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Using SAML2 Authentication in CKAN

  • Dusko Bogdanovski
  • extensions, saml2
  • 03 Jun 2021
SAML2_for_CKAN.png

At the end of 2020, Keitaro’s team created and released ckanext-saml2auth, a CKAN extension that enables Single Sign On (SSO) for CKAN data portals via SAML2 Authentication. It works with CKAN 2.8 (ckan-2.8 branch) and 2.9+ (main), and can easily be installed on an existing CKAN data portal.

About the extension

Many identity and access management (IAM) or access control solutions provide single sign-on (SSO). Verifying a user’s identity is important for determining which permissions each user should have. Single sign-on is a technology that integrates multiple diverse application login screens into one. With SSO, a user has to insert their login credentials just once on a single page in order to access all of their SaaS applications. SSO is generally considered to be more reliable, in regard to it being simpler and more convenient for users.

The ckanext-saml2auth extension is enforced by SAML2 Authentication, which is an XML-based open-standard for transferring identity data between two parties: an identity provider and a service provider. The identity provider performs authentication and passes the user’s identity and authorization level to the service provider. The service provider trusts the identity provider and authorizes the given user to access the requested resource. The ckanext-saml2auth extension works with CKAN 2.9+ and can easily be installed on an existing CKAN data portal.

SAML-illustration-CKAN.png
SSO and CKAN

Ckanext-saml2auth on the U.S. open data portal

The home of the U.S. Government’s open data, data.gov, adopted ckanext-saml2auth extension on their portal. By using ckanext-saml2auth, data.gov’s users are now able to use the benefits from it in day-to-day business and focus on their mission to improve public access to high value, machine readable datasets.

Data.gov is the U.S. government’s open data portal and is powered by CKAN. The aim of the portal is to improve public access to high value, machine readable datasets. It provides data, tools, and resources to conduct research, develop web and mobile applications, design data visualizations, and more.

By adopting the extension, data.gov’s users can save time, login faster and don't need to worry at all about the safety of their accounts. Explained in more details, the extension provides the users with:

  • Saving time – users don’t have to create a new account for the CKAN instance that the organization uses. Instead, the user can leverage the existing organization’s identity provider to log in to the CKAN instance and the extension will authenticate the credentials.
  • Convenience – users don’t have to remember their password (or use the forgot password option). This enables a faster authentication process and reduces the expectation that users remember multiple login credentials for each application.
  • Enhanced security measures – the accounts are safer and users don’t need to worry about the strength of many passwords. The SAML2 Authentication provides a single point of authentication, which happens at a secure identity provider. SAML2 Authentication transfers the identity information to the service providers. This form of authentication ensures that credentials are only sent to the IdP directly.

How to set up SSO with the SAML2 extension

If you want to install ckanext-saml2auth to your own CKAN portal, follow the instructions below:

  1. Install the required packages:
  2. sudo apt install xmlsec1
    
  3. Activate your CKAN virtual environment, for example:
  4. . /usr/lib/ckan/default/bin/activate
    
  5. Install the ckanext-saml2auth Python package into your virtual environment:
  6. pip install ckanext-saml2auth
    
  7. Install the ckanext-saml2auth Python package into your virtual environment:
  8. pip install ckanext-saml2auth
    
  9. Add saml2auth to the ckan.plugins setting in your CKAN config file (by default the config file is located at /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini).
  10. Restart CKAN. For example if you've deployed CKAN with Apache on Ubuntu:
  11. sudo service apache2 reload
    

Required Config settings

The following configuration options should be defined in your CKAN configuration file:
# Specifies the metadata location type
# Options: local or remote
ckanext.saml2auth.idp_metadata.location = remote

# Path to a local file accessible on the server the service runs on
# Ignore this config if the idp metadata location is set to: remote
ckanext.saml2auth.idp_metadata.local_path = /opt/metadata/idp.xml

# A remote URL serving aggregate metadata
# Ignore this config if the idp metadata location is set to: local 
ckanext.saml2auth.idp_metadata.remote_url = https://kalmar2.org/simplesaml[...]

# Path to a local file accessible on the server the service runs on
# Ignore this config if the idp metadata location is set
# to local and metadata is public
ckanext.saml2auth.idp_metadata.remote_cert = /opt/metadata/kalmar2.cert

# Corresponding SAML user field for firstname
ckanext.saml2auth.user_firstname = firstname

# Corresponding SAML user field for lastname
ckanext.saml2auth.user_lastname = lastname

# Corresponding SAML user field for fullname

# (Optional: Can be used as an alternative to firstname + lastname)
ckanext.saml2auth.user_fullname = fullname

# Corresponding SAML user field for email
ckanext.saml2auth.user_email = email

A number of other optional configuration parameters are available and documented on the repository. That’s it. If you need any help setting up the SAML2 plugin, reach out to Keitaro’s team at info@keitaro.com.


Note: This post was written by Keitaro, you can see the original post on the Keitaro blog.