Apereo CAS - REFEDS MFA Profile w/ Duo Security

Posted by Misagh Moayyed on December 07, 2020 · 5 mins read ·

Apereo CAS can integrate with Duo Security to provide a smooth and seamless multifactor authentication scenario. In scenarios where CAS is also acting as a SAML2 identity provider, there may be a requirement to support the REFEDS MFA Profile and enforce Duo Security multifactor authentication on service providers that require the REFEDS authentication context class.

This use case is the exact focus of this post which is based on:

CAS Configuration

The CAS overlay must include the appropriate module for Duo Security in the build, and integration settings must be obtained from the Duo admin console and be provided as CAS properties:


The WebSDK variant for Duo Security allows CAS to host the Duo Security authentication prompt inside an embedded iFrame. This approach requires the duo-application-key, which is at least 40 characters long and is a setting you must generate and keep secret. You can generate a random string in Python with:

import os, hashlib
print hashlib.sha1(os.urandom(32)).hexdigest()

Of course, you should also make sure that CAS can act as a SAML2 identity provider. If you look around the blog, you will find a good number of posts that discuss this topic and its many variants, some of which are listed below:


So then comes the REFEDS MFA Profile:

This Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) Profile specifies requirements that an authentication event must meet to communicate the usage of MFA. It also defines a SAML authentication context for expressing this…


The MFA Authentication Context can be used by Service Providers to request that Identity Providers perform MFA as defined below and by IdPs to notify SPs that MFA was used.

In more complicated terms, if a SAML SP were to specify https://refeds.org/profile/mfa as the required authentication context, the identity provider would need to translate and find the appropriate MFA solution to execute to satisfy that requirement and then reassuringly convey the result back to the SP.

The required authentication class can be requested in the SAML2 authentication request that is sent by the service provider:

    <saml2p:RequestedAuthnContext Comparison="exact">
        <saml2:AuthnContextClassRef xmlns:saml2="urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:assertion">

Authentication Context Class

To handle the above requirement, we need to adjust the CAS configuration to link the REFEDS MFA profile to Duo Security. This mapping can be done via CAS settings:


The above setting indicates to CAS that authentication requests that carry the REFEDS MFA profile should be put through multifactor authentication with Duo Security. At the end of this authentication flow, the service provider should be able to examine the SAML2 response for the correct AuthnContextClassRef value:



I hope this review was of some help to you and I am sure that both this post as well as the functionality it attempts to explain can be improved in any number of ways. Please feel free to engage and contribute as best as you can.

Happy Coding,

Misagh Moayyed