You may already know that a Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Website can be configured for a number of authentication types:
- Windows Authentication (NTLM, Kerberos, Anonymous, Basic and Digest)
- Forms-based authentication (LDAP, SQL and Custom membership and role providers).
But what do you do if you want stronger authentication for your SharePoint site or maybe provide your SP users with Self-Service Password Management (SSPM). The good news is that SharePoint 2010 can also be configured for Claims Based (or SAML Token) authentication which expands the options available to include the options provided by the authentication mechanism used by the SAML Identity Provider (IdP) submitting the claims. Claims-based authentication allows for a website or application to request a SAML token from a third party IdP. The IdP now has the responsibility of authenticating the user before generating and returning the SAML token. This allows the additional authentication features of the IdP to be shared by the SharePoint web site.
Let’s say you are interested in providing Two Factor Authentication (2FA) for your SharePoint users as well as allowing them SSPM. Let’s also say that you have a SAML IdP that uses a proprietary authentication service which provides 2FA and SSPM to the user’s in the repository. The trick now is to allow SharePoint to take advantage of the IdP’s features.
SharePoint 2010 can be integrated with a third party IdP to request a SAML token for the authentication of a website user. Configuration changes must take place on the SharePoint side as well as the IdP. The SharePoint web site is configured to use the SAML protocol to send a SAML request to the IdP. On the IdP, a Relying Party Trust for the SharePoint site must be created/specified. In addition to identifying the SharePoint web site in the Relying Party, claims (attributes about the user) are also specified. These claims are sent to the SP site within the SAML token. The SAML token lets the site know that the user is authenticated and the claims are used by the site to determine whether or not that user has access to the requested website resource. Don’t forget, a user can be authenticated, but still not have access to all of the resources on the site.
This is all great you say, but I was promised 2FA and SSPM for my users. Where do these features fit into the integration? Well, remember that the IdP has to first authenticate the user before it will generate and deliver the SAML token. The IdP is employing a third party authentication appliance that supports the 2FA and SSPM while the user is authenticating.
So, whether you have an IdP in place or not, configuring SharePoint to authenticate with features not natively provided by SharePoint can be achieved without too much trouble. Either put an IdP in place or use your existing IdP to enhance the security and usability of your SharePoint user’s experience.