Microsoft Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) isn’t the simplest SAML implementation to debug. When a new service provider (“relying party”) integration isn’t working, when configuring a new identity provider (“claims provider”), or just having issues with a particular user accessing a service, there is often little-to-no useful information within the default logs. That said, it’s relatively simple to lower the logging level:
Set Trace level and Enable the ADFS Tracing Log
Run command prompt as an administrator.
Type the following command:
wevtutilset-log“AD FS Tracing/Debug”/L:5
Open Event Viewer.
Right-click on Application and Services Logs.
Select View -> “Show Analytics and Debug Logs”
Navigate to Applications and Services Logs -> AD FS Tracing –> Debug.
Right-click and select “Enable Log” to start trace debugging immediately.
To stop tracing, similarly:
Follow Steps 1-6 above.
Right-click and select “Disable Log” to stop trace debugging. It is difficult to scroll and search in the events page by page in the debug log, so it is recommended that you save all debug events to a *.evtx file first.
Open the saved log again and observe that it now includes ADFS Tracing events.
Note: Trace/Debug logs in ADFS are very chatty… and should be used with discretion, and only for the duration of troubleshooting activity, on production servers.
Enable Object Access Auditing to See Access Data
To observe detailed information about access activities on the ADFS servers you must enable object access auditing in two locations on the ADFS servers:
To Enable Auditing:
On the primary ADFS server, right-click on Service.
Select the Success audits and Failure audits check boxes. These settings are valid for all ADFS servers in the farm.
To modify the Local Security Policy, do the following:
Right-click the Start Menu, and select ‘Run’
Type gpedit.msc and select ‘OK’
Navigate to Computer Configuration -> Windows Settings -> Security Settings -> Local Policies -> Audit Policy
In the policy list, right-click on Audit Object Access, and select ‘Properties’
Select the Success and Failure check boxes. These settings have to be enabled in the Local Security Policy on each ADFS server (or in an equivalent GPO that is set in Active Directory).
Open the security event logs on the ADFS servers and search for the timestamps that correspond to any testing or troubleshooting that is being conducted.
Need help debugging an ADFS issue? Contact us to discuss your needs. IDM Engineering is a team of dedicated, honest SSO support engineers that are standing by to help!
A frequent task for ADFS Identity Provider administration is onboarding a new Relying Party Trust and releasing to that relying party a particular set of attributes. Frequently, service providers will request a particular attribute take the form of a Name Identifier (NameID), formatted accordingly.
Name Identifiers are special attributes that come within the SAML <subject> element. For example,
Here, I’ve released an email address for my user with the format: urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:1.1:nameid-format:emailAddress. Let’s re-create the above SAML response <subject>.
Example: E-mail Address as NameID
For the remainder of this discussion, we’ll assume that you’ve configured a claims-aware relying-party trust within ADFS. We now want to configure a NameID to be released from a particular LDAP attribute. Here’s how we’ll achieve the above result with ADFS.
Note: These instructions should work for ADFS 2.0 and up.
From the ADFS Management Console, select Trust Relationships > Relying Party Trusts.
Highlight the relying party which you are trying to configure, and under Actions on the right hand side pane, select Edit Claim Rules.
Click Add Rule.
The default claim rule template is Send LDAP Attributes as Claims so you should select Next.
Give the rule a meaningful name. We’ll first be establishing a claim that we can later use to release the attribute with a particular format, so I’ve chosen to call this rule “Make Email Address Available for NameID“.
Select your attribute store, which will most likely be Active Directory.
Select the attribute that you wish to release as the NameID. Here I will select Email Addresses.
And select the outgoing claim type as E-mail Address.
Note: Do NOT select Name ID as the outgoing claim type here if you wish to specify the format. Selecting this will send the user’s name address as the Name ID, however, there will be no formatting information, i.e. <NameID>email@example.com</NameID> would appear within the <subject> element of the SAML Response.
Now, we’ll add a rule to Transform that claim into a properly formatted NameID. Select Add Rule once more from the Edit Claim Rules dialog.
And this time, change the Claim rule template: drop-down to Transform an Incoming Claim, then select Next.
Once again, give this rule a meaningful name, like “Transform Email to NameID“.
Select as the Incoming Claim Type whatever claim you chose to issue in the previous rule. In this case, that’s E-Mail Address.
Select Name ID as the outgoing claim type.
And now, you can specify the Name ID Format that you wish to use. The following table lists the Outgoing Name ID Format selections available within ADFS, and the corresponding format identifier URI that will appear within the SAML <subject>.
Bold entries represent the most commonly requested formats.
Cautionary Note About urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:1.1:nameid-format:unspecified
The urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:1.1:nameid-format:unspecified format is unique. Formally, this is what the Service Provider should list within their metadata if they do not care what Name ID Format an IdP uses. In practice, however, many IdP administrators assume that this specification in an SP’s metadata means that they are REQUIRED to release a NameID in this format. This is not the case.
It is because of this assumption, however, that ADFS allows one to release a Name ID in this format.
Persistent vs. Transient -or- Welcome to SAML 2.0
For a good discussion of the concepts behind Name Identifiers, see this post from the Shibboleth Wiki. In particular, name identifiers have a number of characteristics which define them, including:
Persistence – whether a given name id is intended to be used across many sessions.
Revocability – whether a given name id can be revoked.
Re-assignability – whether a given name id, once revoked, may be reassigned to a different subject.
Opaqueness – whether a relying party can positively identify the subject from a given name id.
Targetability – whether a given name id is intended for a specific relying party.
Portability – whether a given name id is usable across security domains.
Global – whether a given name id value is globally unique.
The SAML 2.0 spec therefore defines two primary formats:
A persistent, revocable, re-assignable, opaque, targeted and portable identifier.
A non-persistent, non-revocable, opaque, non-portable, non-targeted, global identifier.
which broadly encompass the whole of these Name IDs, and provide a broad basis for (importantly) opaque identifiers. Both NameIDs result in hashed values being sent, but one will always be different for every user and every session (transient), and the other will always be consistent for a given user and service. But importantly, neither will be easily associated to a given user based only on the Name ID value.