Citrix ADC (NetScaler) as a SAML IDP and SAML SP

last update: 2019/09/05
Tested with NetScaler 11, Citrix ADC 12.1 and 13.0

I needed to use a Citrix ADC (NetScaler) both, as a SAML identity provider (IDP) and service provider (SP). So I set up my test environment accordingly.

What my test environment looked like:


You see, I created two admin partitions on my Citrix NetScaler ADC, one for the service provider (SP partition), cotaining both, the SAML SP and a web server, and one for my identity provider (IDP partition), containing the IDP.

I used this partitions to emulate “2 different Citrix ADCs / NetScalers” as it does not make sense to have both, SAML-SP and SAML-IDP in the same data center (you could do conventional LDAP/RADIUS/TACACS authentication instead).

You may try using my configuration. Just surf to https://sp.josel.net. It will forward you to https://idp.josel.net (my IDP). Use test both, as username and password. You’ll then get forwarded back to the SP. I’d suggest doing your experiments using FireFox and SAML Tracer plugin (there is a similar plugin for Chrome). This will give you good insight into SAML assertions. All Policies are displayed and discussed here.

You may download the original Citrix ADC (NetScaler) configuration for both, IDP and SP partition from here.

There is some chance for certs to be outdated as I don’t put much effort into this. The Saml IDP only does local authentication and will then forward to the SP showing content of www.norz.at.


How SAML works:

In Saml the ressource (SP, Service Provider, so the web-site needing authentication) uses an external withness (IDP, Identity Provider) to handle user logon. They send messages called assertions.

Of course it’s a bit hard to make sure the IDP is the desired, trustworthy, one. Same for the IDP, it’s hard to find out wether the SP requestiong authentiocation is a trustworthy one. Trust is created using certificates.

So a user connects to a resource (SAML SP). If the user had not been authenticated before, he gets gets forwarded to the logon server, the so called SAML-IDP. The SAML-IDP does the authentication.

After successful authentication, the SAML-IDP forwards the user back to the SAML-SP, also sendig the so called assertion, the prove this user was authenticated successfully. You could think of an assertion like a man’s ID card. As soon as the SAML-SP has checked the assertion, it forwards the user to the resource.

SAML-SP and resource are always located on the same Citrix NetScaler, the SAML-IDP is usually located “somewhere else on the internet”.


Certificates

SAML uses certificates to establish trust between SAML-SP and SAML-IDP.

The SAML-SP uses a server certificate to sign it’s assertion (message) sent to the IDP. So the IDP needs to own the SP’s certificate (not it’s private key!). These certificates usually are private, not trusted ones.

The SAML-IDP also uses a certificate to sign (and encrypt) the assertion. This certificate (again: not the private key) has to be present on the SAML-SP, so the SAML-SP is able to decrypt and validate the assertion. Trust is established by providing the certificate. This certificate may be a self-signed one (that’s what Microsoft does with ADFS)

It’s possible to use the same certificates for both, SSL between client and SAML-IDP / SAML-SP, and to prove identity, however I would rather use private (and therefore more trustworthy) certificates to prove identity. In my setup I use the let’s encrypt certs for AAA-servers and selfsigned ones to establish SAML trust.

In my example I use following certificates:

SP.josel.net (my serviceprovider)

sp_signing_cert_privateKey selfsigned SP’s signing key. It has a private key
idp_signing_cert selfsigned IDP’s signing key. No private key here!
sp.josel.net valid on internet SP’s SSL certificate (for HTTPS)

idp.josel.net (my IDP)

idp_signing_cert_privateKey selfsigned IDP’s signing key. It has a private key
sp_signing_cert selfsigned SP’s signing key. No private key here!
idp.josel.net valid on internet IDP’s SSL certificate (for HTTPS)

Cirtix ADC / NetScaler as a SAML Service Provider (SAML-SP)

A Citrix ADC / NetScaler may be a SAML identity provider for any SAML service provider. An other Citrix ADC / NetScaler may be the service provider, but also services like Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Office 365, Citrix Sharefile and many more may use a Citrix ADC as an authentication source.

In my example I just created a simple load-balancing vServer and added authentication to it. There is nothing special about it, in fact I used my test server (a description might be found there).

add service svc_HTTP 192.168.0.1 HTTP 80
add lb vserver lb_vsev_sp SSL 192.168.0.100 443 -AuthenticationHost idp.josel.net -Authentication ON -authnVsName SAML_SP
bind lb vserver lb_vsev_sp svc_HTTP
bind ssl vserver lb_vsev_sp -certkeyName sp.josel.net
set ssl vserver lb_vsev_sp -ssl3 DISABLED -tls13 ENABLED

The Citrix ADC / NetScaler SAML Authentication policy

The NetScaler SAML Service provider action (SAML-SP)

GUI: Navigate to:

Security → AAA-Application Traffic  → Policies → Authentication → Basic Policies →  SAML

With SAML Actions click Add.

