Authentication: SAML2 Single sign on

Maintained by Picture of Catalyst IT Catalyst IT, Picture of Brendan Heywood Brendan Heywood, Picture of Adam Riddell Adam Riddell
SAML done 100% in moodle, fast, simple, secure
307 sites
14 fans

What is this?

This plugin does authentication, user auto creation with field mapping.

Why is it better?

  • 100% configured in the Moodle GUI - no installation of a whole separate app, and no touching of config files or generating certificates.
  • Minimal configuration needed, in most cases just copy the IdP metadata in and then give the SP metadata to your IdP admin and that's it.
  • Fast! - 3 redirects instead of 7
  • Supports back channel Single Logout which most big organisations require (unlike OneLogin)

How does it work?

It completely embeds a SimpleSamlPHP instance as an internal dependancy which is dynamically configured the way it should be and inherits almost all of it's configuration from Moodle configuration. In the future we should be able to swap to a different internal SAML implementation and the plugin GUI shouldn't need to change at all.


  • Dual login VS forced login for all as an option, with ?saml=off on the login page for manual accounts, and ?saml=on supported everywhere to deep link and force login via saml if dual auth is on.
  • SAML attributes to Moodle user field mapping
  • Automatic certificate creation
  • Optionally auto create users

Features not yet implemented:

  • Enrolment - this should be an enrol plugin and not in an auth plugin
  • Role mapping - not yet implemented


1) Install the plugin the same as any standard moodle plugin either via the Moodle plugin directory, or you can use git to clone it into your source:

git clone auth/saml2

2) Then run the Moodle upgrade 3) If your IdP has a publicly available XML descriptor, copy this url into the SAML2 auth config settings page 4) If your IdP requires whitelisting each SP then in the settings page is links to download the XML, or you can provide that url to your IdP administrator.

For most simple setups this is enough to get authentication working, there are many more settings to define how to handle new accounts, dual authentication, and to easily debug the plugin if things are not working.

If you have issues please log them in github here:

Or if you want paid support please contact Catalyst IT Australia:


This plugin has been tested against:

  • SimpleSamlPHP set up as an IdP
  • An AAF instance of Shibboleth

Other SAML plugins

The diversity and variable quality and features of SAML Moodle plugins is a reflection of a great need for a solid SAML plugin, but the neglect to do it properly in core. SAML2 is by far the most robust and supported protocol across the internet and should be fully integrated into moodle core as both a Service Provider and as an Identity Provider, and without any external dependencies to manage.

Here is a quick run down of the alternatives:


  • /auth/shibboleth - This requires a separately installed and configured Shibbolleth install

One big issue with this, and the category below, is as there is a whole extra application between moodle and the IdP, so the login and logout processes have more latency due to extra redirects. Latency on potentially slow mobile networks is by far the biggest bottle neck for login speed and the biggest complaint by end users in our experience.

Plugins that require SimpleSamlPHP

These are all forks of each other, and unfortunately have diverged quite early or have no common git history making it difficult to cross port features or fixes between them.

Plugins which embed a SAML client lib:

These are generally much easier to manage and configure as they are standalone.

  • - This one uses it's own embedded saml library which is great and promising, however it doesn't support 'back channel logout' which is critical for security in any large organisation.

  • This plugin, with an embedded and dynamically configured SimpleSamlPHP instance under the hood

Warm thanks

Thanks to the various authors and contributors to the other plugins above.

Thanks to LaTrobe university in Melbourne for sponsoring the initial creation of this plugin:


Thanks to Centre de gestion informatique de l’éducation in Luxembourg for sponsoring the user autocreation and field mapping work:


This plugin was developed by Catalyst IT Australia:

Catalyst IT


Screenshot #0


Picture of Catalyst IT
Catalyst IT (Lead maintainer)
Picture of Adam Riddell
Adam Riddell: Developer
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Show comments
  • Picture of Praj Basnet
    Wed, 16 Nov 2016, 7:22 AM
    First off, thanks for the plugin, so much easier than rolling your own SimpleSAMLPhp install with auth/saml.

    I'm finding that the current version is causing segfaults in Apache (running PHP 5.4.16). I believe this is a known SimpleSAMLPhp bug per this:

    Are you able to confirm? Also I can't work out what version of SimpleSAMLPhp is installed as getVersion() just has "trunk" instead of a SimpleSAMLPhp version in auth/saml2/extlib/simplesamlphp/lib/SimpleSAML/Configuration.php

    Are you able to confirm what version is in the latest release? 1.14.x?

