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Add Single Sign-On to Open Distro for Elasticsearch Kibana Using SAML and ADFS

Open Distro for Elasticsearch Security (Open Distro Security) comes with authentication and access control out of the box. Prior posts have discussed LDAP integration with Open Distro for Elasticsearch and JSON Web Token authentication with Open Distro for Elasticsearch.

Security Assertion Markup Language 2.0 (SAML) is an open standard for exchanging identity and security information with applications and service providers. Open Distro Security implements the web browser Single Sign On (SSO) profile of the SAML 2.0 protocol. This enables you to configure federated access with any SAML 2.0-compliant identity provider (IdP) – e.g. Microsoft Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS), Okta, Auth0, and AWS SSO. This integration is meant for use with web browsers only; it is not a general-purpose method of authenticating users. Its primary use case is to support Kibana single sign-on. In this post, we’ll talk about setting up SAML-based SSO using Microsoft ADFS.


User  Active Directory Group

Open Distro Security role

esuser1 ESAdmins all_access
esuser2 ESUsers readall
esuser3 N/A N/A

Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) configuration

ADFS federation occurs with the participation of two parties: the identity or claims provider (Active Directory in our case) and the relying party (Kibana in our case). SAML federation works by issuing and transforming claims between claims providers and relying parties. A claim is information about a user from a trusted source: the trusted source is asserting that the information is true, and that the source has authenticated the user in some manner. The claims provider is the source of the claim. The relying party (Kibana) is the destination for the claims.

Relying party

Configure Kibana as a relying party in ADFS:

1. From the ADFS Management Console, right-click ADFS and select Add Relying Party Trust.

Add relying party dialog box


2. In the Add Relying Party Trust Wizard, select ‘Claims aware’ and click Start.

Select claims aware


3. Next select the option – “Enter data about the relying party manually” and click Next.


Select data source


4. Add an appropriate display name and click Next.


Specify Display Name

5. In the URL configuration screen, tick the box to “Enable support for SAML 2.0 WebSSO protocol and enter this Kibana url as the Service URL:


Make sure to replace the kibana_base_url and kibana_port with your actual kibana configuration as noted in the prerequisites. In my setup this is :

Click Next.


Configure URL


6. Add a string for the Relying party trust identifier. You can choose any name here; for this demo, use kibana-saml. You will use this name in the Open Distro Security SAML config as the SP-entity-id.


Configure Identifiers


7. In the access control policy, you can permit everyone to access Kibana, or restrict to select groups. Note: this is only providing access for the users to authenticate into Kibana. We have not yet set up Open Distro Security roles and permission. The mapping from the user’s AD groups to Elasticsearch backend roles is below.


Choose Access control policy


8. In the next screen, review all the settings and click Finish to Add Kibana as a Relying Party Trust.


Click Finish

Claim rules

Subjects (i.e., usernames) are usually stored in the NameId element of a SAML response. We’ll create two claim rules, one for NameId (usernames) and another for Roles (group mappings).

Right Click Kibana from the Relying Party Trusts and select Edit Claim Issuance Policy…


Edit Claim Issuance policy

1. NameId

In the Edit Claim Issuance Policy dialog box, click Add Rule…

Select Transform an Incoming Claim as rule type and then click Next.

In the next screen, use the following settings:

  • Claim rule name: NameId
  • Incoming claim type: Windows Account Name
  • Outgoing claim type: Name ID
  • Outgoing name ID format: Unspecified
  • Pass through all claim values: checked

Click Finish.


Configure name id rule


2. Roles

In the Edit Claims issuance policy dialog box, click Add Rule…

Select Send LDAP Attributes as Claims as rule type and click Next.

In the next screen, use the following settings:

  • Claim rule name: Send-Group-as-Roles
  • Attribute Store: Active Directory
  • LDAP Attribute: Token-Groups – Unqualified Names (to select the group name)
  • Outgoing Claim Type: Roles. (This should match the “roles_key” defined in Open Distro Security’s config.)

Click Finish.


Configure Roles claim rule


Finally, download the SAML Metadata file from ADFS and copy to the Elasticsearch config directory. The ADFS metadata file can be accessed from https://<ADFS FQDN>/FederationMetadata/2007-06/FederationMetadata.xml

Configuring SAML in Open Distro Security

For a new setup, you can use plugins/opendistro_security/securityconfig/config.yml to update the SAML configuration details. In an established setup, make sure you retrieve the current Open Distro Security configuration from a running cluster and use those files to avoid losing any changes. For additional details on how to use, refer to the Open Distro for Elasticsearch documentation.

To use SAML for authentication, you need to configure an authentication domain in the authc section of config.yml. Since SAML works solely on the HTTP layer, you do not need any authentication_backend and can set it to noop. I recommend adding at least one other authentication domain, such as LDAP or the internal user database, to support API access to Elasticsearch without SAML. For Kibana and the internal Kibana server user, you also need to add another authentication domain that supports basic authentication. This authentication domain should be placed first in the chain, and the challenge flag must be set to false. Configuring multiple authentication mechanisms ensures that a single failure will not lock you out of the system.

