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SAML (v5.3)

pac4j allows you to login with any SAML identity provider using the SAML v2.0 protocol.

It has been tested with various SAML 2 providers: Okta,, CAS SAML2 IdP, Shibboleth v3.4…

1) Dependency

You need to use the following module:


2) Basic configuration

The SAML2Client must be used to login with a SAML 2 identity provider.

First, if you don’t have one, you need to generate a keystore for all signature and encryption operations:

keytool -genkeypair -alias pac4j-demo -keypass pac4j-demo-passwd -keystore samlKeystore.jks -storepass pac4j-demo-passwd -keyalg RSA -keysize 2048 -validity 3650

Alternatively, you can also let pac4j create the keystore for you. If the keystore resource does not exist and is writable, pac4j will attempt to generate a keystore and produce the relevant key pairs inside it.

Then, you must define a SAML2Configuration:

SAML2Configuration cfg = new SAML2Configuration(new ClassPathResource("samlKeystore.jks"),
        new ClassPathResource("testshib-providers.xml"));

The first parameter (keystoreResource) is the keystore defined as a Spring resource using:

The second parameter (keystorePassword) is the value of the -storepass option for the keystore generation while the third parameter (privateKeyPassword) is the value of the -keypass option.

The fourth parameter (identityProviderMetadataResource) should point to your IdP metadata, assuming you can use the same kind of definition than for the keystore.

Or you can also use the “prefix mechanism” to define the Resource:

SAML2Configuration cfg = new SAML2Configuration("resource:samlKeystore.jks",

These are the available prefixes:

Or you can even use the empty constructor and the appropriate setters:

Finally, you need to declare the SAML2Client based on the previous configuration:

SAML2Client client = new SAML2Client(cfg);

After a successful authentication, a SAML2Profile is returned.

The SAML2Client configures a ReplayCache, which protects against replay attacks. This ReplayCache must keep state between authentications. Therefore a single instance of the SAML2Client must be used. If this is not possible, you can override the initSAMLReplayCache method to create a custom ReplayCacheProvider.

Note: after use SAML2Client must be explicitly destroyed with destroy method call. The importance of this step is justified by the underlying implementation. FilesystemMetadataResolver is using a daemon thread to watch the changes to metadata file. Without destroying SAML2Client this thread will keep running, thus there is a risk to get a threads leak problem.

3) Additional configuration:

You can control aspects of the authentication request such as forced and/or passive authentication:


Furthermore, forced/passive authentication requests can also be controlled on a per-request basis based on the presence of HTTP attributes defined in RedirectionActionBuilder#ATTRIBUTE_FORCE_AUTHN and RedirectionActionBuilder#ATTRIBUTE_PASSIVE.

You can define the binding type for the authentication request via the setAuthnRequestBindingType method and the binding type for the SP logout request via the setSpLogoutRequestBindingType method:

// or cfg.setAuthnRequestBindingType(SAMLConstants.SAML2_POST_BINDING_URI);
// or cfg.setAuthnRequestBindingType(SAMLConstants.SAML2_POST_SIMPLE_SIGN_BINDING_URI);

You can define the binding type for the authentication response via the setResponseBindingType method (defaults to POST):

// or cfg.setResponseBindingType(SAMLConstants.SAML2_ARTIFACT_BINDING_URI);

Notice that the SP metadata will define the POST binding for the IdP logout request.

Once you have an authenticated web session on the Identity Provider, usually it won’t prompt you again to enter your credentials and it will automatically generate a new assertion for you. By default, the SAML client will accept assertions based on a previous authentication for one hour. If you want to change this behavior, set the maximumAuthenticationLifetime parameter:

// lifetime in seconds

By default, the entity ID of your application (the Service Provider) will be equals to the callback URL. But you can force your own entity ID with the serviceProviderEntityId parameter:

// custom SP entity ID

By SAML specification, the authentication request must not contain a NameQualifier, if the SP entity is in the format nameid-format:entity. However, some IdP require that information to be present. You can force a NameQualifier in the request with the useNameQualifier parameter:

// force NameQualifier in the authn request

The SAML specification suggests that responses should have a value set for the Destination attribute. For security reasons, pac4j will check for its presence. You can change this behavior if needed:

// force support of missing `Destination` attribute

To allow the authentication request sent to the identity provider to specify an attribute consuming index:


To allow the authentication request sent to the identity provider to specify an assertion consumer service index:


This will also guide pac4j to pick the ACS URL from the metadata indicated by this index.

