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PAS plugin for authentication based on request headers

Project description

This PAS plugin reads request headers and uses them for authentication. Think SAML headers that are set by a front web server like Apache or nginx.


On install in Plone, the plugin is added to the PluggableAuthService. It is registered for several plugin types:

  • Challenge plugin
  • Extraction plugin
  • Authentication plugin
  • Properties plugin
  • Roles plugin

You can configure them in the ZMI (Zope Management Interface) by editing properties in the plugin.


Install pas.plugins.headers by adding it to your buildout:



eggs =

and then running bin/buildout. Start Plone and install the plugin in the Add-ons control panel.


This has been tested to work on Plone 4.3 and 5.1 and 5.2 (Python 2.7 and 3.7).

Plain Zope?

No, this does not work in plain Zope. Theoretically it might work if you first install Products.PluggableAuthService and Products.GenericSetup. But then you already almost have a CMF site.

Manual configuration

You can configure the plugin by going to the ZMI (Zope Management Interface). Go to the acl_users (PluggableAuthService) folder in the Plone ZMI. Click on the request_headers plugin. Go to the Properties tab.

These are the properties that you can edit:

Header to use as user id.
Header to use as roles for the current user. This can give multiple roles: it is split on white space.
Allowed roles. Roles that we allow in the roles_header. Any other roles that are in the header are ignored. Ignored when empty: all roles are taken over, also when the role is not known in Plone. The roles from the header and the allowed_roles property are compared lowercase. The reported roles use the case from``allowed_roles``. For example, if the header contains PUPIL root and allowed_roles contains Pupil Teacher, then the reported roles will be only Pupil.
Required headers. Without these, the extraction plugin does not extract headers, so the user is not authenticated. These headers may have an empty value in the request, as long as they are all there.
Deny unauthorized access. Default: false. When this is true and the user is unauthorized, the Challenge plugin stops and presents an ugly error. When false, the Challenge plugin will check the redirect_url.
URL to redirect to when unauthorized. When empty, it has no effect. When set, the Challenge plugin redirects unauthorized users to this url. Usually you would configure your frontend server to force SAML or CAS login on this url. The headerlogin page defined by this plugin may be a good url. We treat the redirect_url as relative to the Plone site root, unless it is a full url. If deny_unauthorized is true, this option is ignored.
Mapping from memberdata property to request header, one per row. Format: propname|header. Or: propname|header|parser. See the Parsers section for information about parsers You can also combine several headers: propname|header_with_firstname header_with_lastname.
Create an authentication ticket (__ac cookie) with plone.session. Default: false. When reading headers, this checks if Plone knows this user. If so, we create an authentication ticket. Then you could let your frontend server (nginx, Apache) only set the headers for some urls, instead of for all. Note that this does not work for root Zope users, and it does not take over properties and roles. See also issue 6.

Configuration via GenericSetup

The package has a GS (GenericSetup) import step with id pas.plugins.headers. In the GS profile of your add-on, it looks for a file with name pas.plugins.headers.json. This file must contain a json string. Full example:

    "purge": true,
    "allowed_roles": [
    "create_ticket": true,
    "deny_unauthorized": true,
    "memberdata_to_header": [
        "fullname|HEADER_firstname HEADER_lastname"
    "redirect_url": "",
    "required_headers": [
    "roles_header": "roles",
    "userid_header": "uid"

Some remarks:

  • When the contents cannot be parsed as json, or when the result is not a dictionary, a ValueError is raised.
  • purge is optional. When it is true, the default settings are restored before handling the rest of the file.
  • purge is only valid for the entire file. It does not work in individual lists. So you cannot add one required header and keep the current ones. You need to specify them all.
  • The keys are the properties that you see in the ZMI.
  • When an unknown key is used, it is silently ignored.
  • In memberdata_to_header, the importer does not check if the parsers are registered.


In the memberdata_to_header property, you can use parsers. For example:


When getting the properties for the current user, the properties plugin will calculate the age property. It reads the HEADER_age header, which may give a string like '42'. It then calls the int parser to turn this into integer 42.

Note: the properties plugin is currently the only part where the parsers are used. So it is not used when getting for example the user id from a header.

If you specify a parser that does not exist, the parser is ignored and you get the unmodified header value.

A few basic parsers are available:

Returns either True or False. When the first character of the lowercase header value is y/j/t/1, the parser return True, else False.
Returns an integer. When parsing as integer fails, it returns zero.
Returns the value in lowercase.
Returns the value in uppercase.
Splits the value on whitespace, so you get a list.

You can register an own parser:

def extra_parser(value):
    return value + ' extra'

from pas.plugins.headers.parsers import register_parser
register_parser('extra', extra_parser)

Note: you get a warning when you override an existing parser.


If you are having issues, please let us know by adding an issue to the tracker:


The project is licensed under the GPLv2.



1.3.1 (2020-04-03)

  • Python 3: when redirect_url unexpectedly is bytes, turn it into native string before comparing. [maurits]
  • Fixed problem with redirect_url not starting with a slash. With headerlogin as value we would redirect to http://localhost:8080/Ploneheaderlogin. [maurits]

1.3.0 (2020-03-26)

  • We require six>=1.12.0 because we use ensure_str. Note that Plone 4.3 and 5.1 currently pin older versions. [maurits]
  • Fixed NotFound error when redirect_url started with a slash, for example /headerlogin. In local development it would redirect to /headerlogin on the Zope root, where it does not exist. We now always treat the redirect_url as relative to the Plone site root, unless it is a full url. [maurits]
  • Fixed exportimport to always set native strings. On Python 3 we were setting bytes, which was wrong. Fixed same problem in member properties. [maurits]

1.2.0 (2020-02-24)

  • Add came_from query parameter when the challenge plugin redirects. [maurits]
  • Added headerlogin page. This redirects to the came_from query parameter or the referer or the navigation root. You can use this in the redirect_url option, and have your frontend server force SAML or CAS login on it. When a user arrives on this page and is still anonymous, then apparently SAML/CAS has not worked. We then redirect to the standard login page. Care is taken to avoid a redirect loop between the login and headerlogin pages. [maurits]
  • Added option create_ticket. When reading headers, this checks if Plone knows this user. If so, we create an authentication ticket (__ac cookie) with plone.session. Then you could let your frontend server only set the headers for some urls, instead of for all. Note that this does not work for root Zope users, and it does not take over properties and roles. See issue 6. [maurits]

1.1.0 (2020-02-19)

  • Added Plone 5.2, Python 3 compatibility. [maurits]

1.0.1 (2019-11-01)

  • Replaced import of Globals, which is gone in Plone 5.2. [maurits]

1.0.0 (2019-04-25)

  • Make final release, no changes. [maurits]

1.0.0a2 (2018-08-03)

  • Documented our GenericSetup import step. Unlike most importers, this reads a json file, called pas.plugins.headers.json. [maurits]

1.0.0a1 (2018-08-03)

  • Initial release. [maurits]

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