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Overview

Telescope uses a cookie based, single sign on (SSO) authentication flow. You can find an excellent high-level overview of how this works in the Single-Page App Authentication Using Cookies article.

The general idea is that users click a "login" link in Telescope, and are redirected to an identify provider, where they enter username and password. The identity provider sets cookies in the browser if the login is successful, and the user is redirected back to Telescope. At this point, the Telescope backend can check for user information via cookies, and allow or deny access to certain features, pages, or routes.

In our backend server, we use the Passport node authentication middleware with a SAML2 Passport authentication strategy.

In our frontend app, we use Next.js routes, and communicate with the backend server to get logged-in user information.

Using Passport

If you need to secure a route in our backed Express web server, you can take advantage of the existing SAML Passport setup. For example, to deny unauthenticated access to a page at a particular route, you can do the following:

// You'll need access to passport
const passport = require('passport');

// Use the passport.authenticate() middleware, using 'saml' as the strategy
router.use('/secure/route', passport.authenticate('saml'), (req, res) => {
// Only authenticated users can get here. The `user` info
// is available on the req Object.
const user = req.user;
});

If you need to protect an HTTP REST API route, use the protect (regular users) or protectAdmin (admin users) middleware from src/backend/web/authentication.js.

Running an SSO Identity Provider

We use a test SAML SSO provider via a docker image. You can read more about how it works here.

To get this to run locally, you need to update your .env. Copy env.example if you don't have one, and the default values should work.

  1. Start the backend apps using docker-compose up -–build. This will build the SAML2 server that is being used as a local service for testing purposes, and Telescope (express). From there, you should be able to click on the login button at http://localhost:3000/ that will redirect you to the proper login page.
note

If running Elasticsearch or Redis natively, please avoid using docker-compose up --build and instead use docker-compose up login to start the SAML2 server for testing. This will avoid any issues with duplicate services of Redis and Elasticsearch started by docker-compose up --build.

  1. The test SSO server uses the following fake user accounts defined in simplesamlphp-users.php:
UsernamePasswordNameEmail
user1user1passJohannes Kepleruser1@example.com
user2user2passGalileo Galileiuser2@example.com
LippersheyHtelescopeHans LippersheyHansLippershey@example.com