pGina Documentation

Developing pGina Plugins

Tutorial: Hello pGina

To learn how to create a pGina plugins, we’ll start with a tutorial that demonstrates the implementation of a simple authentication plugin. Along the way, you’ll be introduced to the primary concepts and tools behind pGina plugin development.


Minimally, you’ll need the following:

Download the pGina source code

The first step is to download the pGina source code. You can do so by downloading a zip archive from GitHub, or cloning the repository using git. We recommend the latter because you can always update to the latest plugin SDK by doing a git pull.

Setting up Visual Studio

Open Visual Studio and create a new project. In the new project dialog, select the “Class Library” template under “Visual C#” -> “Windows”. Make sure to select “.NET Framework 4” in the drop-down list at the top. Select the Plugins directory of the pGina distribution as the location, and make sure to select “Create new solution.” The name and solution name should be a short version of the name of your plugin without any spaces. For this example, we’ll use the name HelloPlugin.

This will create a solution with a single project and a simple C# file. Before we jump into the code, let’s configure the build settings. Select “Project” -> “HelloPlugin Properties…”.

It makes things easiest if you set your build directory to a common location for all plugins. Currently, all plugins build to Plugins\bin. To update your build settings so that the output directory is set to this directory, click on the “Build” tab, select “All Configurations” from the “Configuration” list, and set “Output path” to ..\..\bin.

We like to have all plugins use a consistent naming scheme for the output file names. This is someting like the following: pGina.Plugin.PluginName. Select the “Application” tab, and set the “assembly name” to pGina.Plugin.HelloPlugin. We should also use an isolated namespace for our plugin, so under “default namespace”, use pGina.Plugin.HelloPlugin.

Save and do a quick build (“Build”->”Build Solution”). Verify that your plugin’s dll appears in the Plugins\bin directory. You should see pGina.Plugin.HelloPlugin.dll.

Next, we need to add references to the pGina SDK dll’s and the log4net dll. Select “Project” -> “Add reference…”. Select the “Browse” tab, and browse to Plugins\SDK, and select pGina.Shared.dll, Abstractions.dll, and log4net.dll (pGina.Core.dll is not necessary for plugin development).

You’re now ready to start developing your plugin!

Implementing the Plugin

In this example, we’ll create an authentication plugin. This plugin will successfully authenticate any user that has “hello” in the username, and “pGina” in the password.

To create an authentication plugin, we need to implement the interface IPluginAuthentication. Let’s create a class in the default namespace for this plugin:

namespace pGina.Plugin.HelloPlugin
    public class PluginImpl : pGina.Shared.Interfaces.IPluginAuthentication


You’ll probably want to change the name of the file to PluginImpl.cs to match this class name.

Next, we’ll implement the required interface members, starting with Name. This property should provide a human readable name for the plugin.

public string Name
    get { return "Hello"; }

The Description property should provide a short (one sentence) description of the plugin.

public string Description
    get { return "Authenticates all users with 'hello' in the username and 'pGina' in the password"; }

The Uuid property must return a unique ID for this plugin. You can generate a new Guid using Visual Studio ( select “Tools” -> “Create GUID” ).

private static readonly Guid m_uuid = new Guid("CED8D126-9121-4CD2-86DE-3D84E4A2625E"); 

public Guid Uuid
    get { return m_uuid; }

Note that the above is just an example. You should generate a GUID and replace the string above with that GUID.

The Version property should return the version number for your plugin. The best way to do this is to query for it using reflection. For example:

public string Version
        return System.Reflection.Assembly.GetExecutingAssembly().GetName().Version.ToString();

To change the version number, modify Properties\AssemblyInfo.cs.

Next, we implement the Starting and Stopping methods. These are executed at startup/shutdown of the pGina service. They’re intended for initialization/cleanup tasks for things that persist across logins. Note that they are not intended as intialization/cleanup for each login. For our plugin, we don’t need them to do anything, so we leave them empty.

public void Starting() { }

public void Stopping() { }

Finally, we get to the meat of our plugin, the AuthenticateUser method. This is called by the pGina service at the appropriate time during the authentication stage of a login. The parameter, a SessionProperties object contains information about the user including the username and password. For our plugin, we need to simply verify that the username contains the word hello and that the password contains pGina. If that is the case, we return a successful result, if not we return failure. We return the result in a BooleanResult object.

public BooleanResult AuthenticateUser(SessionProperties properties)
    UserInformation userInfo = properties.GetTrackedSingle<UserInformation>();

    if (userInfo.Username.Contains("hello") && userInfo.Password.Contains("pGina"))
        // Successful authentication
        return new BooleanResult() { Success = true };
    // Authentication failure
    return new BooleanResult() { Success = false, Message = "Incorrect username or password." };

The BooleanResult object contains two properties: Success and Message. You do not always need to set the Message property, but you always want to set the Success property. We recommend that you always set the Message property when the authentication fails.

