38.6 Mapping Federation Authentication Methods to Access Manager Authentication Schemes

A Federation Authentication Method (FAM) is an identifier representing an authentication mechanism in Federation messages.

This identifier can either be well known (such as the identifiers defined in the SAML specifications like urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:ac:classes:PasswordProtectedTransport or urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:1.0:am:password) or it can be an arbitrary identifier agreed upon between the two communicating partners.

In its responsibilities as an IdP, Identity Federation generates an Assertion (SAML or OpenID) that might contain information on how the user was authenticated. During the Assertion generation process, the IdP will retrieve the Authentication Scheme with which the user was authenticated and attempt to map it to a FAM. If such a mapping exists, the IdP will include the FAM in the outgoing Assertion. If no mapping exists, the IdP will include the defined Authentication Scheme as the FAM in the Assertion.


Session attributes can be used in proxy mode when a mapping is not defined. Identity Federation (when acting as an IdP) can use session attributes for the FAM value when creating the assertion, if both protocols are equivalent.

Table 38-10 lists the default, out-of-the-box mappings between FAMs and Access Manager Authentication Schemes.

Table 38-10 Default Federation Authentication Method and Access Manager Authentication Scheme Mappings

Protocol Mapping


urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:ac:classes:PasswordProtectedTransport to:

  • LDAPScheme (scheme used if the SP Partner requests urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:ac:classes:PasswordProtectedTransport)

  • FAAuthScheme

  • BasicScheme

  • BasicFAScheme


urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:1.0:am:password to:

  • LDAPScheme (scheme used if the SP Partner requests urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:1.0:am:password)

  • FAAuthScheme

  • BasicScheme

  • BasicFAScheme

More details are included in the following topics:

38.6.1 Understanding Federation SSO As An IdP

When Identity Federation acts as an IdP, it processes incoming Authentication Request messages sent by SP partners.

These messages might specify a FAM with which the user should be challenged by Access Manager (the IdP). If the Authentication Request contains a FAM, the IdP will attempt to map it to an Access Manager Authentication Scheme. If such a mapping is defined, Access Manager will authenticate the user using that scheme - only if the user needs to be challenged. The user would need to be challenged if, for example, the session timed out or does not exist or, the authentication level of the current session is lower than the level of the mapped Authentication Scheme or, the user has not yet been authenticated by Access Manager. If no mapping is defined, the IdP will return an error to the SP indicating that the FAM is unknown.

When the IdP Authentication Module invokes Access Manager to challenge the user, it will determine the Authentication Scheme to be used for the operation in one of the following ways:

  • The SP requests a specific means to authenticate the user with a Federation Authentication Request.

  • The SP settings in the IdP configuration that define a default scheme. The Partner configuration is checked first, followed by the Partner Profile configuration and finally the global default Authentication Scheme defined in the IdP configuration (LDAPScheme).


By default, the Partner and Partner Profile configurations do not define a default Authentication Scheme. As such, the global default Authentication Scheme is in effect: LDAPScheme.

After authentication, the IdP creates an Assertion and maps the Access Manager Authentication Scheme (and appropriate level) to a FAM, if such a mapping exists. The FAM is set as the Authentication Context. If no mapping exists, Identity Federation sends the default Access Manager Authentication Scheme as the Authentication Context. Following this process, the user is redirected back to Identity Federation.

38.6.2 Understanding Federation SSO As An SP

When acting as an SP in a Federation SSO process, Identity Federation processes an incoming Assertion generated by an IdP partner.

This process results in the creation of an Access Manager session for the user and the mapping of the FAM contained in the Assertion to the default SchemeID/Access Manager authentication scheme. Identity Federation provides the authentication level, if set, that should be used when Access Manager creates the user session. (By default, the Authentication Level of the Access Manager session will be set to the Authentication Level of the defined FederationScheme.) The FAM will be saved as a session attribute.

The administrator can define a mapping where the SP will create an Access Manager session with a level set to the mapped Authentication Level for the FAM contained in the Assertion. This provides a way to reflect the strength of the mechanism with which the user was originally authenticated by the IdP.

38.6.3 Configuring an Alternate Authentication Scheme

An alternate Authentication Scheme is only configurable using WLST commands and not the Oracle Access Management Console.

During a Federation SSO operation, the IdP invokes the Access Manager Authentication Module to challenge the user when required; for example, if the user is not authenticated in Access Manager, has an Access Manager session that has been inactive too long or timed out or, if the Service Provider indicates (with a Federation Authentication Request) that the IdP must re-challenge the user. For certain clients, an IdP might be required to use another Authentication Scheme to challenge a user besides the default one. This is especially true for mobile phones when an administrator might want to challenge a user with an Authentication Scheme that is different than the one used for computer-based browsers; for example, instead of an HTTP Basic Authentication Scheme, a scheme designed for mobile clients would be used.

Identity Federation (when working as an IdP) can be configured to evaluate whether an alternate Authentication Scheme should be used instead of the configured one by examining the HTTP Header sent by the user's browser. Identity Federation evaluates based on the following configurable settings:

  • A setting indicating which HTTP Header attribute is sent by the user's browser.

  • A setting containing a regular expression that will evaluate the value of the above HTTP Header attribute.

  • A setting containing the alternate Authentication Scheme to use.


If the SP requested a specific Authentication Scheme, evaluation does not apply.

For information on the setSPPartnerAlternateScheme and setSPPartnerProfileAlternateScheme WLST commands that are used to configure alternate Authentication Scheme, see WLST Command Reference for WebLogic Server.

38.6.4 Using WLST For Mapping Administration

All Authentication Method/Scheme/Level mappings are configured using the WLST commands.

This can be done either at the partner level or, if not defined at the partner level, at the partner profile level.

See Using WLST for Identity Federation Administration.