To configure the supported algorithms and digest methods for the initial authentication request, specify what is supported via the configuration object:


The SAML client always requires assertions to be signed either directly or via the response that contains them. When the assertions need to be processed separate of the response, you can request them to be signed directly using:


You may also want to enable signing of the authentication requests using:


The final result will be determined based on the IdP metadata and the configuration above. The IdP metadata will always be chosen in favor of the pac4j configuration, so if you need to purely rely on pac4j, you need to modify the metadata.

You can generate the SP metadata in two ways:

3.1) Metadata and Keystore configuration:

  1. SAML2FileSystemMetadataGenerator: This is the default option for generating metadata on the file system.
  2. SAML2HttpUrlMetadataGenerator: able to resolve/fetch and store metadata using a REST API that responds to GET/POST methods. This is primarily handled using HTTPMetadataResolver component of OpenSAML. The metadata content is always generated by pac4j and then passed along to the API for storage. The API simply has to retrieve that metadata, or store it. No other extra processing/work is necessary. A GET operation is expected to return the metadata, and a POST operation will provide the metadata in the request body.
  1. SAML2FileSystemKeystoreGenerator: This is the default option for generating keystore on the file system.
  2. SAML2HttpUrlKeystoreGenerator: able to resolve/fetch and store keystore using a REST API that responds to GET/POST methods. The metadata content is always generated by pac4j and then passed along to the API for storage as a base64 encoded string. The API simply has to retrieve that keystore, or store it. While fectching pac4j will decode it keystore back, construct it again and will proceed. A GET operation is expected to return the keystore, and a POST operation will provide the keystore in the request body.

Please note that:

SAML2HttpClientBuilder httpClient = new SAML2HttpClientBuilder();

final SAML2Configuration config = new SAML2Configuration();
    new FileUrlResource(new URL("http://localhost:8081/saml")));

// Other Stuff...

return config;

3.2) Identity provider metadata resolution:

Resolution of identity provider metadata can also be controlled and overridden as shown below:

final SAML2MetadataResolver resolver = new CustomIdentityProviderSAML2MetadataResolver();
final SAML2Configuration config = new SAML2Configuration();

4) Logout

The SAML support handles the HTTP-POST and the HTTP-Redirect bindings for logout requests/responses (and the SOAP binding for incoming logout requests).

The SAML2Client can participate in the central logout and send a logout request to the IdP. The binding of this request is controlled by the spLogoutRequestBindingType property and the request can be signed using the spLogoutRequestSigned property of the SAML2Configuration.

The cleaning of the profiles and session is managed by the DefaultLogoutHandler. You may use your own logout handler by implementing the LogoutHandler interface and define it in the SAML configuration. By default at the last step of SP initiated logout user will see a blank page. It is possible to customize default pac4j behavior using the postLogoutURL property of the SAML2Configuration.

When called by the IdP, the SAML pac4j application removes the user profiles based on the logout handler and returns a logout response with a binding defined by the spLogoutResponseBindingType property (in the SAML2Configuration).

5) Authentication Attributes

The following authentication attributes are populated by this client:

6) ADFS subtleties

You must follow these rules to successfully authenticate using Microsoft ADFS 2.0/3.0.

a) Maximum authentication time

pac4j has the default maximum time set to 1 hour while ADFS has it set to 8 hours. Therefore it can happen that ADFS sends an assertion which is still valid on ADFS side but evaluated as invalid on the pac4j side.

You can see the following error message: org.pac4j.saml.exceptions.SAMLException: Authentication issue instant is too old or in the future

There are two possibilities how to make the values equal:

b) Java Cryptography Extension (JCE) Unlimited Strength Jurisdiction Policy Files

You must install the Java Cryptography Extension (JCE) Unlimited Strength Jurisdiction Policy Files into your JRE/JDK running pac4j. If you don’t do it, you may encounter errors like this:

ERROR [org.opensaml.xml.encryption.Decrypter] - <Error decrypting the encrypted data element> Illegal key size
ERROR [org.opensaml.xml.encryption.Decrypter] - <Failed to decrypt EncryptedData using either EncryptedData KeyInfoCredentialResolver or EncryptedKeyResolver + EncryptedKey KeyInfoCredentialResolver>
ERROR [org.opensaml.saml2.encryption.Decrypter] - <SAML Decrypter encountered an error decrypting element content>

Java Cryptography Extension (JCE) Unlimited Strength Jurisdiction Policy Files can be downloaded from Oracle’s Java Download site.

c) Disable Name Qualifier for format urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:nameid-format:entity

ADFS 3.0 does not accept NameQualifier when using urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:nameid-format:entity. For this reason, the parameter useNameQualifier in the SAML2Configuration must be set to false, which is the default value.

