PoC Guide: Secure Access to Azure-managed SaaS Applications and Citrix Secure Private Access


As users access confidential content within SaaS applications, organizations must be able to simplify user login operations while still enforcing authentication standards. Organizations must be able to secure SaaS applications even though it exists beyond the confines of the data center. Citrix Workspace provides organizations with enhanced security controls for SaaS applications.

In this scenario, a user authenticates to Citrix Workspace using Active Directory as the primary user directory and launches an Azure-managed SaaS app.

Active Directory and Okta SSO

If the Citrix Secure Private Access service is assigned to the Citrix subscription, enhanced security policies, ranging from applying screen-based watermarks, restricting printing/downloading actions, screen grabbing restrictions, keyboard obfuscation, and protecting users from untrustworthy links are applied on top of the SaaS applications.

The following animation shows a user accessing a SaaS app with Azure-provided SSO and secured with Citrix Secure Private Access.

Azure SSO Demo

This demonstration shows an IdP-initiated SSO flow where the user launches the application from within Citrix Workspace. This PoC guide also supports a SP-initiated SSO flow where the user tries to access the SaaS app directly from their preferred browser.


  • Azure is already configured to provide SSO to a SaaS app
  • Users can successfully sign into the Azure app portal and launch the SaaS app

This proof of concept guide demonstrates how to:

  1. Setup Citrix Workspace
  2. Integrate a primary user directory
  3. Incorporate Single Sign-On for SaaS applications
  4. Define website filtering policies
  5. Validate the configuration

Setup Citrix Workspace

The initial steps for setting up the environment is to get Citrix Workspace prepared for the organization, which includes

  1. Setting up the Workspace URL
  2. Enabling the appropriate services

Set Workspace URL

  1. Connect to Citrix Cloud and log in as your administrator account
  2. Within Citrix Workspace, access Workspace Configuration from the upper-left menu
  3. From the Access tab, enter a unique URL for the organization and select Enabled

Workspace URL

Enable Services

From the Service Integration tab, enable the following services to support the secure access to SaaS apps use case

  1. Gateway
  2. Secure Browser

Workspace Services


Citrix Workspace takes a few moments to update services and URL settings. From a browser, verify the custom Workspace URL is active. However, logon is not available until a primary user directory gets defined and configured.

Integrate a Primary User Directory

Before users can authenticate to Workspace, a primary user directory must be configured. The primary user directory is the only identity the user requires as all requests for apps within Workspace utilizes single sign-on to secondary identities.

An organization can use any one of the following primary user directories

  • Active Directory: To enable Active Directory authentication, a cloud connector must be deployed within the same data center as an Active Directory domain controller by following the Cloud Connector Installation guide.
  • Active Directory with Time-Based One Time Password: Active Directory-based authentication can also include multifactor authentication with a Time-based One Time Password (TOTP). This guide details the required steps to enable this authentication option.
  • Azure Active Directory: Users can authenticate to Citrix Workspace with an Azure Active Directory identity. This guide provides details on configuring this option.
  • Citrix Gateway: Organizations can utilize an on-premises Citrix Gateway to act as an identity provider for Citrix Workspace. This guide provides details on the integration.
  • Okta: Organizations can use Okta as the primary user directory for Citrix Workspace. This guide provides instructions for configuring this option.

Create SaaS App

To successfully create the SaaS with Citrix Workspace, the administrator needs to do the following

  • Configure SaaS App
  • Authorize SaaS App

Configure SaaS App

With the SaaS app configured within Azure, the SaaS app can get configured within Citrix Workspace.

  • Within Azure, select Azure Active Directory
  • Select Enterprise Applications

Setup SaaS App 01

  • Within the list, select the SaaS app, which brings up the application overview
  • Select Properties

Setup SaaS App 02

  • Copy the User Access URL and remember for later use
  • Within Citrix Cloud, select Manage from the Gateway tile.

Setup SaaS App 03

  • Select Add a Web/SaaS app
  • In the Choose a template wizard, find the correct template. In this example, select Humanity

Setup SaaS App 04

  • Select Next
  • In the App details screen, replace the URL with the User Access URL copied from Azure.
  • At the end of the URL, add the following: &whr=federated_domain replacing federated_domain with the domain associated with the user’s identity (information after the @ sign in the user’s email). The federated domain entry informs Azure to redirect to the correct federated domain configuration. The federated domain information gets configured within Azure in an upcoming section.

