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· 15 min read
Sara Meneghetti

How to use SAML 2.0 protocol to access Salesforce

An effective way to gain access to a custom Salesforce domain by delegating credential control to Monokee is attaché to the saml 2.0 federation protocol.

In this use case, the user who wants to access Salesforce will not log in through a Salesforce form, but will be redirected to Monokee, which will take care of validating the credentials and communicating the data necessary for user identification to Salesforce, which will eventually log the user in.

The requirement illustrated above describes the context in which Monokee acts as an Identity Provider SAML 2.0, while Salesforce acts as a Service Provider SAML 2.0. Then, the former authenticates the user and provides the latter with the attributes necessary for it to be correctly identified and for it to access the service.

In the following article we explain how the proposed scenario can be put in place; therefore, the steps to be taken on the Salesforce side and the Monokee side in order to achieve a proper SAML 2.0 configuration related to the two providers will be explained.

Monokee Configurations

In order to get Monokee's domain and Salesforce's domain to communicate properly, you need to do three things on Monokee:

  • A Add a custom attribute where the user's identifier will be present on Salesforce
  • B Set up a SAML 2.0 identity provider that has the correct parameters to successfully work with Salesforce
  • C Configure a SAML 2.0 application with all the parameters related to Salesforce.

The first two points will be explained below, while the third will be discussed in more detail after the necessary Salesforce-side operations are explained.

A) Attribute to Identify the User on Salesforce

Salesforce allows the user to be identified in two different ways: using the email address used for login or with another attribute that allows the user to be uniquely identified within the custom domain.

In the article, the first case is explored, thus the use of the email address that the user enters when logging in.

It is therefore necessary for the Monokee side to have a custom attribute in which this field is saved for each user in the domain.

It is assumed that an attribute called SalesforceEmail exists for this purpose. Creating and valorizing this field for domain users is outside the scope of this article.

B) Setting up the Identity Provider on the Monokee side

The next stage is to configure the Identity Provider, let's see what steps are required to accomplish this.

  1. Navigate to your Monokee custom fully qualified domain name (FQDN) or if you haven't set up a custom FQDN, go to Monokee's default page and enter your domain ID. Then, enter your login credentials to access your account.

  2. Open the left sidebar and select SAML Providers from the menu.

  3. This will display a two-tab page, choose the IDENTITY PROVIDERS tab. Click the Add button located in the top right corner.

  4. Within the presented modal, in the General configuration section, enter the desired Name for your new provider, such as Salesforce IDP SAML 2.0. Leave all other settings unchanged.

IDP General Configuration
Figure 1 - IDP General Configuration
  1. For this use case, it is not necessary to specify values for Organization and Contact person, so you can leave the fields of the two reference sections empty.

  2. Salesforce supports sending signed Saml Requests, so the flag IDP requires signed authentication requests in Signing options section can be checked.

IDP Signing options
Figure 2 - IDP Signing options
  1. Load your PKCS1 Private Key and the corresponding Certificate in the Signature section. If you want you can generate this key-pair with the following openssl command:

    openssl req -x509 -sha256 -nodes -days 365 -newkey rsa:2048

    A series of information will be asked, here's an example:

    • Country Name: IT
    • State or Province Name: TN
    • Locality Name: Trento
    • Organization Name: Monokee
    • Organizational Unit Name: Monokee SAML 2.0
    • Common Name: 1f414952-d73b-4c79-a3cb-fb5d413fe5fe
    • Email Address:


    For the Common Name you can use the <provider_id> generated by the EntityID

    IDP General Configuration EntityID

    This command should output a certificate directly in the terminal and the private key will be placed in a file named privkey.pem. The private key will be in PKCS8 format so it must be converted to PKCS1 with the following command:

    openssl pkey -in privkey.pem -traditional

    The new private key will be displayed in the terminal output.

    Certificate Creation Output
    Figure 3 - Certificate Creation Output
  2. Left untouched the Single Sign-On Services and Single Logout services configurations.