Integration with various IdPs


SimpleSAMLphp is a commonly used IdP. To integrate PAC4J with SimpleSAMLphp use the following steps as a start. Let’s assume a standard simpleSAMLphp install.

final SAML2Configuration cfg = new SAML2Configuration("resource:samlKeystore.jks",
 "resource:idp-metadata.xml"); //the id-metadata.xml contains IdP metadata, you will have to create this
 cfg.setServiceProviderEntityId("test.pac4j"); //the entityId of you client (the SP), you will usualy change this
 cfg.setServiceProviderMetadataPath(new File("sp-metadata.xml").getAbsolutePath()); //the metadata of the SP, no changes required usually
 final SAML2Client saml2Client = new SAML2Client(cfg);

SimpleSAMLphp config

Please note that pac4j requires the binding urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:bindings:HTTP-POST for both SingleSignOn and SingleLogout services while simpleSAMLphp is by default installed using only urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:bindings:HTTP-Redirect. It is required to add the bindings to the metadata/saml20-idp-hosted.php file:

'SingleSignOnServiceBinding' => array('urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:bindings:HTTP-Redirect', 'urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:bindings:HTTP-POST'),
'SingleLogoutServiceBinding' => array('urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:bindings:HTTP-Redirect', 'urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:bindings:HTTP-POST'),

It is also required to register the EntityID of your SP into the file metadata/saml20-sp-remote.php

$metadata['test.pac4j'] = array(
 'AssertionConsumerService' => 'http://localhost:8080/callback?client_name=SAML2Client',


SimpleSAMLphp exposes his IdP metadata on http://idp-domain/simplesamlphp/saml2/idp/metadata.php?output=xhtml. You can wrap this file in an additional <md:EntitiesDescriptor ... tag to generate the idp-metadata.xml file.

 <?xml version="1.0"?>
<md:EntitiesDescriptor xmlns:md="urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:metadata" xmlns:ds="">
    <md:EntityDescriptor entityID="http://idp-domain/simplesamlphp/saml2/idp/metadata.php">
      <md:IDPSSODescriptor protocolSupportEnumeration="urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:protocol">
        <md:KeyDescriptor use="signing">
          <ds:KeyInfo xmlns:ds="">
        <md:KeyDescriptor use="encryption">
          <ds:KeyInfo xmlns:ds="">
        <md:SingleLogoutService Binding="urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:bindings:HTTP-Redirect" Location="http://idp-domain/simplesamlphp/saml2/idp/SingleLogoutService.php"/>
        <md:SingleLogoutService Binding="urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:bindings:HTTP-POST" Location="http://idp-domain/simplesamlphp/saml2/idp/SingleLogoutService.php"/>
        <md:SingleSignOnService Binding="urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:bindings:HTTP-Redirect" Location="http://idp-domain/simplesamlphp/saml2/idp/SSOService.php"/>
        <md:SingleSignOnService Binding="urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:bindings:HTTP-POST" Location="http://idp-domain/simplesamlphp/saml2/idp/SSOService.php"/>

7) Custom OpenSAML Bootstrap

Behind the scenes, OpenSAML uses a singleton registry to hold its configuration (builders, marshallers, parsers, etc). While pac4j ships with generally sane defaults for this configuration (see org.pac4j.saml.util.Configuration$DefaultConfigurationManager), it might be useful for a developer to override this configuration.

Pac4j uses a Java service provider to find a configuration class and bootstrap the OpenSAML libraries. It will load all implementations of org.pac4j.saml.util.Configuration it can find on the classpath and use the one with the javax.annotation.Priority value.

To use a custom configuration, one must add a jar with the following to the classpath:

For more information, see []

8) SAML message store

A Message Store is an abstraction used by pac4j to track ongoing requests and incoming responses.


This implementation uses HttpSession as underlying dataStore.


This implementation uses Hazelcast as underlying dataStore.

It requires:

  1. the additional dependency: ```
com.hazelcast hazelcast ${hazelcast.version} true


  1. to pass an HazelcastInstance object to constructor