Identity Provider Initiated SSO Flow

In this session we will talk Salesforce As Identity provider(IP). Allows an identity provider (IDP) to redirect to a service provider (SP) with a SAML assertion which confirms their identity and allows for automatic login.

NOTE: The system that authenticates users is called an identity provider. The system that trusts the identity provider for authentication is called the service provider

Basic requirements

  • Participating systems support SAML 2.0 protocols and up to date recommended security countermeasures
  • Certificate and entity ID from IDP configured in SP
  • SAML ACS URL and entity ID from SP configured in IDP
  • Does not require my domain

What else to know

  • Most setup considerations similar to SP-initiated flow
  • One key difference…
    • No request (assertions are unsolicited)
    • Therefore In ResponseTo attribute not set
    • So SP cannot guarantee that assertion was supplied by the user who is authenticated
    • Presents a risk of assertion theft or substitution where IDP is susceptible to CSRF
  • Man-in-the-Middle attack
  • Some mitigations can be made in the SP – no replays; accept only recent assertions; do not allow open redirects

Diagram source:

Considerations for choosing IDP-Initiated SSO

Don’t use unless you have to (and accept the security risk!)

  • Legacy IDPs which don’t support SP-initiated SAML
  • Scenarios where my domain is not practical
  • Some canvas apps using SAML SSO

Other general considerations of SP-initiated SAML also apply


YouTube video

Identity Provider-Initiated SAML Flow

In an identity provider-initiated login flow, a SAML request is unnecessary because the identity provider starts the flow with a SAML response. An identity provider-initiated flow is a shortened version of a service provider-initiated flow. Here’s how this flow works:

  1. The user logs in to the identity provider.
  2. The user clicks a button or link to access the service provider.
  3. The identity provider initiates login by sending a cryptographically signed SAML response to the service provider. The SAML response contains a SAML assertion that tells the service provider who the user is.
  4. The service provider validates the signature in the SAML response and identifies the user.
  5. The user is now logged in to the service provider.

Further Learning

Amit Chaudhary
Amit Chaudhary

Amit Chaudhary is Salesforce Application & System Architect and working on Salesforce Platform since 2010. He is Salesforce MVP since 2017 and have 17 Salesforce Certificates.

He is a active blogger and founder of Apex Hours.

Articles: 460

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