Nitrix ADC / NetScaler SAML serverdefinition for SAML SP

add authentication samlAction saml_sp_server -samlIdPCertName idp_signing_cert -samlSigningCertName sp_signing_cert_privateKey -samlRedirectUrl "https://idp.josel.net/saml/login" -samlUserField "Name ID" -samlIssuerName josel.net_SP
add authentication Policy SAML_SP_pol -rule true -action saml_sp_server

IDP Certificate Name* SAML IDP’s certificate (we need to own it, but we don’t own it’s private key)
Redirect URL* The URL of the SAML IDP in use, if IDP is a NetScaler: /saml/login
User Field User Name in assertion, if IDP is a NetScaler this is Name ID
Signing Certificate Name a certificate used to sign the SAML assertion (a normal server certificate. We own a private key!)
IDP Certificate Name the certificate used by the IDP to sign the SAML assertion (a normal server certificate. We don’t own a private key!)
Issuer Name an ID for this SP.
Every SP needs it’s own definition on IDP and this ID is used to match the right definition

The Citrix ADC / NetScaler SAML Service provider policy

GUI: Navigate to:

Security → AAA-Application Traffic  → Policies → Authentication → Advanced Policies →  SAML

Citrix NetScaler: SAML authentication service provider (SP) policy
add authentication Policy SAML_SP_pol -rule true -action saml_sp_server


The SAML Service Provider (SAML-SP) Authentication vServer.

creating a Service Provider on Citrix NetScaler
Click add
Citrix NetScaler as a SAML authentication server
Provide name and IP (port is usually 443, protocol is SSL and can’t be changed)
binding a certificate
bind a server certificate (this one gets exposed to users, so it has to be trusted!)
Citrix NetScaler VPX: binding a SAML SP policy
bind the authentication policy you previously created

add authentication vserver SAML_SP SSL 0.0.0.0
set ssl vserver SAML_SP -ssl3 DISABLED -tls13 ENABLED
bind authentication vserver SAML_SP -policy SAML_SP_pol -priority 100 -gotoPriorityExpression NEXT


Citrix ADC / NetScaler as a SAML Identity Provider (SAML IDP)

A Citrix ADC / NetScaler may also get used as a SAML Identity Provider (SAML-IDP). This allows to authenticate to any authentication source like LDAP, RADIUS, Certificates, TACACS, local, Negotiate, O-Auth, SAML, WebAuth, EPA. In my example I do Citrix ADC / NetScaler local authentication.

Citrix NetScaler ADC is a perfect SAML IDP, a replacement for Microsoft ADFS, both more secure and simpler, to authenticate to Azure and Office 365. There is a Blog by Manuel Wikel, both in German and English, about that subject.


Creating the a SAML Identity Provider Policy (SAML IDP)

Creating the a SAML Identity Provider Action (Saml IDP Action) on a Citrix ADC / NetScaler

Navigate to:

Security → AAA-Application Traffic  → Policies → Authentication → Advanced Policies →  SAML IDP. Go to Profiles.

Click Add.


add authentication samlIdPProfile SAML_IDP_profile -samlSPCertName sp_signing_cert -samlIdPCertName idp_signing_cert_privateKey -assertionConsumerServiceURL "https://sp.josel.net/cgi/samlauth" -samlIssuerName josel.net_IDP -serviceProviderID josel.net_SP

 

 

Assertion Consumer Service URL The logon-URL of the Service provider, called consumer (if it’s a Citrix ADC / NetScaler: https://FQFN/cgi/samlauth)
IDP Certificate Name Certificate used to digitally sign the assertion (a normal server certificate, we own the private key)
SP Certificate Name Certificate used by the service provider, so it can be trusted (IDP does not need to own the private key)
Issuer Name an ID of the SAML Identity Provider (this SAML IDP’s name). It would be used if SP trusts several IDPs
Service Provider ID an ID of the SAML Service Provider
Each SAML service provicer needs to have it’s own ID IDP profile, so there may be many profiles. This ID is used to find the right definition.
(this is an optional parameter and not used in my deployment!)

The SAML-IDP policy

Citrix NetScaler: a SAML IDP Policy
add authentication samlIdPPolicy saml_IDP_Policy -rule true -action saml_idp


The authentication policy

I don’t go into authentication policies here. Just follow Citrix bast practices, there are many guides out there. I created a policy similar to CTX113820.

add authentication Policy local_auth -rule true -action LOCAL
bind authentication vserver aaa_vsrv_test -policy local_auth -priority 100 -gotoPriorityExpression NEXT


The SAML Identity Provider (SAML-IDP) Authentication vServer.

