Home Realm Discovery for an application

Home Realm Discovery (HRD) is the process that allows Microsoft Entra ID to determine which identity provider (IDP) a user needs to authenticate with at sign-in time. When a user signs in to a Microsoft Entra tenant to access a resource, or to the Microsoft Entra common sign-in page, they type a user name (UPN). Microsoft Entra ID uses that to discover where the user needs to sign in.

The user is taken to one of the following identity providers to be authenticated:

  • The home tenant of the user (might be the same tenant as the resource that the user is attempting to access).

  • Microsoft account. The user is a guest in the resource tenant that uses a consumer account for authentication.

  • An on-premises identity provider such as Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS).

  • Another identity provider that's federated with the Microsoft Entra tenant.

Auto-acceleration

Some organizations configure domains in their Microsoft Entra tenant to federate with another IdP, such as AD FS for user authentication.

When a user signs into an application, they're first presented with a Microsoft Entra sign-in page. After they type their UPN, if they're in a federated domain they're then taken to the sign-in page of the IdP serving that domain. Under certain circumstances, administrators might want to direct users to the sign-in page when they're signing in to specific applications.

As a result users can skip the initial Microsoft Entra ID page. This process is referred to as "sign-in auto-acceleration." Microsoft doesn't recommend configuring auto-acceleration any longer, as it can prevent the use of stronger authentication methods such as FIDO and hinders collaboration. See Enable passwordless security key sign-in to learn the benefits of not configuring auto-acceleration. To learn how to prevent sign-in auto-acceleration, see Disable auto-acceleration sign-in.

In cases where the tenant is federated to another IdP for sign-in, auto-acceleration makes user sign-in more streamlined. You can configure auto-acceleration for individual applications. See Configure auto-acceleration to learn how to force auto-acceleration using HRD.

Note

If you configure an application for auto-acceleration, users can't use managed credentials (like FIDO) and guest users can't sign in. If you take a user straight to a federated IdP for authentication, there is no way for them to get back to the Microsoft Entra sign-in page. Guest users, who might need to be directed to other tenants or an external IdP such as a Microsoft account, can't sign in to that application because they're skipping the HRD step.

There are three ways to control auto-acceleration to a federated IdP:

  • Use a domain hint on authentication requests for an application.
  • Configure an HRD policy to force auto-acceleration
  • Configure an HRD policy to ignore domain hints from specific applications or for certain domains.

Domain Confirmation Dialog

Starting April 2023, organizations who use auto-acceleration or smart links might begin to see a new screen added to the sign-in UI. This screen termed the Domain Confirmation Dialog, is part of Microsoft's general commitment to security hardening and requires the user to confirm the domain of the tenant in which they're signing in to. Cancel the authentication flow and contact your IT admin (if applicable) if you see the Domain Confirmation Dialog and don't recognize the tenant domain listed. Here's an example of what the domain confirmation dialog could look like for you:

Screenshot of the domain confirmation dialog listing the sign-in identifier '<kelly@contoso.com>' with a tenant domain of 'contoso.com'.

The identifier at the top of the dialog, kelly@contoso.com, represents the identifier used to sign-in. The tenant domain listed in the dialog's header and subheader shows the domain of the account's home tenant.

While the Domain Confirmation Dialog doesn't need to be shown for every instance of auto-acceleration or smart links, the Domain Confirmation Dialog means auto-acceleration, and smart links can no longer proceed seamlessly when shown. If your organization clears cookies due to browser policies or otherwise, you might experience the domain confirmation dialog more frequently. Finally, given Microsoft Entra manages the auto-acceleration sign-in flow end-to-end, the introduction of the Domain Confirmation Dialog shouldn't result in any application breakages.

Furthermore, you can suppress the Domain Confirmation Dialog by configuring a Tenant Restrictions v2 (TRv2) policy. A TRv2 policy achieves the same security posture as the Domain Confirmation Dialog and thus, when a TRv2 policy header is present in the request, the Domain Confirmation Dialog is suppressed.

Domain hints

Domain hints are directives that are included in the authentication request from an application. They can be used to accelerate the user to their federated IdP sign-in page. Multitenant applications can also use them to accelerate the user straight to the branded Microsoft Entra sign-in page for their tenant.

For example, the application "largeapp.com" might enable their customers to access the application at a custom URL "contoso.largeapp.com." The app might also include a domain hint to contoso.com in the authentication request.

Domain hint syntax varies depending on the protocol used, and it's typically configured in the application in the following ways:

  • For applications that use the WS-Federation: whr query string parameter. For example, whr=contoso.com.

  • For applications that use the SAML: Either a SAML authentication request that contains a domain hint or a query string whr=contoso.com.