    FYI for other people that hit this issue, try moving to PHP 5.6+.
  • Picture of Brendan Heywood
    Wed, 16 Nov 2016, 9:16 AM
    Wow, segfault! smile There is very little to do done in this plugin, that needs to be fixed in apache / os land. And I think it was supposed to be 1.10 but was trunk. I'll add an issue to upgrade it to stable 1.14
  • Picture of Praj Basnet
    Thu, 17 Nov 2016, 4:08 AM
    Thanks Brendan,

    Agreed its more an issue with SimpleSAMLPhp and header_register_callback with PHP 5.4 / Apache. But good to have the latest version of SimpleSAMLphp in there too smile
  • Picture of Praj Basnet
    Thu, 15 Dec 2016, 9:03 AM
    One other feature that would be handy is to be able to set the final logout URL in the plugin settings. I might try to implement this rather myself and then add it the auth/saml2/auth.php logoutpage_hook() function to set the $redirect value. Thought I would post here just to check if you knew of another way? Presently after single logout, the redirect takes the user back to the Moodle login page.
  • Picture of Brendan Heywood
    Thu, 15 Dec 2016, 9:29 AM
    hi Praj,

    I've logged a new issue to make this configurable:

    Please read that comment for details of what needs to be done
  • Picture of Praj Basnet
    Thu, 15 Dec 2016, 9:32 AM
    Cool thanks Brendan, I have the code changes if you want me to contribute them via Github, pretty straight forward.
  • Picture of Praj Basnet
    Tue, 7 Mar 2017, 7:01 PM
    Hello, just wanted to flag another potentially useful future. Some IdPs like to use a friendly name for the Issuer ID of the SP, e.g. they might want to call the SP configuration "moodle". However by default with SimpleSAMLphp the issuer name is set to the entityID, which in term equates to $wwwroot/auth/saml2/sp/metadata.php in config/authsources.php. I figure it wouldn't be too hard to change this into a configurable setting in the plugin?
  • Picture of Brendan Heywood
    Tue, 7 Mar 2017, 9:03 PM
    hi Praj,

    I don't see a huge benefit to making it configurable, if anything I aim to hide and automate and simplify anything like that where possible. If you see a valid use case please document it in an issue on github
  • Picture of Phil Hudson
    Fri, 31 Mar 2017, 6:21 PM
    Hi Brendan, quick question, can the plugin support multiple identity providers?
  • Picture of Brendan Heywood
    Mon, 3 Apr 2017, 8:27 AM
    hi Phil,

    Currently no. A few people have expressed interest in sponsoring that improvement but none have followed through. If you are interested in supporting this please email me, see also
  • Picture of W Roes
    Tue, 25 Apr 2017, 11:14 PM
    Hi Brendan,

    Nice work, thanks! Have you given some thoughts on how to handle rotating certificates on the Idp side (ADFS) and autorefreshing the metadata? In those cases where a URL to the Idp's metadata is available it should be possible to regenerate the metadata periodically easily. In a task for instance. Would that be an approach you'd consider?
    Or would you rather use simplesamlphp's approach ?


  • Picture of Brendan Heywood
    Wed, 26 Apr 2017, 7:32 AM
    hi Willem,

    Yes and this is logged here:

    The correct approach is to do it as a moodle task because there are things moodle needs to be aware off at each refresh.

    Note that there is a pull request which is almost ready for merging here:

    If you are feeling adventurous you can pull that in locally and give it a whirl, but it's not quite ready yet and Sam ran out of funding. Sooner or later someone will sponsor this, if you'd like to sponsor the last bit of polish please email me
  • Picture of W Roes
    Wed, 26 Apr 2017, 2:18 PM
    Hi Brendan,

    This does look pretty good to me! It does seem the right approach in those cases where metadata URL's are used. From it is not clear to me what is missing still though?

  • Picture of Brendan Heywood
    Thu, 27 Apr 2017, 7:51 AM
    The code I think is mostly functional, it's just any remaining tidy up and my time to review and test it.
  • Picture of W Roes
    Thu, 27 Apr 2017, 4:10 PM
    Hi Brendan,

    Ok, thanks. I will test as well.

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