Mutual TLS Authentication





LemonLDAP::NG can be configured to authenticate users through client TLS certificates, this is called Mutual TLS Authentication (mTLS). This is most commonly used to perform authentication with smartcards.

In this configuration, the actual validation is performed by the web server (Apache/Nginx), and LemonLDAP::NG only receives the username extracted by the webserver from the user’s certificate.

There are two possible setups:

  • In the most usual setup, LemonLDAP::NG must be configured to use the Authentication choice module. The main portal VHost ( does not require client certificates. A secondary VHost is configured to require client certificates, and an AJAX request is performed from the portal to obtain the user identity.

    Using mTLS authentication with a secondary VHost

    This setup is required when combining mTLS authentication with other authentication methods (such as passwords)

  • In a simpler, but rarely used setup, LemonLDAP::NG is configured to use the SSL Authentication module for all authentication attempts, in this case, the main VHost must be configured to require client certificates, which means no other authentication method can be used.

Web server configuration

Whether you configure the regular portal VHost to require SSL, or enable a secondary portal VHost, you need to configure your webserver to require client certificates, and transmit an environment variable to the LemonLDAP::NG application.


Enable SSL in Apache

You have to install mod_ssl for Apache.

For CentOS/RHEL:

yum install mod_ssl


In Debian/Ubuntu mod_ssl is already shipped in apache*-common package.


For CentOS/RHEL, We advice to disable the default SSL virtual host configured in /etc/httpd/conf.d/ssl.conf.

Apache SSL global configuration

You can then use this default SSL configuration, for example in the head of /etc/lemonldap-ng/portal-apache2.conf:

SSLProtocol all -SSLv2
SSLCertificateFile /etc/httpd/certs/ow2.cert
SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/httpd/certs/ow2.key
SSLCACertificateFile /etc/httpd/certs/ow2-ca.cert


Put your own files instead of ow2.cert, ow2.key, ow2-ca.cert:

  • SSLCertificateFile: Server certificate

  • SSLCertificateKeyFile: Server private key

  • SSLCACertificateFile: CA certificate to validate client certificates

If you specify port in virtual host, then declare SSL port:

NameVirtualHost *:80
NameVirtualHost *:443

Apache portal SSL configuration

Edit the portal virtual host or your secondary vhost to enable SSL double authentication:

SSLEngine On
SSLVerifyClient optional
SSLVerifyDepth 10
SSLOptions +StdEnvVars

All SSL options are documented in Apache mod_ssl page.

Here are the main options used by LL::NG:

  • SSLVerifyClient: set to optional to allow user with a bad certificate to access to LL::NG portal page. To switch to another authentication backend, use the Multi module, for example: Multi SSL;LDAP

  • SSLOptions: set to +StdEnvVars to get certificate fields in environment variables

  • SSLUserName (optional): certificate field that will be used to identify user in LL::NG portal virtual host

With Nginx

Enable SSL:

ssl on;
ssl_verify_client optional;
ssl_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/my/fullchain.pem;
ssl_certificate_key /etc/letsencrypt/live/my/privkey.pem;
ssl_verify_depth 3;
# All CA certificates concatenated in a single file
ssl_client_certificate /etc/nginx/ssl/ca.pem;
ssl_crl /etc/nginx/ssl/crl/my.crl;

# Reset SSL connection. User does not have to close his browser to try connecting again
keepalive_timeout 0 0;
add_header 'Connection' 'close';
ssl_session_timeout 1s;

You must also export SSL_CLIENT_S_DN_CN in FastCGI params:

# map directive must be set in http context
map $ssl_client_s_dn $ssl_client_s_dn_cn {
           default           "";
           ~/CN=(?<CN>[^/]+) $CN; # prior Nginx 1.11.6
           #~,CN=(?<CN>[^,]+) $CN; # Nginx >= 1.11.6
fastcgi_param  SSL_CLIENT_S_DN_CN $ssl_client_s_dn_cn;

Nginx SSL Virtual Host example with uWSGI

server {
  listen 443;
  root /usr/share/lemonldap-ng/portal/htdocs/;
  # Use "lm_app" format to get username in nginx.log (see nginx-lmlog.conf)
  access_log /var/log/nginx/access.log lm_app;

  ssl_verify_client on;
  ssl_verify_depth 3;

  # Full chain CRL is required
  # All CRLs must be concatenated in a single .pem format file
  ssl_crl /etc/nginx/ssl/crl/crls.pem;
  if ($uri !~ ^/((static|javascript|favicon).*|.*\.psgi)) {
    rewrite ^/(.*)$ /index.psgi/$1 break;

  location ~ ^(?<sc>/.*\.psgi)(?:$|/) {
    # uWSGI Configuration
    include /etc/nginx/uwsgi_params;
    uwsgi_param LLTYPE psgi;
    uwsgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME $document_root$sc;
    uwsgi_param SCRIPT_NAME $sc;
    uwsgi_param  SSL_CLIENT_S_DN_CN $ssl_client_s_dn_cn;

  #index index.psgi;
  location / {
    try_files $uri $uri/ =404;


Nginx 1.11.6 change: format of the $ssl_client_s_dn and $ssl_client_i_dn variables has been changed to follow RFC 2253 (RFC 4514); values in the old format are available in the $ssl_client_s_dn_legacy and $ssl_client_i_dn_legacy variables.

