Releasing NameID with a Specified Format

Releasing NameID with a Specified Format

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,

    <NameID Format="urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:1.1:nameid-format:emailAddress">
    <SubjectConfirmation Method="urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:cm:bearer">
        <SubjectConfirmationData InResponseTo="_31dde5dfce9c812303ed02d73fb382e9"
                                 Recipient="" />

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.

  1. From the ADFS Management Console, select Trust Relationships > Relying Party Trusts.
  2. Highlight the relying party which you are trying to configure, and under Actions on the right hand side pane, select Edit Claim Rules.
  3. Click Add Rule.
  4. The default claim rule template is Send LDAP Attributes as Claims so you should select Next.
  5. 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“.
  1. Select your attribute store, which will most likely be Active Directory.
  2. Select the attribute that you wish to release as the NameID. Here I will select Email Addresses.
  3. 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></NameID> would appear within the <subject> element of the SAML Response.

  1. Click Finish.
  2. 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.
  3. And this time, change the Claim rule template: drop-down to Transform an Incoming Claim, then select Next.
  4. Once again, give this rule a meaningful name, like “Transform Email to NameID“.
  5. Select as the Incoming Claim Type whatever claim you chose to issue in the previous rule. In this case, that’s E-Mail Address.
  1. Select Name ID as the outgoing claim type.
  2. 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>.
Outgoing NameID FormatFormat Identifier URI
Common Name
X.509 Subject Nameurn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:1.1:nameid-format:X509SubjectName
Windows Qualified Domain Nameurn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:1.1:nameid-format:WindowsDomainQualifiedName
Kerberos Principal Nameurn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:nameid-format:kerberos
Entity Identifierurn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:nameid-format:entity
Persistent Identifierurn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:nameid-format:persistent
Transient Identifierurn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:nameid-format:transient

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:

PersistentA persistent, revocable, re-assignable, opaque, targeted and portable identifier.
TransientA 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.