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A SAML-authenticating HTTPS reverse proxy using Shibboleth


This repository builds a Docker container image that acts as an HTTPS reverse proxy in front of a web application. The proxy authenticates a visitor using SAML, and passes the username and group memberships to the web application as HTTP headers:

  • X-Forwarded-User: Contains the eppn attribute value for the user

  • X-Forwarded-Groups: Contains the isMemberOf attribute values for the user, separated by semicolons

IMPORTANT: To prevent visitors from spoofing the HTTP headers, you MUST ensure that your web application only allows incoming requests from the reverse proxy, or otherwise that it doesn't accept the headers above from any clients except the reverse proxy. A typical configuration would be to run the proxy as a sidecar container to your web application, such that all HTTP(S) requests must flow through the proxy.

Quick Start

To try the container in a test environment:

  1. Change to the tests directory, and bring up the proxy service and its dependencies from docker-compose.yml:

    cd tests
    docker-compose up -d proxy
  2. Update /etc/hosts to add and as aliases for localhost:

    # /etc/hosts  localhost
  3. In a web browser, visit You should be redirected to the test IdP at

  4. In the IdP login form, use banderson for the username, and password for the password.

  5. After logging in, you should see a PHP information page. Under the "HTTP Headers Information" heading, yous should see the following headers set:

    Header Value
    X-Forwarded-Groups cn=developers,ou=Groups,dc=internet2,dc=edu;cn=users,ou=Groups,dc=internet2,dc=edu
  6. When finished, shut down the services from docker-compose.yml:

    docker-compose down


The container expects several environment variables at runtime. See tests/docker-compose.yml for a working example. In a production environment, these variables would be set by your orchestration system (for example, AWS Elastic Container Service or Kubernetes), and sensitive information (such as private keys) would be stored securely (for example, using AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store, AWS Secrets Manager, or HashiCorp Vault).

Required Variables

(Note: To establish trust with the IdP, you must either specify SAML_IDP_METADATA, or specify SAML_IDP_METADATA_URL and SAML_IDP_SIGNING_CERT.)

  • FRONT_HTTPS_PORT: Set this to the canonical front-end HTTPS port, to ensure that URLs are constructed correctly. (This may be different from HTTPS_PORT, if the proxy is behind a load balancer or another HTTPS proxy.)

  • FRONT_HOSTNAME: Set this to the canonical, fully-qualified domain name for the proxy, for example "". (This may be different from the proxy's hostname, if the proxy is behind a load balancer or another HTTPS proxy.)

  • HTTPS_PORT: The port on which the proxy should listen for HTTPS connections

  • SAML_ENCRYPTION_CERT: A base-64 encoded SAML encryption certificate, beginning with "-----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----"

  • SAML_ENCRYPTION_KEY: The base-64 encoded private key for SAML_ENCRYPTION_CERT, beginning with "-----BEGIN PRIVATE KEY-----"

  • SAML_ENTITYID: The SAML entity ID for the proxy, for example ""

  • SAML_IDP_ENTITYID: The SAML entity ID for a trusted SAML identity provider or SAML proxy, for example ""

  • SAML_IDP_METADATA (Optional): SAML metadata for SAML_IDP_ENTITYID; should include a single <EntityDescriptor> element. Required if SAML_IDP_METADATA_URL is not set.

  • SAML_IDP_METADATA_URL (Optional): URL from which to retrieve the IdP metadata file. Required if SAML_IDP_METADATA is not set.

  • SAML_IDP_SIGNING_CERT (Optional): The base-64 encoded SAML signing certificate used to verify the IdP metadata signature, beginning with "-----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----". Required if SAML_IDP_METADATA_URL is set.

  • SAML_SIGNING_CERT: A base-64 encoded SAML signing certificate beginning with "-----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----"

  • SAML_SIGNING_KEY: The base-64 encoded private key for SAML_SIGNING_CERT, beginning with "-----BEGIN PRIVATE KEY-----"

  • TLS_CERT: A base-64 encoded TLS server certificate used for HTTPS connections, beginning with "-----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----"

  • TLS_PRIVATE_KEY: The base-64 encoded private key for TLS_CERT, beginning with "-----BEGIN RSA PRIVATE KEY-----"

Optional Variables

  • HTTPD_ARGS: Additional arguments to be passed to httpd by supervisord. If the proxy is behind a load balancer or another HTTP proxy, set this to "-DProxied"

  • TIER_BEACON_OPT_OUT: Opt out of reporting telemetry to Internet2 (from the tier/shibboleth_sp base container image). Set to "true" or "false".