Simon's Musings

January 11, 2009

Cosign authenticated OpenID Identity Provider

Filed under: Uncategorized — sxw @ 11:25 pm
Tags: , , ,

As part of the relocation of my motley collection of ‘not-a-service’ applications, I’ve moved and tidied up the cosign based OpenID identity provider. It’s now available at

OpenID is a simple way to use a single digital identity across the entire interent. This experimental Identity Provider allows you to use your Informatics identity as this identity.

The technology behind OpenID means that you can do this without disclosing any information to external sites which might compromise the security of your Informatics account. You still login to our local systems (either when you login to the DICE machine on your desk, or when you go to our web login site) and, needless to say, you should still never disclose your DICE username and password anywhere else. 

Your OpenID is a URL, initially of the form, but by adding a simple bit of HTML, you may use any URL which you control the contents of (so, for example, you could use Any site which displays  (the OpenID logo) in their login field will accept this URL as your identity. You will then be (if necessary), redirected to to enter your username and password, and to our Open ID site to confirm that you’re prepared to divulge your identity.

As the name suggests, this is not a service. It’s not officially supported, and I can make no long term promises regarding its availability. But, please do try it out for ‘throwaway’ web accounts, and let me know if it proves of use.

Technical Details

The service is based around JanRain’s PHP OpenID library, with my enterprise authentication patch. Some crafty use of mod_rewrite, and Apache access control directives force redirection to cosign when authentication is required, whilst still allowing services to access the identity page. The Open ID provider in use is relatively old, and doesn’t support all of the latest bells and whistles.

All of the configuration is performed in the dice/options/openid.h header. The server itself is packaged in the php-openid-server RPM, with MySQL, X509 and Cosign being configured by their corresponding components. The web server is managed using Apacheconf, with an additional configuration file (for the SSL server) being provided through the file component. The templating of the OpenID server is also handled by the file component, with the Informatics style header, and body text being added from LCFG resources.

Unfortunately, the MySQL server database be entirely configured through LCFG, as a password must be shared between the database and the web application. The web application configuration is created by LCFG as /etc/openid/config.php/tmpl, and must be copied into place (/etc/openid/config.php) once the database password has been filled in. Similarly, the database must be created, and the password assigned manually when a new service is configured. Addressing this issue would require a substantial reworking of the MySQL component.

When bringing up a new server, the database must be initialised by running (through om mysql runcommand)

   CREATE DATABASE openid_server;

   GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON openid_server.* TO user@host IDENTIFIED BY "password_here";


In our configuration, both the database, and the server configuration file are part of the backed up set, allowing restores to simply be a matter of copying the configuration into place, and restoring the database.

1 Comment

  1. utterly awesome, amazing work. COMPSOC are hunting around for a single signon solution for our epic array of web apps, and we doubt the uni would let us use EASE as a student run society so we’re looking at running our own cosign install on the tardis. really cool use of openid. great to see someone else in the uni interested in web auth tech.


    Comment by s0817277 — October 26, 2009 @ 10:28 am

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