SAML2 Single sign on

Authentication ::: auth_saml2
Maintained by Catalyst IT, Brendan Heywood, Rossco Hellmans
SAML done 100% in moodle, fast, simple, secure

SAML2 Single sign on 2021062900

Moodle 3.9, 3.10, 3.11
Released: Tuesday, June 29, 2021, 11:10 AM


100% Moodle SAML fast, simple, secure

Churchill quote

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 Single Logout via the HTTP-Redirect binding which many organisations require

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
  • Support for multiple identity providers
  • Idp initiated flow / IdP first flow / IdP unsolicited logins, eg:


Features not yet implemented:

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


Moodle verion Branch PHP SimpleSAMLphp
Moodle 2.7 to 3.4 27_34STABLE 5.5+ v1.15.4
Totara up to 11 27_34STABLE 5.5+ v1.15.4
Moodle 3.5 to 3.8 MOODLE_35_STABLE 7.2+ v1.18.8
Moodle 3.9+ MOODLE_39_STABLE 7.2+ v1.18.8
Totara 12+ MOODLE_35_STABLE 7.2+ v1.18.8


  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

    Or install via the Moodle plugin directory:

  2. Then run the Moodle upgrade

  3. If your IdP has a publicly available XML descriptor, copy it's url into the SAML2 auth config settings page. Otherwise copy the XML verbatum into the settings textarea instead.

  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.


Most of the configuration is done in the Moodle admin GUI and should be self explanatory for someone familiar with SAML generally. There are a few extra configuration items which are currently don't have a GUI and should be added to your moodle config.php file:

$CFG->auth_saml2_disco_url = '';

$CFG->auth_saml2_store = '\\auth_saml2\\redis_store'; # Use an alternate store

$CFG->auth_saml2_redis_server = ''; # Required for the redis_store above


This plugin has been tested against:

  • SimpleSamlPHP set up as an IdP
  • An AAF instance of Shibboleth
  • OpenAM (Sun / Oracle)
  • Microsoft ADFS
  • NetIQ Access Manager

To configure this against testshib you will need a moodle which is publicly accessible over the internet. Turn on the SAML2 plugin and then configure it:

Home ► Site administration ► Plugins ► Authentication ► SAML2

  1. Set the Idp URL to:
  2. Set dual auth to Yes
  3. Set auto create users to Yes
  4. Click on 'Download SP Metadata'
  5. Save the settings
  6. Upload that file to:
  7. Logout and login, you should see 'TestShib Test IdP' as an alternate login method and be able to login via the example credentials.


If you are having any issues, turn on debugging inside the SAML2 auth plugin, as well as turning on the moodle level debugging. This will give in depth debugging on the SAML xml and errors, as well as stack traces. Please include this in any github issue you create if you are having trouble.

There is also a standalone test page which authenticates but isn't a 'moodle' page. All this page does is echo the saml attributes which have been provided by the IDP. This can be very handy for setting up the mappings, ie for when the IDP might be providing the right attributes but under an unexpected key name.


If you can succesfully do a saml login using this page then is narrows down where the issues lies. Some common issues are:

1) You received a valid set of saml attributes, but the attribute(s) needed are not present. ie often with say ADFS you may have to specify to 'release' the username.

2) You have got a valid set of attributes, but the key for the username isn't what you expected. Cut and paste the correct key name into the Moodle auth_saml2 config page to correctly map the 'idpattr' value.

3) The attribute key name might be a really crazy long looking string. This is common with ADFS. If that long string contains certain characters then moodle will not accept it, and this is an issue in Moodle itself and applies to all auth plugins. You can add a custom claim in ADFS to rename this attribute to something nicer. See this for more:

4) If it is bringing across all the attributes properly, but you are getting: "You have logged in succesfully as 'xyz' but do not have an account in Moodle" then you either need to change your user provisioning process to ensure users are created ahead of time, or you need to enable the 'autocreate' setting. If you do auto create then you need to be very careful that autocreated users, and users provisioned via other means, and consistently setup.


Bitnami Moodle

We get lots of compaints in many plugins that end up being issues with Bitnami. It does a very poor job and does not properly configure Moodle with some quite basic things and we strongly recommend you don't use it at all, not just for saml issues. In particular it dynamicaly detects the domain that Moodle is on, which is not supported by Moodle. $CFG->wwwroot MUST be manually set to a static value in config.php.

Multiple IdPs

When using multiple IdPs the system will force enable the dual login setting. This is so that a list of possible identity providers will be presented to the user when logging in.

To enable multiple IdPs you can use the 'IdP metadata xml OR public xml URL' configuration field. An example might look like this,

Identity Provider Name http://ssp1.local/simplesaml/saml2/idp/metadata.php

If there is any text before the http scheme then it will be used as the override name.

It is not be recommended to use the 'IdP label override' configuration option with multiple IdPs.

