Run SAML compliance tests

The purpose of SAML compliance tests is to ensure that the service you’re building is compliant with the SAML profile. This guarantees that:

  • your service will work with GOV.UK Verify
  • user data will remain secure within the GOV.UK Verify federation

The SAML Compliance Tool allows you to test and prove that your service can respond appropriately to all of the scenarios your service needs to be able to handle.

After successfully testing all the scenarios applicable to you, send the GOV.UK Verify team proof of this in the form of a series of screenshots or a recording screen as the tests were performed.

The Compliance Tool provides clear error messages to help with the iterative development of your service. We advise you to use the Compliance Tool as part of your continuous integration pipeline to ensure that any changes maintain backwards compatibility.

Before running SAML compliance tests, install and configure your MSA.

Use the SAML compliance test to:

After running SAML compliance tests, you can run end-to-end testing in the integration environment.

Compliance Tool scenarios

Your service and matching service need to be able to consume and produce SAML messages in a variety of different scenarios:

Basic Successful Match Response

The user has been verified successfully at the required level of assurance (LoA). Users with higher LoA identity accounts should be allowed to access services requiring lower LoA, but not the other way around.

In this case, you should make sure that the user arrives to a page useful to them, for example the service home page.

Basic No Match Response

A match was not found by the Local Matching Service. Depending on your service, you could:

Tell the user about alternatives

Because there was no match in the service database, the user cannot access the service.

In this case, let the user know what their alternatives are, for example, “We could not match your identity with an entry from our database. You can still apply for a vehicle operator licence by post.”

Take the user to their new account page

Some services choose to create a new account if they found no match in their database. If account creation is implemented, the Verify Team need to see that the user arrives to a page that is useful to them, for example the service home page.

No Authentication Context Response

This response can happen for a number of reasons, but the most common cases are:

Session timeout

Before completing the verification process with the identity provider, the user became inactive. In this case the user has to restart the verification process.

Cancellation by the user

During the identification process with the identity provider, the user selected Cancel. In this case, send the user back to the page where they start answering questions to help them choose the identity provider.

Failure to authenticate at an appropriate LoA

This happens when there is an attempt to authenticate with a lower LoA than required by your service. This would be a fraudulent attempt rather than a real user.

In this case, show a generic error saying something went wrong and suggest alternatives, for example “Something went wrong. We’re working on fixing this problem so please try again later. You can also apply for a vehicle operator licence by post.”

Authentication Failed Response

The user was not authenticated successfully when trying to sign into their account with the identity provider. The identity provider should help the user continue their journey.

Account Creation Response

This is only relevant if your service creates new user accounts.

The response contains a hashed persistent identifier (PID) and attributes of the user that can be used to identify or create an account.

In this case, the user successfully created an account with your government service and you should make sure they arrive at a page useful to them, for example a personal account.

Fraudulent match response with assertions signed by hub

Your service should only trust assertions signed by your matching service adapter, but in case of a fraudulent match, the response has an assertion signed with the Verify Hub’s private key.

In this case, the user should see a generic error saying something went wrong, for example “Something went wrong. We’re working on fixing this problem so please try again later or apply for a vehicle operator licence by post”.

Test your service with the SAML Compliance Tool

To use the Compliance Tool:

  1. Generate self-signed certificates for use with the Compliance Tool only.

  2. POST the following JSON to the SAML Compliance Tool URL before every test run (

    Content-Type: application/json
        "serviceEntityId":"[entityID for your service - you can use the same URL as the assertionConsumerServiceUrl]",
        "assertionConsumerServiceUrl":"[assertion consumer service URL: this is the URL that will consume responses from the GOV.UK Verify hub]",
        "signingCertificate":"[Base64-encoded X509 signing certificate for your service]",
        "encryptionCertificate":"[Base64-encoded X509 encryption certificate for your service]",
        "expectedPID":"[expected persistent identifier: this is the user id that the MSA returns in an assertion]",
        "matchingServiceEntityId":"[entityID for your MSA]",
        "matchingServiceSigningPrivateKey":"[Base64-encoded private signing key for the MSA, see below]",
        "userAccountCreationAttributes":["optional", "list", "of", "attributes", "the", "government", "service", "requires", "for", "new", "user", "account", "creation", "see", "below"]

Replace the square brackets and their contents with your configuration data, taking account of the following:

  • the keys and certificates in the configuration data must be single-line strings of Base64-encoded data without the header and footer BEGIN CERTIFICATE and END CERTIFICATE

  • matchingServiceSigningPrivateKey: this is required because the Compliance Tool sends a response to your service which contains an assertion signed by the MSA.

    This key must be a Base-64 encoded version of your PKCS#8 signing key. To convert a key named test_primary_signing.pk8, run:

    openssl base64 -A -in test_primary_signing.pk8
  • userAccountCreationAttributes: provide this only if you want to test new user account creation – select from the full list of attributes

  • useSimpleProfile: set this to true only if you use Shibboleth-SP (Service Provider). By default this is set to false.

The Compliance Tool is deployed regularly and does not hold historical configuration data. You should POST the configuration data before every test run so the tool has the information it needs to run compliance tests.

  1. You receive an empty response with 200 OK status.

  2. Make sure that your MSA is pointing at the URLs for the Compliance Tool (metadata: url) and and hub (hub: ssoUrl). These are the defaults in the test-config.yml file for non-production environments.

  3. Generate a SAML authentication request and POST it to the Compliance Tool’s SSO URI. Follow the redirect in the response to retrieve the result.


    The SAML authentication requests signed by the government service must use RSA-SHA256 for the signature method algorithm and SHA256 for the digest method algorithm . These are required to comply with the ‘Identity Assurance Hub Service SAML 2.0 Profile‘.

    Below is an example of a SAML authentication request:

 <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
 <saml2p:AuthnRequest ...>
   <saml2:Issuer xmlns:saml2="urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:assertion" Format="urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:nameid-format:entity"></saml2:Issuer>
   <ds:Signature xmlns:ds="">
       <ds:CanonicalizationMethod Algorithm=""/>
       <ds:SignatureMethod Algorithm=""/>
       <ds:Reference URI="#_60f75dc5-f9eb-43cf-adfc-5814016a626c">
           <ds:Transform Algorithm=""/>
           <ds:Transform Algorithm=""/>
         <ds:DigestMethod Algorithm=""/>
  1. If the result contains PASSED, access the URI provided in responseGeneratorLocation. A list of test scenarios is displayed.
  2. Access the executeUri for each test scenario you want to execute. The Compliance Tool test scenarios are the possible responses for step 8 in the SAML message flow.
  3. Send proof that your service can handle all the applicable scenarios to the GOV.UK Verify team. You can send the proof as a series of screenshots or a recording of the screen as the tests were performed.

Test your matching service with the SAML Compliance Tool

You can also use the Compliance Tool to test your Local Matching Service and Matching Service Adapter. The exact test scenarios will depend on your matching strategy. For more information, refer to the guidance on testing your matching service.