Difference between revisions of "Plugins/Auth/Shibboleth"

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Revision as of 10:36, 15 May 2011

copyright  (c) 2010 University of Geneva
license      GNU General Public License
author      Laurent Opprecht

How it works

The Shibboleth plugin provides an alternate login url - /mahara/auth/shibboleth/login/login.php. Authentication is not provided by the Shibboleth plugin but by the web server Shibboleth authentication module.

For this to work the Shibboleth plugin login page has to be protected at the web server level by a security directive in the configuration file. When a user tries to access the login page he is redirected by the Shibboleth module to the identity provider single sign on page. On successful authentication the Shibboleth module grant access to the page with the $_SERVER variable containing user data. As a result, the login page is reached after authentication took place and do not contain any user interface. At this point, the Shibboleth plugin reads the user data from the $_SERVER variable, either creates or updates the Mahara user profile with shibboleth data and log him in. If login is not possible. For example because required data are missing. The plugin redirect the user to the front page without providing access. Note that access will not be granted if the login page has not been secured.

Note that the plugin has been designed to work primarily for Shibboleth but it should work as well with other web server based authentication schemes.


Installation is a multi steps process:

  1. Install and configure the Shibboleth Mahara plugin
  2. Install and configure the Shibboleth software - if not already present
  3. Protect the Shibboth Plugin login page: mahara/auth/shibboleth/login/login.php with a web server configuration entry
  4. Modify the user inteface to provide a link to the login page

1. Plugin installation

- Copy the "auth" and "switch" directories contained in the package under your mahara root

- Enable the plugin

Log in Mahara as an administrator.
Go to "Site Administration" > "Administer Extentions"
Enable the Shibboleth plugin
Refresh the screen to see the configure plugin link

-  Configure the plugin

In "Site Administration" > "Administer Extentions" click on "config" for Shibboleth
Enter the Shibboleth fields' name for each field you want/must to map to - username, first name, etc.
For Administration and Staff membership enters the both the Shibboleth field's name and the value you want to compare to.
Tick the checkbox if you want the value to be interpreted as a regular expression.

- Configure each institution you want to authenticate with the Shibboleth plugin

in "Site Administration" > "Manage Institutions" click on "Edit" in turn for each institution you want to configure
under "Authentication plugin" select "Shibboleth" and click "Add"
enter Shibboleth fields' name and values as required
click submit

- If needed copy the non english translations contained in the plugin lang folder to the mahara lang folder. That is copy




If you want to use the french translation.

2. Shibboleth installation and configuration

Install Shibboleth on your web server. See for details on how to install Shibboleth

3. Protect the Mahara Shibboleth login page

The Shibboleth login page is located in


For Apache add a protection directive in the httpd.conf file or in the directory .httpaccess file. To accept all users that have successfully loged in add the following directive:

 AuthType shibboleth ShibRequireSession On require valid-user 

You can have a look at

for additional examples.

4. Modify user inteface to provide (a) link(s) to the login page

You can modify the user interface in several ways:

1. Modify the home page and add a link pointing mahara/auth/shibboleth/login/login.php
    Site Administration > Edit Site Pages

2. Add a public link(s)
    Site Administration > Links and Resource Menu

3. changes the theme to provide an alternative login

A theme is provided for SWITCH AAI. This theme can be further customized or can serve as an example.

Copy the Switch theme directory to /mahara/theme/
Go to Site Administration > Site Options and set the "Switch" theme as the default theme.

Check host name, sso and target in


By default the theme is configure to take into account the host name and expects the pathes to be the defaults:

mahara:             hostname/mahara/
shibboleth SSO:     https://hostname/Shibboleth.sso/DS

If mahara/shibboleth have been configured differently this needs to be updated accordingly.
For example if mahara is installed at the root the following lines in login_switch_links_XXXX.tpl must be updated.

$host = $_SERVER['HTTP_HOST'];
$sso = "https://$host/Shibboleth.sso/DS";
$target = 'http%3A%2F%2F' . $host .'%2Fmahara%2Fauth%2Fshibboleth%2Flogin%2Flogin.php';


$host = $_SERVER['HTTP_HOST'];
$sso = "https://$host/Shibboleth.sso/DS";
$target = 'http%3A%2F%2F' . $host .'%2Fauth%2Fshibboleth%2Flogin%2Flogin.php'

If required, change/add URLs as needed. Go to


and modify the links to fit your needs. You can go to

to help you create/modify links.
Note: the SWITCH page above helps you create links to specific identity providers.
If you want to make use of the standard login procedure and do not want to provide direct access to home institutions you need only one link that points to
Additional configuration:

1. Remove internal/mahara login

The SWITCH theme provides two separate logins: internal login using the standard Mahara architectur and the Shibboleth login. If you want to remove the standard Mahara login box go to


and remove/comment the Mahara login parts.

Note that the Shibboleth module provides an alternate login page to the standard Mahara login procedure at


This is intended to be used by administrator when the Shibboleth module is not available.

2. Changes the parent theme.

By default the Switch theme inherits its properties from the default theme. If you want to change that and inherit from another theme. Go to


and changes $theme->parent to the theme's name you want to inherit from.

3. Add/changes links

By default the Switch theme provide links to preconfigured entity provider. If you need to modify/add links go to


and modify the links to fit your needs. You can go to

to help you create/modify links.

4. Modify the registration method

By default the system creates user accounts from the Shibboleth's fields. If additional data are required to process user registration you can specify a different registration method in

administer site > administer extentions > Shibboleth > Config

The system ships with two predefined methods: empty and course registration.

The empty method does nothing.

The course registration method requests two additional fields from the new user: the course for which access is granted and the reason for requesting access. Those informations are emailed to the institution and site administrators who are then responsible to grant access. Note that the course method does not create inactive account by itself. You must set the "Activate new accounts" flag to false in plugin configuration for that.
If additional methods are required you can add new classes in