My config is as below:

        http_enabled: true
        transport_enabled: true
        order: 0
          type: "basic"
          challenge: false
          type: "intern"
        http_enabled: true
        transport_enabled: false
        order: 1
          type: saml
          challenge: true
 idp: metadata_file: adfs.xml entity_id: sp: entity_id: kibana-saml kibana_url: roles_key: Roles exchange_key: 'AbCDefg123......' 
          type: noop

idp.metadata_file : The path to the SAML 2.0 metadata file of your IdP. Place the metadata file in the config directory of Open Distro for Elasticsearch. The path has to be specified relative to the config directory (you can also specify metadata_url instead of file).

idp.entity_id : This is the unique ID of your identity provider. You can find this ID in the SAML metadata:

SAML metadata entity id

sp.entity_id: This should match the “Relying Party identifier” in ADFS configuration.

kibana_url : The base URL of your Kibana installation that receives HTTP requests.

roles_key: The attribute in the SAML response where the roles are stored. You called your Claim type “Roles” in ADFS.

exchange_key: SAML, unlike other protocols, is not meant to be used for exchanging user credentials with each request. Open Distro Security trades the SAML response for a lightweight JSON web token that stores the validated user attributes. This token is signed by an exchange key that you can choose freely. The algorithm is HMAC256, so it should have at least 32 characters. Note that when you change this key all tokens signed with it will immediately become invalid.

Update Open Distro Security’s config

Now run to update the Open Distro Security’s config as shown below:

$ /usr/share/elasticsearch/plugins/opendistro_security/tools/ \
    -cacert /etc/elasticsearch/root-ca.pem \
    -cert /etc/elasticsearch/kirk.pem \ 
    -key /etc/elasticsearch/kirk-key.pem \
    -h <Cluster-IP-or-FQDN> \
    -f <Path-to-config>/config.yml -t config

Here I’m specifying the paths for the Root CA certificate (-cacert), Admin Certificate (-cert), and Admin Private Key (-key) files. The distinguished name (DN) of the Admin certificate needs to be configured in the elasticsearch.yml file under opendistro_security.authcz.admin_dn . I’m restricting this update to the config file by explicitly specifying the config file location.

Role mapping

You can map Open Distro Security roles to usernames, backend roles, and/or hosts. Backend roles are determined as part of the authentication and authorization process, and in our case this is the “Roles” Attribute values of the SAML response. My prior post on setting up LDAP integration for Open Distro for Elasticsear details how to configure the security roles and role mappings. I mapped my AD Group ESAdmins to Security role all_access and AD Group ESUsers to readall

Kibana role mappings

Kibana configuration

Since most of the SAML specific configuration is done in Open Distro Security, you can simply activate SAML in your kibana.yml by adding:

opendistro_security.auth.type: "saml"

In addition, you must whitelist the Kibana endpoint for validating the SAML assertions and the logout endpoint:

server.xsrf.whitelist: ["/_opendistro/_security/saml/acs", "/_opendistro/_security/saml/logout"]

In order to test your configuration, you must restart Kibana.

sudo systemctl restart kibana.service

Test logging in as different users

Navigate to https://<<kibana url>>:5601. You will be redirected to the ADFS login page:

ADFS login screen

As a read-write user esuser1

User esuser1 is part of the ESAdmins AD group and is mapped to the security role all_access. This user is allowed to perform read and write operations.

Add a document (succeeds as expected):


esuser1 create document result

Run a search query (succeeds as expected):


esuser1 search query result

As read-only user esuser2

User esuser2 is part of the ESUsers AD group and is mapped to the security role readall. This user is allowed to perform only read operations.

Create a document (fails as expected; esuser2 is not a member of a group that allows writing):


esuser2 create document result


Run a search query (succeeds, as expected):

esuser2 search query result

As user esuser3 – not in any groups

User esuser3 is not part of any AD groups and is not mapped to any security roles. This user is not allowed to perform any operations.

Run a search query (fails, as expected; esuser3 is not a member of any group):


esuser3 search query result


In this post, I covered SAML authentication for Kibana single sign on with ADFS. Please refer to the Open Distro for Elasticsearch documentation for additional configuration options for Open Distro Security configuration with SAML

Have an issue or question? Want to contribute? You can get help and discuss Open Distro for Elasticsearch on our forums. You can file issues here.

Jagadeesh Pusapadi

Jagadeesh Pusapadi

Jagadeesh Pusapadi is a Principal Solutions Architect for Amazon Web Services based in the UK. He is a quantum technologies enthusiast. He is passionate about helping customers build innovative solutions on AWS Cloud by providing architectural guidance. He also guides them to explore the world of quantum computing using Amazon Braket.