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Guidelines for Users

Login workflow

To use a service connected to the Helmholtz AAI, you simply choose one of the offered Helmholtz Cloud Services. You may also refer to the list of technically connected services and further documentation.

When logging in to a service, just search for “Helmholtz AAI” and use your home institute’s credentials.

Please refer to our pictured tutorial on how to access Cloud Services via Helmholtz AAI for more details.

VO membership needed for some services

Some services will require you to be member of a Virtual Organisation (VO). To become member, you need to be invited/added by the PI (=Administrator) of the VO. This list of VOs may help to find the appropriate contact.

If your Home-IdP is from a Helmholtz centre and connected to the Helmholtz AAI, you are automatically member of the VO representing your organisation. This allows you to automatically gain access to certain services that allow all users from your home organisation.


As a user, you must only accept and abide by the Acceptable Use Policies (AUP) presented to you, either:

  • VO AUP: when joining a VO, or

  • SAUP: when using a service for the first time.

In addition, each VO you join and service you use which processes your personal data is required to provide a Privacy Policy (PP) and make it available to you.

You can find more information about the policies in use in the Helmholtz AAI here.


How to log in with Helmholtz AAI

When you click your service, you will be redirected to the Helmholtz AAI community proxy, powered by Unity. For using Unity you have to choose your home Identity Provider (see below) at which you log in.

First time login

On the first use you may need to verify your email address. Just follow the procedures, it will work. Note that you need to click on “remember choice” at several places to make login work smoother in subsequent attempts.

During the registration the first part of your email address is stored as preferred username. You can update it in the home interface.

Identity Providers

The AAI proxy does not manage identities by itself. For identities it trusts so called Identity Providers (IdPs). As a user you must have an account with one of the supported Identity Providers. Different classes of Identity Providers exist, with pros and cons:

  • “Home”-IdP: this is typically provided by your research centre or university. This is the place to which you get redirected in order to log in to a service.

  • Social IdP: “social” networks like google or github also provide identities. However, these do not verify user-passports and do not have a work contract with their users. The services accessible with such identities may be limited.

How to interact with Unity via oidc-agent

oidc-agent is a set of tools to manage OpenID Connect tokens and make them easily usable from the command line.

Installing the agent

For installing the agent follow the instructions on the website of oidc-agent:

A growing number of Linux distributions have oidc-agent already in their repository. If you use one of these distributions you may want to use the packaged version.

Create a Configuration for the Helmholtz AAI

oidc-agent comes with a number of pre-configured public client configurations. There is also a public client for the Helmholtz AAI which makes configuration easy.

  • In order to start the configuration process: oidc-gen --pub <shortname>
  • Enter as issuer or select the corresponding number from the presented list.
  • Select the scopes you want to access or accept the preconfigured list.
  • Enter the desired redirection URLs (you have to add at least one - if you only plan to use the CLI agent, this doesn’t really matter, so you can use e.g. http://localhost:8080)
  • Important: Login with your home IdP in the browser window which opens. This step is necessary to complete the account configuration.
  • as a final step, add a password for the generated configuration. You will need this password everytime, you add the configuration to oidc-agent so note down your passphrase carefully
  • start oidc-agent and set the necessary environment variables with eval `oidc-agent`
  • check if your configuration works with oidc-token <short name of your configuration>

Nota bene

  • If you are configuring the oidc-agent on a computer without an XSession (e.g. on a machine where you are logged in with pure ssh, you will need to use the command oidc-gen --pub --no-url-call --no-webserver <shortname>. The agent will then print out a URL you can copy into a browser of your choice, log in as usual and you will get a message “Page not found”. Copy the URL in the URL-bar of the browser and follow the instructions given by oidc-agent in your ssh-session before.
  • If you are logged into a machine via ssh and the $DISPLAY environment variable is not set, oidc-agent will assume that you are on a “dumb” device and invoke an authorization flow that is deactivated in the Helmholtz AAI. Your configuration attempt will fail unless you set export DISPLAY=0: assuming you are on a Linux machine.

Accessing user information

After configuring oidc-agent and logging in you can now start using it. You can, for example, request your users information with curl:

curl -H "Authorization: Bearer `oidc-token <short name of your configuration>`" -X GET

If you want to have a nice, readable output, you can format the result with jq (you will probably have to install jq before that):

curl -H "Authorization: Bearer `oidc-token <short name of your configuration>`" -X GET | jq .

This should give you something like:

  % Total    % Received % Xferd  Average Speed   Time    Time     Time  Current
                                 Dload  Upload   Total   Spent    Left  Speed
100  1227  100  1227    0     0   7967      0 --:--:-- --:--:-- --:--:--  7967
  "sub": "06b05656-ad50-11ed-ac2b-3f78a68a37a7",
  "email_verified": true,
  "groups": [
  "preferred_username": "sam.scientist",
  "display_name": "Sam Scientist",
  "given_name": "Sam",
  "eduperson_principal_name": "",
  "eduperson_entitlement": [
  "name": "Sam Scientist",
  "eduperson_unique_id": "",
  "sn": "Scientist",
  "eduperson_assurance": [
  "family_name": "Scientist",
  "email": ""

Last update: October 19, 2023
Created: February 5, 2021