Citrix NetScaler: creating a SAML IDP server
click add
Citrix NetScaler as a SAML IDP
provide name, IP address and port, usually 443 (the protocol can’t get changed)
binding a certificate
bind a server certificate. This one gets exposed to the user, the user has to trust this certificate!
Bind authentication methodes
bind an authentication method and a SAML IDP policy
NetScaler SAML IDP: Binding the IDP policy
select both, the IDP and the authentication policy

add authentication vserver aaa_vsrv_test SSL 192.168.1.1 443
set ssl vserver aaa_vsrv_test -ssl3 DISABLED -tls13 ENABLED
bind authentication vserver aaa_vsrv_test -policy samlIdPPolicy -priority 100 -gotoPriorityExpression END
bind authentication vserver aaa_vsrv_test -policy local_auth -priority 100 -gotoPriorityExpression NEXT


Trouble shooting

I used following tools:

Citrix NetScaler’s log (Yes, there is a log on a NetSaler and SAML issues get logged there! You look at /var/log/ns.log)

FireFox add-on SAML-Message Decoder (also available for Chrome)

Citrix NetScaler Network traces

Issues:

I have seen several issues recently:

SAML-SP fails to forward to SAML-IDP

detected: error in browser

check settings on in SAML-SP’s SAML Authentication action: Redirect URL

SAML-IDP fails to forward to SAML-SP

detected: error in browser

check settings on in SAML-IDP’s SAML-IDP Authentication action: Assertion Consumer Service URL

Certificate not trusted on SAML-IDP

detected: confusing message in browser, log in IDP’s /var/log/ns.log

add SAML-SP’s signing certificate to SAML-IDP’s SAML-IDP profile: SP-Certificate Name


I hope. that helps. Just drop me a message if you need more information. You’re very much welcome to link to my blog / my website. Thanks!

4 thoughts on “Citrix ADC (NetScaler) as a SAML IDP and SAML SP

  1. Ronald

    Thanks! With your post I could implement SSO between different Netscalers using SAML SP en IDP! What do you think about using an attribute for storing the password between IDP en SP? That way you can login with username and password from the IDP to the SP load balancer and than SSO tot the back-end servers.

    There are a few things not correct in the pictures and the corresponding CLI lines. For example “add authentication vserver SAML_SP SSL 0.0.0.0”. The picture had 192.168.0.4 in it..

    But great article.. Helped me lot!

    Reply
    1. Johannes Norz Post author

      Great to hear it was of use to you! Thanks to let me know (blogging sometimes feels like communication to /dev/NULL)

      You could use an attribute to store the password in it. Sure. Problem here: Usually IDP and SP don’t really trust each other. So it’s not a technical problem but an organizational problem.

      About pictures: They are in a very old state. I have to update pictures (same as command line, I now have better ones). I will do soon after my holidays, probably in May.

      Reply
  2. jennifer

    I am getting the below error:SAML Assertion verification failed; Please contact your administrator

    I am seeing the following errors in the ns.log:
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21175 0 : “parsing end of tag /saml:SubjectConfirmationData> ”
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21176 0 : “subjectConfData end tag seen, remaining data: ></ "
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21177 0 : “parsing end of tag /saml:SubjectConfirmation></sa "
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21178 0 : “parsing end of tag /saml:Subject><saml:Conditions "
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21179 0 : “ns_aaa_saml_parse_assertion: parsing the begg tag: Conditions NotBefore=”2019-07- ”
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21180 0 : “ns_aaa_saml_parse_assertion: Parsed Conditions tag remaining data: “>https://lb.jenny.lab</saml:AudienceRestri "
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21181 0 : “ns_aaa_saml_parse_assertion: parsing the begg tag: AudienceRestriction><saml:Audi "
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21182 0 : “ns_aaa_saml_parse_assertion: parsing the begg tag: Audience>https://lb.jenny.lab&lt; "
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21183 0 : “SAML: ParseAssertion: Audience parsed is https://lb.jenny.lab
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21184 0 : “parsing end of tag /saml:AudienceRestriction></sa "
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21185 0 : “parsing end of tag /saml:Conditions><saml:AuthnSt "
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21186 0 : “ns_aaa_saml_parse_assertion: parsing the begg tag: AuthnStatement AuthnInstant=”2 ”
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21187 0 : “ns_aaa_saml_parse_assertion: Parsed AuthnStatement tag remaining data: “>urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:ac:classes:PasswordProte ”
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21188 0 : “ns_aaa_saml_parse_assertion: parsing the begg tag: AuthnContext><saml:AuthnContex "
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21189 0 : “ns_aaa_saml_parse_assertion: parsing the begg tag: AuthnContextClassRef>urn:oasis ”
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21190 0 : “parsing end of tag /saml:AuthnContextClassRef></s "
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21191 0 : “parsing end of tag /saml:AuthnContext></saml:Auth "
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21192 0 : “parsing end of tag /saml:AuthnStatement></saml:As "
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21193 0 : “parsing end of tag /saml:Assertion> ”
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21194 0 : “assertion end tag seen, remaining data: ”
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21195 0 : “SAML: Assertion is signed, trying to verify”
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21196 0 : “SAML verify digest: digest algorithm SHA1, input for digest: https://idp.jenny.labjennyhttps://lb.jenny.lab<sa
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21197 0 : “SAML signature validation: algorithm is RSA-SHA1 input buffer is: eYO2zVdDWsF71LywZg5yOhbAzBM=”
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21198 0 : “Error while trying to verify the signature”
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21199 0 : “Verification of SAML assertion resulted in failure 917511 ”
    Jul 4 15:12:58 10.110.159.137 07/04/2019:15:12:58 GMT 0-PPE-0 : default AAATM Message 21200 0 : “AAATM Error Handler: Found extended error code 917511, ReqType 16388 request /cgi/samlauth, cookie hdr “

    Reply

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