Setup SaaS App 05

  • Enhanced security policies use the related domains field to determine which URLs to secure. One related domain is automatically added based on the default URL. Add an additional domain for the actual URL for the SaaS app in addition to the one automatically created.
  • Select Next
  • In the Enhanced Security window, select the appropriate security policies for the environment

Setup SaaS App 06

  • In the Single Sign-On window, set Assertion URL to be https://login.microsoftonline.com/login.srf
  • Set Audience to be urn:federation:MicrosoftOnline
  • Set the Name ID Format=Persistent and Name ID=Active Directory GUID
  • Select the box labeled Launch the app using the specified URL (SP Initiated). Once authenticated, the user automatically gets redirected to the SaaS app instead of the Azure App Portal.
  • Under Advanced attributes, add Attribute Name=IDPEmail, Attribute Format=Unspecified, and Attribute Value=Email
  • Note:** Only needed to be done for first app. Select **Download to capture the CRT-based certificate.
  • Note:** Only needed to be done for first app. Next to the **Login URL, select the Copy button to capture the Login URL. This URL gets used later.
  • Note:** Only needed to be done for first app. Select the **SAML Metadata link

Setup SaaS App 07

  • Within the SAML Metadata file, look for EntityID. Copy the entire URL and store for later use. Once captured, the SAML Metadata file can be closed.

Setup SaaS App 08

  • Select Save
  • Select Finish to complete the configuration of the SaaS app.

Authorize SaaS App

  • Within Citrix Cloud, select Library from the menu

Authorize SaaS App 01

  • Find the SaaS app and select Manage Subscribers
  • Add the appropriate users/groups who are authorized to launch the app

Authorize SaaS App 02

Federate Azure Authentication to Citrix Workspace

To successfully federate the SaaS app with Citrix Workspace, the administrator needs to do the following

  • Verify Authentication Domain
  • Configure Domain Federation

Verify Authentication Domain

To federate authentication to Citrix Workspace, Azure must verify the fully qualified domain name. Within the Azure Portal, do the following:

  • Access Azure Active Directory
  • Select Custom domain names in the navigation window
  • Select Add custom domain
  • Enter the fully qualified domain name

Domain Verification 01

  • Select Add domain
  • Azure provides records to incorporate into your domain name registrar. Once done, select Verify.

Domain Verification 02

  • Once complete, the domain includes a verified mark

Domain Verification 03

Configure Domain Federation

The final configuration is to have Azure use Citrix Workspace as the federated authority for the verified domain. Configuring federation must be done with PowerShell.

  • Launch PowerShell
  • Add the appropriate modules with the following commands
Install-Module AzureAD -Force
Import-Module AzureAD -Force
Install-Module MSOnline -Force
Import-module MSOnline -Force
  • Connect to Microsoft Online via PowerShell and authenticate
  • Verify the domain is currently set to Managed within Azure by running the following PowerShell command

Domain Federation 01

  • Use the following code in a PowerShell script to make this domain Federated by changing the variables to align with your environment
 $dom = "workspaces.wwco.net" # The fully qualified domain name verified within Azure
 $fedBrandName = "CitrixWorkspaceSAMLIdP" # A name to help remember the configuration purpose
 $IssuerUri = "https://citrix.com/fdafdjk4" # The entityID taken from the Citrix Worksapce SAML Metadata file
 $logoffuri = "https://app.netscalergateway.net/cgi/logout" # Standard entry for all. Do not change
 $uri = "https://app.netscalergateway.net/ngs/dhhn4j3mf1kc/saml/login?APPID=8dd87428-460b-4358-a3c2-609451e8f5be" # The Login URL from the Citrix Workspace SaaS app configuration
 $cert = New-Object System.Security.Cryptography.X509Certificates.X509Certificate2("e:\CitrixCloud.crt") # Path to the downloaded certificate file from Citrix Workspace
 $certData = [system.convert]::tobase64string($cert.rawdata)

 Set-MsolDomainAuthentication `
     -DomainName $dom `
     federationBrandName $fedBrandName `
     -Authentication Federated `
     -PassiveLogOnUri $uri `
     -LogOffUri $logoffuri `
     -SigningCertificate $certData `
     -IssuerUri $IssuerUri `
     -PreferredAuthenticationProtocol SAMLP
  • Verify the domain is currently set to Federated within Azure by running the following PowerShell command

Domain Federation 02

  • Verify the federation settings in Azure by running the following PowerShell command
Get-MsolDomainFederationSettings -DomainName $dom