  • For applications that use the OpenID Connect: domain_hint query string parameter. For example, domain_hint=contoso.com.

By default, Microsoft Entra ID attempts to redirect sign-in to the configured IDP for a domain if both of the following are true:

  • A domain hint is included in the authentication request from the application and
  • The tenant is federated with that domain.

If the domain hint doesn't refer to a verified federated domain, it's ignored.

Note

If a domain hint is included in an authentication request and should be respected, its presence overrides auto-acceleration that is set for the application in HRD policy.

HRD policy for auto-acceleration

Some applications don't provide a way to configure the authentication request they emit. In these cases, it's not possible to use domain hints to control auto-acceleration. auto-acceleration can be configured via Home Realm Discovery policy to achieve the same behavior.

HRD policy to prevent auto-acceleration

Some Microsoft and SaaS applications automatically include domain_hints (for example, https://outlook.com/contoso.com results in a login request with &domain_hint=contoso.com appended), which can disrupt rollout of managed credentials like FIDO. You can use Home Realm Discovery policy to ignore domain hints from certain apps or for certain domains, during rollout of managed credentials.

Enable direct ROPC authentication of federated users for legacy applications

Best practice is for applications to use Microsoft Entra libraries and interactive sign-in to authenticate users. The libraries take care of the federated user flows. Sometimes legacy applications, especially applications that use Resource Owner Password Credentials (ROPC) grants, submit username and password directly to Microsoft Entra ID, and aren't written to understand federation. They don't perform HRD and don't interact with the correct federated endpoint to authenticate a user. If you choose to, you can use Home Realm Discovery policy to enable specific legacy applications that submit username/password credentials using the ROPC grant to authenticate directly with Microsoft Entra ID, Password Hash Sync must be enabled.

Important

Only enable direct authentication if you have Password Hash Sync turned on and you know it's okay to authenticate this application without any policies implemented by your on-premises IdP. If you turn off Password Hash Sync, or turn off Directory Synchronization with AD Connect for any reason, you should remove this policy to prevent the possibility of direct authentication using a stale password hash.

Set HRD policy

There are three steps to setting HRD policy on an application for federated sign-in Auto-acceleration or direct cloud-based applications:

  1. Create an HRD policy.

  2. Locate the service principal to which to attach the policy.

  3. Attach the policy to the service principal.

Policies only take effect for a specific application when they're attached to a service principal.

Only one HRD policy can be active on a service principal at any one time.

You can use the Microsoft Graph PowerShell cmdlets to create and manage HRD policy.

The json object is an example HRD policy definition:

{  
  "HomeRealmDiscoveryPolicy":
  {  
    "AccelerateToFederatedDomain":true,
    "PreferredDomain":"federated.example.edu",
    "AllowCloudPasswordValidation":false
  }
}

The policy type is "HomeRealmDiscoveryPolicy".

AccelerateToFederatedDomain is optional. If AccelerateToFederatedDomain is false, the policy has no effect on auto-acceleration. If AccelerateToFederatedDomain is true and there's only one verified and federated domain in the tenant, then users are taken straight to the federated IdP for sign-in. If it's true and there's more than one verified domain in the tenant, PreferredDomain must be specified.

PreferredDomain is optional. PreferredDomain should indicate a domain to which to accelerate. It can be omitted if the tenant has only one federated domain. If it's omitted, and there's more than one verified federated domain, the policy has no effect.

If PreferredDomain is specified, it must match a verified, federated domain for the tenant. All users of the application must be able to sign in to that domain - users who can't sign in at the federated domain are trapped and unable to complete sign-in.

AllowCloudPasswordValidation is optional. If AllowCloudPasswordValidation is true, then the application is allowed to authenticate a federated user by presenting username/password credentials directly to the Microsoft Entra token endpoint. This only works if Password Hash Sync is enabled.

Additionally, two tenant-level HRD options exist, not shown above:

Priority and evaluation of HRD policies

HRD policies can be created and then assigned to specific organizations and service principals. This means that it's possible for multiple policies to apply to a specific application, so Microsoft Entra ID must decide which one takes precedence. A set of rules decides which HRD policy (of many applied) takes effect:

  • If a domain hint is present in the authentication request, then HRD policy for the tenant (the policy set as the tenant default) is checked to see if domain hints should be ignored. If domain hints are allowed, the behavior that's specified by the domain hint is used.

  • Otherwise, if a policy is explicitly assigned to the service principal, it's enforced.

  • If there's no domain hint, and no policy is explicitly assigned to the service principal, a policy that's explicitly assigned to the parent organization of the service principal is enforced.

  • If there's no domain hint, and no policy has been assigned to the service principal or the organization, the default HRD behavior is used.

Next steps