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SAML developer guide is a standard SAML identity provider, adhering to the Web Browser SSO Profile with enhancements for NIST 800-63-3.


Authentication request

To authenticate a user with, direct them to our authentication URL with a SAML authentication request as a GET param.

The `SAMLRequest` parameter is a url-encoded, base64-encoded, deflate-compressed XML payload of a

<samlp:AuthnRequest>:SAML_REQUEST = urlEncode(base64(deflate(payload)))

Note: We strongly encourage you to cryptographically sign authentication requests, unless there are technical limitations on your side that prevent this. In addition to providing increased security, this allows for seamless rotation of your application’s public certificate in the future. All signatures must use RSA SHA-256.

Specifying attributes and assurance levels

The <saml:AuthnContextClassRef> tags (nested under //samlp:AuthnRequest/samlp:RequestedAuthnContext/) specify the type of identity verification*, AAL (Authentication Assurance Level) and attributes requested.

A type of service level* must be specified.

    Basic identity assurance, does not require identity verification (this is the most common value).
    Requires that the user has gone through identity verification*

We default to requiring a user to be authenticated with a second factor:

  • urn:gov:gsa:ac:classes:sp:PasswordProtectedTransport:duo
    This specifies that a user has been authenticated with a second factor. This value will be returned in the user attributes by default. We do not allow strict AAL1, because it implies that a user did not authenticate with a second factor. This setting requires users to reauthenticate with a separate second factor (i.e. not a remembered device) once every 30 days at a minimum.

Stricter behavior can be specified by adding one of:

    This is the same as the default behavior except users must authenticate with a separate second factor (i.e. not a remembered device).
    This specifies that a user has been authenticated with a crytographically secure method, such as WebAuthn or using a PIV/CAC. Users must always authenticate with a second factor.
    This specifies that a user has been authenticated with an HSPD12 credential (requires PIV/CAC). Users must always authenticate with a second factor.

To request specific attributes, list them (comma-separated) as the query parameter for See the user attributes for the list of attributes that can be requested.

Example specifying IAL, AAL, and attributes

A proofed identity request at AAL2, with phishing resistent MFA, for email, phone, first name, last name, and SSN might look like:

<samlp:AuthnRequest ...>
  <!-- ... -->
  <samlp:RequestedAuthnContext Comparison='exact'>

These are not recommended, and only for legacy compatibility.

    Equivalent to IAL1
    Equivalent to identity verified account


If you need to pass any information about the request back to your application after the authentication process is complete (e.g. the path to direct the user to), you can include a RelayState query parameter with up to 80 bytes of information. This will be included in the response back to your application as per section 3.4.3 of the SAML 2.0 bindings spec.${SAML_REQUEST}&RelayState=${RELAY_STATE}

Language Selection

If you know that a user would prefer one of our alternative language translations (currently Spanish or French), you can include the locale parameter to specify the language should use (either es for Spanish or fr for French), e.g.:${SAML_REQUEST}&locale=es${SAML_REQUEST}

Authentication response

After the user authenticates, will redirect and POST a form back to your registered Assertion Consumer Service URL:

The SAMLResponse is a base64-encoded XML payload that contains encrypted data.

Next step: Logout

* continues to work toward achieving certification of compliance with NIST’s IAL2 standard from a third-party assessment organization.

Next step: Logout
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