Configuration of LemonLDAP::NG

Using mTLS as an alternative authentication method

If you enable this feature, you must configure 2 portal virtual hosts:

  • the main (which corresponds to portal URL) with SSLVerifyClient none

  • the second (eg. with SSLVerifyClient optional (ssl_verify_client optional with Nginx)

Configure your Choice module, then in SSL Options, set

Finally, in General Parameters > Advanced Parameters > Security > Content Security Policy,

add https://mtls.lemontest.lxd to Ajax destinations


To avoid a bad/expired token during session upgrading (Reauthentication) if URLs are served by different load balancers, you can force Upgrade tokens to be stored into Global Storage by editing lemonldap-ng.ini in section [portal]:

forceGlobalStorageUpgradeOTT = 1

Configuring LemonLDAP::NG with mTLS authentication only

In Manager, go in General Parameters > Authentication modules and choose SSL for authentication.


You can then choose any other module for users and password.

Then, go in SSL parameters:

  • Authentication level: authentication level for this module

  • Extracted certificate field: field of the certificate affected to $user internal variable

Extracting the username attribute

The Extracted certificate field must be set to the Apache/Nginx environment variable containing the username attribute.

See the mod_ssl documentation for a list of supported variables names.

If your webserver configuration allows multiple CAs, you may configure a different environment variable for each CA.

In the Conditional extracted certificate field, add a line for each CA.

  • key: the CA subject DN (will be printed in debug logs)

  • value: the variable containing the username when using certificates emitted by this CA

You can use the Issuer environment variable setting to change which variable the CA subject DN is extracted from

Optional topics

Auto reloading SSL Certificates

A known problematic is that many browser (Firefox, Chrome) remembers the fact that the certificate is not available at a certain time. It is particularly important for smart cards: when the card is not inserted before the browser starts, the user must restart his browser, or at least refresh (F5) the page.

Apache server

It is possible with AJAX code and 3 Apache locations to bypass this limitation.

  1. Modify the portal virtual host to match this example:

SSLEngine On
SSLCACertificateFile /etc/apache2/ssl/ca.crt
SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/apache2/ssl/lemonldap.key
SSLCertificateFile /etc/apache2/ssl/lemonldap.crt

SSLVerifyDepth 10
SSLOptions +StdEnvVars

# DocumentRoot
DocumentRoot /var/lib/lemonldap-ng/portal/
<Directory /var/lib/lemonldap-ng/portal/>
    Order Deny,Allow
    Allow from all
    Options +ExecCGI +FollowSymLinks
    SSLVerifyClient none

<Location /index>
    Order Deny,Allow
    Allow from all
    SSLVerifyClient none

<Location /testssl>
    Order Deny,Allow
    Allow from all
    SSLVerifyClient require

Alias /sslok /var/lib/lemonldap-ng/portal
<Location /sslok>
    Order Deny,Allow
    Allow from all
    SSLVerifyClient require
  • /index/ is an unprotected page to display a SSL test button

  • /testssl/ is a SSL protected page to check the certificate

  • /sslok/ is the new LemonLDAP::NG portal. You need to declare the new url in the manager: Portal -> URL:

2. Then you need to construct the Ajax page, for example in /index/bouton.html. It looks like this:

<script src="./jquery-2.1.4.min.js"             type="text/javascript"> </script>
<!--<script src="./jquery-ui-1.8-rass.js"   type="text/javascript">  </script>-->

<a href="" class="enteteBouton" id="continuerButton"><img src=authent.png></a>
$('.enteteBouton').click( function (e) {
  var b=navigator.userAgent.toLowerCase();
          if (c !== "") {
                alert("Carte OK");
                window.location.href = "";
          else {
              alert('Carte KO');
        error:function (xhr, ajaxOptions, thrownError){
          if(xhr.status==404) {
                alert("Carte OK");
                window.location.href = "";
          else {
              alert('Carte KO');

Nginx server

With Nginx, append those server context directives to force SSL connexion reset:

keepalive_timeout 0 0;
add_header 'Connection' 'close';
ssl_session_timeout 1s;