the Shibboleth login and a
form that sends 'username' and 'password' to moodle/login/index.php. Set this
web page then als alternate login page.
Consult the Moodle documentation for further instructions and requirements.
How to customize the way the Shibboleth user data is used in Moodle
Among the Shibboleth settings in Moodle there is a field that should contain a
path to a php file that can be used as data manipulation hook.
You can use this if you want to further process the way your Shibboleth
attributes are used in Moodle.
Example 1: Your Shibboleth federation uses an attribute that specifies the
user's preferred language, but the content of this attribute is not
compatible with the Moodle data representation, e.g. the Shibboleth
attribute contains 'German' but Moodle needs a two letter value like
Example 2: The country, city and street are provided in one Shibboleth attribute
and you want these values to be used in the Moodle user profile. So
You have to parse the corresponding attribute to fill the user fields.
If you want to use this hook you have to be a skilled PHP programmer. It is
strongly recommended that you take a look at the file
moodle/auth/shibboleth/auth.php, especially the function 'get_userinfo'
where this file is included.
The context of the file is the same as within this login function. So you
can directly edit the object $result.
Example file:
// Set the zip code and the adress
if ($_SERVER[$this->config->field_map_address] != '')
// $address contains something like 'SWITCH$Limmatquai 138$CH-8021 Zurich'
// We want to split this up to get:
// institution, street, zipcode, city and country
$address = $_SERVER[$this->config->field_map_address];
list($institution, $street, $zip_city) = split('\$', $address);
ereg(' (.+)',$zip_city, $regs);
$city = $regs[1];
ereg('(.+)-',$zip_city, $regs);
$country = $regs[1];
$result["address"] = $street;
$result["city"] = $city;
$result["country"] = $country;
$result["department"] = $institution;
$result["description"] = "I am a Shibboleth user";
How to upgrade your Service Provider to 2.x
In case your upgrade your Service Provider 1.3.x to 2.x, be aware of the fact
that in version 2.0 the default behaviour regarding attribute propagation
While the Service Provider 1.3.x published the Shibboleth attributes to the
web server environment as HTTP Request headers, the Service Provider 2.x
publishes attributes as environment variables, which increases the security for
some platforms.
However, this change has the effect that the attribute names change.
E.g. while the surname attribute was published as 'HTTP_SHIB_PERSON_SURNAME'
with 1.3.x, this attribute will be available in $_SERVER['Shib-Person-surname']
or depending on your /etc/shibboleth/attribute-map.xml file just as
Because Moodle needs to know what Shibboleth attributes it shall map onto which
Moodle user profile field, one has to make sure the mapping is updated as well
after the Service Provider upgrade.
Because you risk locking yourself out of Moodle it is strongly
recommended to use the following approach when upgrading the Service Provider:
1. Enable manual authentication before the upgrade.
2. Make sure that you have at least one manual account with administration
privileges working before upgrading your Service Provider to 2.x.
3. After the SP upgrade, use this account to log into Moodle and adapt the
attribute mapping in 'Site Administration -> Users -> Shibboleth' to reflect
the changed attribute names.
You find the attribute names in the file /etc/shibboleth/attribute-map.xml
listed as the 'id' value of an attribute definition.
4. If you are using the integrated WAYF, you may have to set the third parameter
of each entry to '/Shibboleth.sso/DS'
5. Test the login with a Shibboleth account
6. If all is working, disable manual authentication again
How to add logout support
In order make Moodle support Shibboleth logout, one has to make the Shibboleth
Service Provider (SP) aware of the Moodle logout capability. Only then the SP
can trigger Moodle's front or back channel logout handler.
To make the SP aware of the Moodle logout, you have to add the following to the
Shibboleth main configuration file shibboleth2.xml (usually in /etc/shibboleth/)
just before the <MetadataProvider> element.
Location="https://#YOUR_MOODLE_HOSTNAME#/moodle/auth/shibboleth/logout.php" />
If possible, you should use only the back channel logout once it is working.
Location="https://#YOUR_MOODLE_HOSTNAME#/moodle/auth/shibboleth/logout.php" />
Then restart the Shibboleth daemon and check the log file for errors. If there
were no errors, you can test the logout feature by accessing Moodle,
authenticating via Shibboleth and the access the URL:
#YOUR_MOODLE_HOSTNAME#/Shibboleth.sso/Logout (assuming you have a standard
Shibboleth installation). If everything worked well, you should see a Shibboleth
page saying that you were successfully logged out and if you go back to Moodle
you also should be logged out from Moodle.
- PHP needs the Soap Extension, which maybe must installed manually:
More information is available here
- Logout only works with Shibboleth Service Provider 2.1 or higher
Single Logout is only supported when SAML2 is used at the SP and the IdP.
As of December 2008, the Shibboleth Identity Provider 2.1.1 does not yet support
Single Logout (SLO). Therefore, the single logout feature cannot be used yet.
One of the reasons why SLO isn't supported yet is because there aren't many
applications yet that were adapted to support front and back channel
logout. Hopefully, the Moodle logout helps to motivate the developers to
implement SLO :)
Also see and for some
background information on this topic.
In case of problems and questions with Shibboleth authentication, contact
Lukas Haemmerle <> or Markus Hagman <>
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