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Authentication integration layer for Shibboleth's Embdedded Discovery Service (EDS) and Plone

Project description

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This package provides the ability for Plone users to log into a site via Shibboleth, making use of the Shibboleth Embedded Discovery Service (EDS). This allows Plone to be a Shibboleth Service Provider (SP) and self-host a discovery service on the Plone login page. A running Shibboleth responder, configured to provide a JSON Discovery Feed (DiscoFeed handler) is required to populate the EDS listing.

In Action

EDS login portlet within Plone.

collective.shibboleth’s EDS portlet in action, being used with the Australian and New Zealand Access Federations. The icons shown will automatically display an organisation’s logo if provided within SAML metadata. At present, neither of these example federations support the relevant metadata extensions and default to showing no logo.


  • Provides fully-configurable Shibboleth EDS login portlet

  • Hosts Shibboleth EDS resources from within Plone

  • Integrates Shibboleth EDS styles with Plone’s default Sunburst theme

  • Changes Plone’s login page to be pluggable via collective.pluggablelogin.

  • Assigns a default Shibboleth EDS login portlet to the pluggable login page.

  • 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.

  • Alerts the user on first login as to their local account’s password. Plone’s PAS requires users have a password, and this allows Shibboleth users to access Plone via WebDAV, FTP and other non-federation methods.


Installation with Plone follows the standard practice of modifying your Buildout configuration like so, adding this package to your list of eggs:

recipe = plone.recipe.zope2instance
eggs +=

Re-run Buildout, restart Plone and activate the add-on. This will configure a default Shibboleth portlet on your login page. You now need to ensure your Shibboleth responder is configured accordingly, see Technical details.

You may use Plone’s GenericSetup infrastructure within another package or site policy product to either reconfigure this default portlet or to create your own.

Technical details

Your webserver and Shibboleth Service Provider (SP) must be configured in two ways:

Configuring Shibboleth for the EDS

Follow the instructions on the Shibboleth Wiki at under Configuing the Service Provider. Your configuration may need to differ from the instructions given. The one mandatory configuration step is setting up the DiscoveryFeed handler.

Your EDS configuration options (set in idpselect_config.js) are configured within Plone when you create the Shibboleth EDS portlet.

Shibboleth authentication configuration

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.shibboleth, 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.

How Plone handles this authentication

The first option above is able to be more seamless as you can utilise a EDS login portlet inside Plone, rather than having a jarring jump to a Discovery Service or WAYF page.

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 EDS portlet, or via a URL parameter). The EDS portlet will default to this automatically (but can be customised). This way, you can be sure that Shibboleth attributes will only be passed into Plone when the user accesses this specific path. As this path is typically only used during login, you’ll be reducing the load time and processing required for the rest of the user’s session.

The suggested flow is thus:

  1. Configure Shibd Discovery Handler and protect /logged_in path with Shibboleth.

  2. Install this package in Plone and configure the Shibboleth EDS portlet on the pluggable login page.

Now, when the user comes along:

  1. User clicks Login in Plone

  2. User is shown the EDS portlet, consisting of a list of Identity Providers (IdPs)

  3. User selects an IdP and is taken to the IdP login page, or redirected transparently if the user is already authenticated with their IdP.

  4. User is redirected back to Plone and logged in automatically. Behind the scenes, Shibboleth has injected the attributes into the user’s request to logged_in and Products.AutoUserMakerPASPlugin has created that user an account.

The user’s session has now been created and they’re ready to use Plone without relying on Shibboleth attributes.

About the included Embedded Discovery Service (EDS)

This package uses the Shibboleth EDS as provided by the main Shibboleth project. Distributions of the EDS are available at and the source is available from;a=summary.

The EDS is configurable as the Shibboleth login portlet. This portlet can be added to any page, though is most useful on the pluggable login page that is configured by this package.

The included EDS distribution has been customised using the included patch file (src/collective/shibboleth/browser/shibboleth-ds-plone.patch) in the following ways:

  • Allow configuration of the EDS using a data-options attribute on the DOM element. Typically, the configuration function had to edited by hand.

  • Adjust or remove some styles that conflict with Plone’s defaults.

The patch is primarily required because the idpselect_config.js file hard-codes a large structure of language information. We are working with the Shibboleth project on improving their JavaScript and incorporating the patch back upstream.

For now, to reapply the patch to a new version of the EDS, do:

cd src/collective/shibboleth/browser/
patch -p5 < shibboleth-ds-plone.patch
# Commit the result once patch is checked

Updating the EDS in this package

In order to update the EDS JavaScript widget, update the submodule at ./src/collective/shibboleth/browser/js-embedded-discovery and commit the change in tracked versions to this repository.

You then need to build the EDS and place the compiled files into the relevant location in this package:

cd src/collective/shibboleth/browser/js-embedded-discovery
make kit
cp -R shibboleth-embedded-ds-*/*{nonminimised,gif,js,css} ../shibboleth-ds/
make clean

Now, go and update the change log for collective.shibboleth and commit the results.

David Beitey, Author


1.3 (2018-12-05)

  • Add zope.formlib to dependencies for Plone 5.x. [timo]

1.2 (2016-01-21)

  • Further fix query string parsing in the EDS. [davidjb]

  • Add EDS (now hosted in Git) as a submodule for tracking. [davidjb]

  • Changed various import step to be ZCML configured. [davidjb]

1.1.2 (2015-06-19)

  • Fix issue with users not returning to came_from URL if they were prompted to login. This fix will be incorporated upstream in the EDS shortly. [davidjb]

1.1.1 (2015-05-20)

  • Minor changes to readme and package description. [davidjb]

1.1 (2015-05-20)

  • Nothing changed yet.

1.0 (2015-05-20)

  • Upgrade EDS to r157 for recent bug fixes. [davidjb]

  • Assign a portlet onto the Pluggable Login page on installation. [davidjb]

  • Change from a Embedded WAYF to Shibboleth’s EDS. [davidjb]

  • Remove old collective.aaf code from this package; that package now depends on this one. [davidjb]

  • Refactor from collective.aaf, and turn collective.aaf into an AAF-specific layer on top of this package. [davidjb]

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