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Authentication integration layer for the Australian Access Federation (AAF) and Plone

Project description


This package provides an integration layer for Plone for the Australian Access Federation (AAF), a Shibboleth-powered authentication federation.



The following features could and probably should be refactored into a general collective.shibboleth package. For the inclined, please contact us and we’ll work through it together.

  • Embedded WAYF portlet (suitable for SWTICH-compatible Shibboleth Discovery Services (such as SWITCHaai, Australian Access Federation (AAF), and possibly more).
  • Modifies login link to prevent login form appearing in an overlay, because the portlet requires JavaScript.
  • Adds a Shibboleth Authenticated role into Plone.
  • Assigns the Shibboleth Authenticated role to all users logging in using this method.


  • Configures the underlying authentication plugin to load user data from the relevant AAF attributes.
  • Portlet value defaults are those from the AAF.


At the time of writing, this package relies upon one unreleased dependency:

  • Products.AutoUserMakerPASPlugin

A new version of this package will be released and available on PyPI as soon as possible. In the meantime, installation from GitHub via a tool such as mr.developer is recommended.

Techinical details

Configuring Shibboleth (Shibd)

There are two ways you can authenticate users to your site using Shibboleth, either actively, by forcing a session for certain resources, or passively, by only passing through authentication information if a session exists. More information about this in terms of Shibboleth can be found at

In a Plone context, using collective.aaf, you thus have two choices:

  1. Configure Shibboleth and your front-end webserver to be passively aware of your application. After an authentication session has been created, session details will automatically be added to incoming requests for Plone to accept; or
  2. Configure Shibboleth and your front-end webserver to require a session for all or part of your site’s URLs. When a user visits the relevant URL or path, authentication will be requested and the user redirected to the relevant Discovery Service.

The first option is able to be more seamless as you can utilise a login portlet inside Plone, rather than having a jarring jump to a WAYF or IdP page. It also means you can provide an Identity Provider listing embedded within your site, making the login process as clean as possible.

How Plone handles authentication

By default, the underlying PAS plugin (Products.AutoUserMakerPASPlugin) that listens for Shibboleth headers is configured to accept these on any site URL. For a default Plone install, a plone.session PAS plugin is configured (the one that normally handles authentication), and this will create a session and take over authentication from here on out whilst a user is logged in.

To most efficiently manage this, the suggestion is to configure Shibboleth to protect just the logged_in view for Plone, and configure this URL as the return point (either via the WAYF portlet, or via a URL parameter). The built-in default for the WAYF portlet will do this for you automatically. This way, you can be sure that Shibboleth attributes will only be passed at this specific path (only used during login, typically), thus reducing the load time and processing required for the rest of the site.


This configuration may or may not suit your exact requirements depending on your configuration, federation (if not AAF), or other aspects. For example, if you require that your user’s authentication in Plone is directly tied to their Shibboleth session, then you may wish to disable the Plone session plugin’s ability to authenticateCredentials and to configure the Shibboleth SP such that the entire Plone URL/path is protected. This will result in the upstream Shibboleth instance passing along authentication headers for every request. Note that this is arguably ineffecient since both the Shibboleth SP and Plone’s user setup machinery are being invoked for each and every request.

Embedded WAYF portlet

This package uses the Shibboleth Embedded WAYF as provided by: or

and is configurable in the Shibboleth portlet.

This could probably be refactored out into its own portlet later on. However, the Shibboleth project also has an Embedded Discovery Service that exists and can be self-hosted. The portlet provided by this package will likely become modified to use this at some point in the near future.

David Beitey, Author


1.3 (2014-02-26)

  • Nothing changed yet.

1.2 (2014-02-19)

  • Made the embedded WAYF JavaScript URL depend on the portlet’s configured URL rather than being hardcoded. [davidjb]

1.1 (2014-01-30)

  • Noted that latest collective.pluggablelogin released. Package now depends on this latest version or later. [davidjb]

1.0 (2014-01-29)

  • If logging in again from a logged_out view, then strip the view from the came_from query string parameter. [davidjb]
  • Notify users of their temporary passwords being generated on first login. [davidjb]
  • Monkey patch the password generation function AutoUserMakerPASPlugin to allow stronger passwords. [davidjb]
  • Ensure users logging in get the Shibboleth Authenticated role via AuthZ mapping. [davidjb]
  • Add Shibboleth Authenticated role. [davidjb]
  • Package created using templer [davidjb]

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