Linking federated users to an existing user profile - Amazon Cognito
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Linking federated users to an existing user profile

Often, the same user has a profile with multiple identity providers (IdPs) that you have connected to your user pool. Amazon Cognito can link each occurrence of a user to the same user profile in your directory. This way, one person who has multiple IdP users can have a consistent experience in your app. AdminLinkProviderForUser tells Amazon Cognito to recognize a user's unique ID in your federated directory as a user in the user pool. A user in your user pool counts as one monthly active user (MAU) for the purposes of billing when you have zero or more federated identities associated with the user profile.

When a federated user signs in to your user pool for the first time, Amazon Cognito looks for a local profile that you have linked to their identity. If no linked profile exists, your user pool creates a new profile. You can create a local profile and link it to your federated user at any time before their first sign-in, in an AdminLinkProviderForUser API request, either in a planned prestaging task or in a Pre sign-up Lambda trigger. After your user signs in and Amazon Cognito detects a linked local profile, your user pool reads your user's claims and compares them to mapping rules for the IdP. Your user pool then updates the linked local profile with the claims mapped from their sign-in. In this way, you can configure the local profile with access claims and keep their identity claims up-to-date with your provider. After Amazon Cognito matches your federated user to a linked profile, they always sign in to that profile. You can then link more of your user's provider identities to the same profile, giving one customer a consistent experience in your app. To link a federated user who has previously signed in, you must first delete their existing profile. You can identify existing profiles by their format: [Provider name]_identifier. For example, LoginWithAmazon_amzn1.account.AFAEXAMPLE. A user that you created and then linked to a third-party user identity has the username that they were created with, and an identities attribute that contains the details of their linked identities.


Because AdminLinkProviderForUser allows a user with an external federated identity to sign in as an existing user in the user pool, it is critical that it only be used with external IdPs and provider attributes that have been trusted by the application owner.

For example, if you're a managed service provider (MSP) with an app that you share with multiple customers. Each of the customers signs in to your app through Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS). Your IT administrator, Carlos, has an account in each of your customers' domains. You want Carlos to be recognized as an app administrator every time he signs in, regardless of the IdP.

Your ADFS IdPs present Carlos' email address in the email claim of the Carlos' SAML assertions to Amazon Cognito. You create a user in your user pool with the user name Carlos. The following Amazon Command Line Interface (Amazon CLI) commands link Carlos' identities from IdPs ADFS1, ADFS2, and ADFS3.


You can link a user based on specific attribute claims. This ability is unique to OIDC and SAML IdPs. For other provider types, you must link based on a fixed source attribute. For more information, see AdminLinkProviderForUser. You must set ProviderAttributeName to Cognito_Subject when you link a social IdP to a user profile. ProviderAttributeValue must be the user's unique identifier with your IdP.

aws cognito-idp admin-link-provider-for-user \ --user-pool-id us-east-1_EXAMPLE \ --destination-user ProviderAttributeValue=Carlos,ProviderName=Cognito \ --source-user ProviderName=ADFS1,ProviderAttributeName=email, aws cognito-idp admin-link-provider-for-user \ --user-pool-id us-east-1_EXAMPLE \ --destination-user ProviderAttributeValue=Carlos,ProviderName=Cognito \ --source-user ProviderName=ADFS2,ProviderAttributeName=email, aws cognito-idp admin-link-provider-for-user \ --user-pool-id us-east-1_EXAMPLE \ --destination-user ProviderAttributeValue=Carlos,ProviderName=Cognito \ --source-user ProviderName=ADFS3,ProviderAttributeName=email,

The user profile Carlos in your user pool now has the following identities attribute.

[{ "userId": "", "providerName": "ADFS1", "providerType": "SAML", "issuer": "", "primary": false, "dateCreated": 111111111111111 }, { "userId": "", "providerName": "ADFS2", "providerType": "SAML", "issuer": "", "primary": false, "dateCreated": 111111111111111 }, { "userId": "", "providerName": "ADFS3", "providerType": "SAML", "issuer": "", "primary": false, "dateCreated": 111111111111111 }]
Things to know about linking federated users
  • You can link up to five federated users to each user profile.

  • You can link users to each IdP from up to five IdP attribute claims, as defined by the ProviderAttributeName parameter of SourceUser in an AdminLinkProviderForUser API request. For example, if you have linked at least one user to the source attributes email, phone, department, given_name, and location, you can only link additional users on one of those five attributes.

  • You can link federated users to either an existing federated user profile, or to a local user.

  • You can't link providers to user profiles in the Amazon Web Services Management Console.

  • Your user's ID token contains all of their associated providers in the identities claim.

  • You can set a password for the automatically-created federated user profile in an AdminSetUserPassword API request. That user's status then changes from EXTERNAL_PROVIDER to CONFIRMED. A user in this state can sign in as a federated user, and initiate authentication flows in the API like a linked local user. They can also modify their password and attributes in token-authenticated API requests like ChangePassword and UpdateUserAttributes. As a best security practice and to keep users in sync with your external IdP, don't set passwords on federated user profiles. Instead, link users to local profiles with AdminLinkProviderForUser.

  • Amazon Cognito populates user attributes to a linked local user profile when the user signs in through their IdP. Amazon Cognito processes identity claims in the ID token from an OIDC IdP, and also checks the userInfo endpoint of both OAuth 2.0 and OIDC providers. Amazon Cognito prioritizes information in an ID token over information from userInfo.

When you learn that your user is no longer using an external user account that you've linked to their profile, you can disassociate that user account with your user pool user. When you linked your user, you supplied the user's attribute name, attribute value and provider name in the request. To remove a profile that your user no longer needs, make an AdminDisableProviderForUser API request with equivalent parameters.

See AdminLinkProviderForUser for additional command syntax and examples in the Amazon SDKs.