Domain Federation 03

**Note: If the federation settings need to be removed, run the following PowerShell command

Set-MsolDomainAuthentication -DomainName $dom -Authentication Managed


IdP-Initiated Validation

  • Log into to Citrix Workspace as a user
  • Select the SaaS application
  • Observe the URL to see it briefly redirect through Azure
  • The SaaS portal successfully launches

SP-Initiated Validation

  • Launch a browser
  • Go to the company-defined URL for the SaaS application
  • The browser redirects to Okta then to Citrix Workspace for authentication
  • Once the user authenticates with the primary user directory, the SaaS app launches with Okta providing single sign-on

Define website filtering policies

Citrix Secure Private Access service provides website filtering within SaaS and Web apps to help protect the user from phishing attacks. The following shows how to set up website filtering policies.

  • From Citrix Cloud, Manage within the Secure Private Access tile

Citrix Secure Private Access 1

  • If this guide was followed, the Set up end user authentication step and the Configure end user access to SaaS, web and virtual applciations steps are complete. Select Configure Content Access
  • Select Edit
  • Enable the Filter website categories option
  • Within the Blocked categories box, select Add
  • Select the categories to block users from accessing

Citrix Secure Private Access 2

  • When all applicable categories are selected, select Add

Citrix Secure Private Access 3

  • Do the same for allowed categories
  • Do the same for redirected categories. These categories redirect to a Secure Browser instance
  • If needed, admins can filter denied, allowed, and redirected actions for specific URLs following the same process that was used for defining categories. Website URLs take precedence over categories.

Validate the Configuration

IdP-Initiated Validation

  • Log into to Citrix Workspace as a user
  • Select the SaaS app. If enhanced security is disabled, the app launches within the local browser, otherwise the embedded browser is used
  • The user automatically signs on to the app
  • The appropriate enhanced security policies are applied
  • If configured, select a URL within the SaaS app that is in the blocked, allowed, and redirected categories
  • If configured, select a URL within the SaaS app that is in the blocked, allowed, and redirected URLs
  • The SaaS App successfully launches

SP-Initiated Validation

  • Launch a browser
  • Go to the SaaS app website and Sign In. If there is an option to do SSO, select the option.
  • The browser redirects the browser to Citrix Workspace for authentication
  • Enter the user name.
  • Once the user authenticates with the primary user directory, the SaaS app launches in the local browser if enhanced security is disabled. If enhanced security is enabled, a Secure Browser instance launches the SaaS app.

Stay Signed In

In the default configuration, Azure Active Directory displays a dialog box during the logon process allowing the users to remain signed in.

Persistent Sign In 01

This is an Azure setting that can be easily changed by doing the following:

  • Within Azure, select Azure Active Directory
  • Select Company Branding
  • Select the enabled Locale
  • In the Edit company branding pane, select No in the Show option to remain signed in

Persistent Sign In 01

  • Select Save


User Account Does Not Exist in the Directory

When trying to launch the SaaS app, the user might receive the following error: The user account “account name” does not exist in the “GUID” directory.

User Account Troubleshooting 01

The following are suggestions on how to solve this issue:

  • Verify the user is authorized to use the SaaS app within Azure Active Directory
  • Verify the identified email address within the error matches between the primary user directory, Azure Active Directory and the SaaS app.

Federation Realm Object

During validation, a user might receive the following error:

Federation Realm Troubleshooting 01

This is often caused by the domain not being verified or properly federated. Review the following sections of the PoC guide:

Enhanced Security Policies Failing

Users might experience the enhanced security policies (watermark, printing, or clipboard access) fail. Typically, this happens because the SaaS application uses multiple domain names. Within the application configuration settings for the SaaS app, there was an entry for Related Domains.

Setup SaaS App 02

The enhanced security policies are applied onto to those related domains. To identify missing domain names, an administrator can access the SaaS app with a local browser and do the following:

  • Navigate to the section of the app where the policies fail
  • In Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge (Chromium version), select the three dots in the upper right side of the browser to show a menu screen.
  • Select More Tools.
  • Select Developer Tools
  • Within the developer tools, select Sources. This provides a list of access domain names for that section of the application. To enable the enhanced security policies for this portion of the app, those domain names must be entered into the related domains field within the app configuration. Related domains are added like the following *.domain.com

Enhanced Security Troubleshooting 01

PoC Guide: Secure Access to Azure-managed SaaS Applications and Citrix Secure Private Access