That’s it! You’ve implemented a simple pGina plugin. The full source for this plugin can be downloaded from this link ExamplePluginImpl.cs.

Testing your plugin

Execute the pGina configuration utility, under the “Plugin Configuration” tab, make sure to add the plugin build directory in the pGina distribution (Plugins\bin), and enable the plugin by checking the checkbox for the authentication stage. Then, under the “Simulation” tab, test your plugin by trying out a few logins.

There’s much more to learn about plugins, but this should give you a starting point. In the sections below, we’ll dive into some more advanced plugin concepts.

Adding Logging to Your Plugin

Your plugin should log information about its progress and activites. Logging support is provided via Apache log4net. Adding logging to a plugin is simple. The first step is to create a logger object. You can do this in the Starting method, or the constructor. We recommend that you do not statically initialize this object. For example, to initialize your logger in the constructor, use the following code:

private ILog m_logger;

public PluginImpl()
    m_logger = LogManager.GetLogger("pGina.Plugin.HelloPlugin");

To log messages using the logger, you can use any of the standard log4net logging functions. For example:

if (userInfo.Username.Contains("hello") && userInfo.Password.Contains("pGina"))
    // Successful authentication
    m_logger.InfoFormat("Successfully authenticated {0}", userInfo.Username);
    return new BooleanResult() { Success = true };
// Authentication failure
m_logger.ErrorFormat("Authentication failed for {0}", userInfo.Username);
return new BooleanResult() { Success = false, Message = "Incorrect username or password." };

For more about log4net, vist the log4net web site.

Storing Plugin Settings in the Registry

If your plugin requires configurable settings, they should be stored in the registry, as a sub-key of the main pGina registry key. Support for this is provided via the pGinaDynamicSettings class. This class utilizes the C# DynamicObject class and the dynamic type. Settings can be queried and set as if they are properties of the object.

To use pGinaDynamicSettings we recommend that you instantiate the object and immediately set the defaults for all of your settings. It makes sense to do this in a static initializer. For example:

private static dynamic m_settings;
internal static dynamic Settings { get { return m_settings; } }

static PluginImpl()
    m_settings = new pGina.Shared.Settings.pGinaDynamicSettings(m_uuid);

    m_settings.SetDefault("Foo", "Bar");
    m_settings.SetDefault("DoSomething", true);
    m_settings.SetDefault("ListOfStuff", new string[] { "a", "b", "c" });
    m_settings.SetDefault("Size", 1);

The SetDefault method will initalize a setting in the registry if it does not already exist. If the registry setting exists, the method has no effect. Be sure to instantiate the pGinaDynamicSettings object using the Guid of your plugin. This will ensure that your settings are stored in the approprate registry key (usually: HKLM\SOFTWARE\pGina3\Plugins\{guid} where {guid} is replaced with the Guid of your plugin).

The supported data types for settings are string, bool, string[], and int. It is highly recommended that you set defaults as soon as your object is created. This will avoid runtime exceptions when trying to access a non-existent registry value.

To set/read the settings, you simply treat them as properties of the object. For example:

bool okToGoAhead = Settings.DoSomething;
if (okToGoAhead)
    Settings.Foo = "Baz";

Note that when reading a property it must be able to determine the data type at run-time. If you try to read the setting in a context that is ambiguous, you may recieve a run-time exception. Your best bet is to assign the setting to a local variable with the appropriate data type (as shown above).

Creating a Plugin Configuration Dialog

To provide a dialog to the user for configuration of your plugin via the pGina configuration UI, you implement the IPluginConfiguration interface.

public class PluginImpl : pGina.Shared.Interfaces.IPluginAuthentication,

This requires you to implement the method Configure. This method should initalize and display your dialog, and will be called by the pGina configuration UI when the user requests to configure your plugin.

Create a Windows form (use “Project” -> “Add windows form…”), and set up your dialog. Then make sure to invoke your windows form within the Configure method. For example, if my Windows form was called Configuration, I’d use the following code:

public void Configure()
    Configuration myDialog = new Configuration();

Authorization and Gateway Plugins

To have your plugin support the authorization stage, implement the IPluginAuthorization interface. This requires the implementation of the following method:

BooleanResult AuthorizeUser(SessionProperties properties) { ... }

This method should return a BooleanResult with Success set to true if the user is authorized by this plugin, otherwise Success should be set to false and an appropriate message provided in the Message property.