Deep linking saml=on URL param

For most use cases, this parameter should work on all supported moodle versions. However, to make this paramater force a saml login redirect even when users are already logged in as a guest we use a moodle hook that is only available in moodle >= 3.8.

To make guest user redirecting work on moodle 3.7 and below, you will need to backport the changes from


If you are getting signature issues with OpenAM then you may need to manually yank out the contents of the ds:X509Certificate element into a file and then import it into OpenAM's certificate store:

$ cat 
$ keytool -import -trustcacerts -alias -file -keystore keystore.jks

Then follow the prompts and restart OpenAM.

Certificate Locking

It is possible to lock the certificates in the admin UI which prevents inadvertant overwriting of them. They can also be unlocked in the UI. If you really want to protect them then chown the files so that your webserver user cannot modify them at all.

These certificates are located in the $CFG->dataroot/saml2 directory.

To manually unlock the certificates please restore the write permissions to the required files.

$ cd $CFG->dataroot/saml2
$ chmod 0660 site.example.crt
$ chmod 0660 site.example.pem

OpenSSL errors during certificate regeneration

Some environments, particularly Windows-based, may not provide an OpenSSL configuration file at the default location, producing errors like the following when regenerating certificates:

error:02001003:system library:fopen:No such process
error:2006D080:BIO routines:BIO_new_file:no such file
error:0E064002:configuration file routines:CONF_load:system lib

To work around this, set the OPENSSL_CONF environment variable to the location of openssl.cnf within your environment.

OKTA configuration

Okta has some weird names for settings which are confusing, this may help decipher them:

Okta name Sane name Value
Single sign on URL ACS URL
Audience URI Entity ID
Enable Single Log Out Enable Single Log Out True
Single Logout URL Single Logout URL
Assertion Encryption Assertion Encryption Encrypted

Suggested attribute mappings:

Name Value
Login user.login
FirstName user.firstName
LastName user.lastName

Auth Proc Filter Hooks

Other plugins may hook into SAML2 and create custom Auth Proc Filters. Auth Proc Filters allows you to mutate of the attributes passed back from the IdP before Moodle handles them and does the profile field mappings

Steps to implement the hook: * Create a plugin that will implement the hook (e.g local_hookimplement) * Define the hook function 'local_hookimplement_extend_auth_saml2_proc' in plugin's lib.php * The function should return array of SimpleSaml Auth Proc Filters.


function local_hookimplement_extend_auth_saml2_proc() {
   return [
      52 => array(
         'class' => 'core:AttributeMap',

Custom Code

function local_hookimplement_extend_auth_saml2_proc() {
   return [
      51 => array(
         'class' => 'core:PHP',
         'code' => '$attributes = update_attributes($attributes)'

function update_attributes($attributes) {
   if (isset($attributes["uid"])) {
      $attributes["uid"] => $attributes["username"];
   return $attributes;

Multiple IdP Filter

function local_hookimplement_extend_auth_saml2_proc() {
   return [
      51 => array(
         'class' => 'core:PHP',
         'code' => '$attributes = update_attributes($attributes)'

function update_attributes($attributes) {
   global $SESSION, $saml2auth;
    $idps = $saml2auth->metadataentities;
    foreach ($idps as $idp) {
        foreach ($idp as $key => $value) {
            if ($SESSION->saml2idp == $key) {
                $alias = $idp[$key]->alias;

            if ($alias == 'idp_alias') {
                $attributes["uid"] = $attributes['username'];

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:

Moodle Core

  • /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.

  • /auth/oauth2

OAuth2 has direct support in Moodle

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


If you have issues please log them in github here

Please note our time is limited, so if you need urgent support or want to sponsor a new feature then please contact Catalyst IT Australia:

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

Version information

Version build number
Version release name
Can be updated from
2015111601, 2015113001, 2016031500, 2016041300, 2016090801, 2017021600, 2017021700, 2017051500, 2018011500, 2018011500, 2018011501, 2018020100, 2018011502, 2018020200, 2018021903, 2018022100, 2018022203, 2018022600, 2018022600, 2018022600, 2018031300, 2018032000, 2018032600, 2018032900, 2018062500, 2018062900, 2018071100 (2018071100), 2019022100 (2019022100), 2019110701 (2019110701), 2021040100 (2021040100)
Stable version
MD5 Sum
Supported software
Moodle 3.9, Moodle 3.10, Moodle 3.11
  • Latest release for Moodle 3.9
  • Latest release for Moodle 3.10
  • Latest release for Moodle 3.11

Version control information

Version control system (VCS)
VCS repository URL
VCS branch

Default installation instructions for plugins of the type Authentication

  1. Make sure you have all the required versions.
  2. Download and unpack the module.
  3. Place the folder (eg "myauth") in the "auth" subdirectory.
  4. Visit to finish the installation