IDP SSO and SLO Services
Figure 4 - IDP Single Sign-On Services and Single Logout services
  1. The Attributes section can be left empty, as Salesforce does not require any additional attributes other than the subject.
IDP Attributes Exposed
Figure 5 - IDP Attributes Exposed
  1. Click the bottom right Save button to save the configuration.

  2. Now click the button representing a cloud with a downward arrow to download the identity provider metadata file you just created. Upon clicking the button a modal will be opened, so download the file by pressing the Download button without flagging the Request signed metadata checkbox. The file you just downloaded will be needed for Salesforce side configurations.

IDP Metadata Download Icon
Figure 6 - IDP Metadata Download Icon
IDP Metadata Download Dialog
Figure 7 - IDP Metadata Download Dialog

Salesforce Configurations

Let's leave aside for a moment the configuration of the SAML 2.0 application on Monokee to complete the part about defining the service provider on the Salesforce side. These information will then be necessary for the creation of the application on Monokee.

Below is the procedure for importing the SAML 2.0 identity provider details just defined on Monokee to Salesforce and for downloading the SAML 2.0 service provider metadata that is associated with Salesforce.

  1. As a first step, access your Salesforce domain from the Current my Domain Url, which generally has the format https://<my-domain-name> You must use a user with an administrative role.
Salesforce Custom Domain login
Figure 8 - Salesforce Custom Domain login
  1. Once logged in, go to the Single Sign-On Settings section, which can be found in the left menu at the Settings > Identity > Single Sign-On Settings path.
Salesforce Single Sign-On Settings
Figure 9 - Salesforce Single Sign-On Settings

2a. If you are using the "Salesforce Classic" version instead of the "Lightning Experience" one, you can find the same entry by clicking on the Setup button in the upper right-hand corner and, from the left-hand menu that will have appeared, to the Administer > Security Controls > Single Sign-On Settings path.

Salesforce Classic Single Sign-On Settings
Figure 10 - Salesforce Classic Single Sign-On Settings
  1. From this screen you can upload the identity provider configuration previously created on Monokee. It is recommended to do so through the New from Metadata File button, uploading the metadata file downloaded as explained above.
Salesforce Import IDP Metadata File
Figure 11 - Salesforce Import IDP Metadata File
  1. After uploading the file as explained in the Salesforce form, click the Create button. You will be redirected to the configuration import summary page, here you need to give a Name and API Name for the configuration, e.g. Monokee, then click the Save button at the bottom to confirm the import.
Salesforce Import IDP Summary
Figure 12 - Salesforce Import IDP Summary
  1. Therefore, from the final summary pages, it is possible to download the service provider metadata related to the Salesforce configuration from the Download Metadata button. This file will be useful for creating the SAML application on Monokee.
Salesforce Download SP Metadata
Figure 13 - Salesforce Download SP Metadata
  1. Finally, you need to enable the identity provider you just uploaded for it to show up in the Salesforce domain login form. This will allow the user to choose from the login page whether to log in with the default form or to delegate the login to Monokee. To do this you need to access the Authentication Configuration menu area located at the Settings > My Domain > Authentication Configuration path if using the "Lightning Experience" version while at the Domain Management > My Domain > Authentication Configuration path if using the "Salesforce Classic" version. Here you need to click the Edit button, which in both cases will open a new page.
Salesforce Authentication Configuration Lightning Experience
Figure 14 - Salesforce Authentication Configuration Lightning Experience
Salesforce Authentication Configuration Classic Version
Figure 15 - Salesforce Authentication Configuration Classic Version

In the opened page Authentication Configuration the available Authentication Services will be displayed. Click the check for the newly added configuration Monokee and then the Save button.

Salesforce Authentication Service Addition
Figure 16 - Salesforce Authentication Service Addition

We now have all the necessary data to proceed with the creation of the SAML application on Monokee.

C) Create SAML 2.0 Application on the Monokee side

The last configuration to do before you can test Salesforce access via SAML 2.0 protocol is to create a saml application on Monokee. Following is the procedure to be performed:

  1. Navigate to your Monokee custom fully qualified domain name (FQDN) or if you haven't set up a custom FQDN, go to Monokee's default page and enter your domain ID. Then, enter your login credentials to access your account.