To support the gateway stage, implement the IPluginAuthenticationGateway interface. This requires you to implement the following method:

BooleanResult AuthenticatedUserGateway(SessionProperties properties) { ... }

The gateway stage is intended for any last minute post-authorization actions that may be necessary. For example, a user’s group membership might be modified (e.g. LDAP plugin), or the user’s username might be modified (e.g. the single user plugin). Generally, this stage should not fail, except under exceptional circumstances. You should almost always return a BooleanResult with Success set to true unless for some reason the login should be denied. Usually in the gateway stage, the login should not be denied. The only situation that might warrant a failure for this stage is if an error of some kind occurs, however, even in that situation, it often makes sense to log the error and return a successful result.

Session Properties

The SessionProperties object is provided as a parameter to each of the three methods corresponding to the three stages (authentication, authorization, and gateway). The most obvious use of this is to query the user information (by retrieving the UserInformation object), such as username, password, and group membership. However, it is actually a general purpose storage object, and can be used to store any information that a plugin may need to persist across stages. In fact, it is recommended that if you have any persistent state that needs to be passed between stages, you should use this object rather than using instance fields.

You can store objects in the SessionProperties object using the provided methods listed below.

public void AddTracked<T>(string name, T val) { ... }
public void AddTrackedSingle<T>(T val) { ... }

public T GetTracked<T>(string name) { ... }
public T GetTrackedSingle<T>() { ... }

You can store an object associated with a key (a string) using AddTracked, or you can store a single instance of a class using AddTrackedSingle. Of course, your plugin should not add a tracked single of the class UserInformation, because that would clobber the UserInformation object that is provided by pGina core.

A unique SessionProperties object will be provided for each login. If your plugin is only involved in a single stage, then there is no need to store anything in this object. However, if your plugin is involved in multiple stages, then it makes sense to store any persistent state related to a given login within this object.

Note that if you need to make a connection to a remote data source and you’d like that connection to persiste between stages, you should make use of the SessionProperties object along with the IStatefulPlugin interface (see below).

Getting Information about Plugin Activity

It is often the case that a plugin needs to know what other plugins have executed previously in the login chain, and the result of those plugins. This information is stored in the SessionProperties object and is in a tracked single of type PluginActivityInformation. You can query for the result of a given plugin via the methods GetAuthenticationResult, GetAuthorizationResult, or GetGatewayResult. However, use caution because if a plugin has not executed yet, these will throw an exeception. To be safe, you should first use GetAuthenticationPlugins, GetAuthorizationPlugins, or GetGatewayPlugins to get a list of plugins that have executed and iterate through the list.

For example, to count the number of successful authentications in the authentication stage so far, you could use the following code:

PluginActivityInformation pluginInfo = sessionProps.GetTrackedSingle<PluginActivityInformation>();

int nSuccess = 0;
foreach( Guid pluginId in pluginInfo.GetAuthenticationPlugins() )
    BooleanResult result = pluginInfo.GetAuthenticationResult( pluginId );
    if( result.Success )

// nSuccess has the number of plugins that have registered success in the authentication
// stage so far.

The IStatefulPlugin Interface

If your plugin has state that needs to persist between stages of a login, and/or makes connections to resources that need to be relased at the end of a login chain (such as making a connection to a remote data source), you should implement the IStatefulPlugin interface. This interface requires two methods:

void BeginChain(SessionProperties props) { ... }
void EndChain(SessionProperties props) { ... }

BeginChain is called prior to the authentication stage and should be used for initialization and set-up. You should store any state in the provided SessionProperties object (see above). For example, one might initialize a connection to a remote data source here and store a reference to the connection within the SessionProperties object.

EndChain is called at the end of a login chain regardless of the success or failure of the login. This should be used to clean up any resources that are held by the plugin. For example, one might terminate the connection with a remote data source here.

Notification Plugins

To implement a notification plugin, you should implement the IPluginEventNotifications interface. This interface requires the following method:

void SessionChange(SessionChangeDescription changeDescription, SessionProperties properties) { ... }

This method is called when any of the standard Windows terminal events occurs. The first parameter provides a description of the event. This class is documented in the MSDN documentation, and provides two main properties: Reason and SessionId. Of primary importance is the Reason property. The MSDN documentation describes the possible values for this property. Based on the value of the Reason property, you can take the action that is appropriate for your plugin.