  2. Open the left sidebar and select Applications from the menu.

  3. This will display a list of applications. To create the application, click the Add button located in the top right corner of the table. Then, select SAML Application and click Add.

Add SAML 2.0 Application
Figure 17 - Add SAML 2.0 Application
  1. Monokee will open the General Configuration step.

  2. Set the Name of you application. For example Salesforce.

  3. Leave the URL parameter empty.

  4. Optionally, set a Description for your application, for example Salesforce SAML 2.0 integration.

  5. Leave the Hide this application from the application broker parameter unchecked, this will allow you to see the application in Monokee Application Broker.

  6. You can load an optional application icon using the Load From File or Load by URL options.

  7. Skip the Protect with flow configuration. In this way the default Authentication Flow will protect this app.

  8. Click Create to proceed to the SAML 2.0 specific configuration. You will be referred to the Service Provider Configuration step.

General Application Configuration
Figure 18 - General Application Configuration
  1. In the Service Provider metadata section you can load the Salesforce metadata previously downloaded. You can load it directly from Load from file input. This operation will automatically fill all the fields on this step.
Load Metadata from File
Figure 19 - Load Metadata from File
  1. Click Next to proceed to the Additional Configuration step.

  2. In the Additional Configuration section, in the Identity Provider select choose the identity provider created before Salesforce IDP SAML 2.0, in Signature algorithm choose the value and in Digest algorithm the value

  3. All the fields in Identity provider signing options can be checked.

IDP App Configuration
Figure 20 - IDP App Configuration
  1. Click Next to proceed to the last step Response Statement Configuration.

  2. In the Authentication statement options select urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:1.1:nameid-format:unspecified as Subject format and urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:cm:bearer as Subject confirmation method.

Subject Format and Confirmation Method
Figure 21 - Subject Format and Confirmation Method
  1. In the Subject mapping rule you must specify the attribute to be mapped with the subject. To do so, follow the steps:
    • Click the pencil icon next to subject label
    • Click the Add button, a dialog will appear
    • In the Value select present in the dialog choose the attribute SalesforceEmail
    • Click the Add button in the dialog
Subject Rule Configuration
Figure 22 - Subject Rule Configuration
  1. You can left the Attribute statement section empty.

  2. Click the bottom right corner Create button to save the configuration.

You can now associate the newly created application with the users and groups for which you need to grant access to the application.

Time to test the configuration

It is now time to test the configuration made.

As a first step, we need to value the SalesforceEmail attribute for all users who are to have access to the application. For testing purposes, you can first do this with your own user. The value of the attribute must match the email of one of the users in the Salesforce domain that you have federated.

We are going to test the configuration in both the IDP initiated and SP initiated scenarios.

IDP Initiated SSO

In the IDP initiated scenario, the login flow starts from the Identity Provider, so in this case from Monokee. Then go to your application broker and click on the card for the Salesforce application you just created.

Salesforce IDP Initiated login
Figure 23 - Salesforce IDP Initiated login

The click will cause a new browser tab to open where the SAML 2.0 IDP Initiated login flow will be initiated, after which you will be redirected to the home page of the configured Salesforce domain.

SP Initiated SSO

On the other hand, to test the sp initiated flow you must go to the login page of your Salesforce domain, at the url https://<my-domain-name> Here, in addition to the classic domain login form, a button should have appeared asking if you want to log in through Monokee.

Salesforce SP Initiated login
Figure 24 - Salesforce SP Initiated login

Clicking on this button will start the SP initiated login flow which will first authenticate the user according to the chosen security flow and then send back to the home page of the configured salesforce domain.

If you want to log in to the Salesforce custom domain using only Monokee via Saml protocol, you can do so by navigating to the Authentication Configuration page on Salesforce and disable access via Login Form by unchecking the relevant item and clicking Save.

Salesforce disable Login Form
Figure 25 - Salesforce disable Login Form

By so doing, the Salesforce custom domain login page will automatically redirect to Monokee for login without displaying the classic login form.