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ASP.Net Windows Authentication: Authorization by Group January 20, 2011

Posted by codinglifestyle in ASP.NET, C#, CodeProject, Security.
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Often in this line of work it’s the simple things that take the longest time. A seemingly simple question came up yesterday on how to lock access to a customer’s website to a specific Windows group. There are a couple of simple gotchas worth documenting in a relatively simple solution presented below.

First, let’s start with the basics. By default ASP.NET executes code using a fixed account. Assuming you are using IIS 6 or greater, the identity is specified in the application pool. However, if we set impersonation to true ASP.NET assumes the user’s identity. Combined with Windows authentication, our code will run within the context of the user’s Windows identity.

To achieve this, in the web.config we set authentication to Windows and impersonate to true. Now we will have an authenticated Windows user, we next need to focus on authorization or what rights and restrictions apply to that user. Our requirement in this case is simple, if you belong to a specified Windows group you have access, otherwise you do not. When using Windows authentication, roles within ASP.NET translate to Windows groups. To allow a specific Windows group, allow that role within the authorization tag in the web.config. We could add additional lines to allow further roles or users. In this case, we simply want to deny everyone else, so notice the deny users * wildcard below.


<authentication mode=Windows/>
<identity impersonate=true/>
<allow roles=BUILTIN\Administrators/>
<deny users=*/>

Here’s a handy tip: When testing use the whoami command. This will show you all the groups the logged in user belongs to which is handy when testing.

If you are making modifications to local or domain groups for the current user (probably your own account for testing) ensure that you see the group information you expect with the whoami /groups command. If you have just added yourself to a test group, remember that you must logout and log back in to see these changes.

Now you could stop here, you’re website is secured. However, if you do the user will get IIS’s rather nasty 401 error page. It would be much nicer to show our own custom error or possibly redirect the user to a registration page of some sort. The problem is we’ve restricted the entire website, so even a harmless error page requires authorization. What we need is an exception, which we can do be adding the snippet below the system.web closing tag.

<location path=AccessDenied.aspx>
<allow users=*/>

What this has done is specify a specific file to have different authorization requirements to the rest of the website.  Optionally we could have specified a directory where we can place CSS, image files, a masterpage, or other resources we may want to allow access to.  In this example, we are only allowing all users to see the AccessDenied.aspx page.

You might think that using the customErrors section in the web.config would be the last step to redirect the user to the AccessDenied.aspx page. However, IIS has other ideas!  IIS catches the 401 before it ever consults with ASP.Net and therefore ignores your customErrors section for a 401. Use the below workaround in your global.asax.cs to catch the 401 and redirect the user to our error page before IIS has a chance to interfere.


protected void Application_EndRequest(Object sender, EventArgs e)
if (HttpContext.Current.Response.Status.StartsWith(“401”))

If we have further security requirements, we can do further checks any time by getting the IPrincipal from Page.User or HttpContext.Current.User. We could enable a button in our UI with a simple statement such as:

adminButton.Enabled = Page.User.IsInRole(@“domain\domainadmins”);

While the solution seems obvious and elegant, it took a bit of searching and playing to get it to work just right. There are other ways of centrally enforcing security such as Application_AuthenticateRequest in global.asax. However in this case it is far more configurable to take full advantage of the settings available to us in the web.config.

IIS Madness: 401, Application Pool identities, and IP addresses March 1, 2007

Posted by codinglifestyle in IIS, Security.
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Okay, here’s the situation. Set up a new website using Windows authentication only on any port other than 80. Create a “hello world” default.htm.  So far, so good… you may access the site at http://machinename:port. Now set that site to use an application pool with a domain user as the identity. Ensure you run aspnet_regiis -ga MachineName\AccountName. Now you are challenged and receive a 401. 
You are now in an interesting scenario:
http://machine:100/default.htm – does not work – does work (assumming machine’s IP is
According to Microsoft, IIS’s Integrated Windows authentication uses Kerberos v5 authentication and NTLM authentication. If Active Directory is installed on a domain controller running Windows 2000 Server or Windows Server 2003, and the client browser supports the Kerberos v5 authentication protocol, Kerberos v5 authentication is used. To use Kerberos authentication, a service must register its service principal name (SPN) under the account in the Active Directory directory service that the service is running under.  By default, Active Directory registers the network basic input/output system (NetBIOS) computer name.  But what about the computer name under a different port?
In summary, the application pool’s identity is not authenticated correctly because of IIS will try to use Kerberos by default.
To work around this behavior if you have multiple application pools that run under different domain user accounts, you must force IIS to use NTLM as your authentication mechanism if you want to use Integrated Windows authentication only. To do this, follow these steps on the server that is running IIS:
Start a command prompt.
Locate and then change to the directory that contains the Adsutil.vbs file. By default, this directory is C:\Inetpub\Adminscripts.
Type the following command, and then press ENTER:
cscript adsutil.vbs set w3svc/NTAuthenticationProviders “NTLM”
To verify that the NtAuthenticationProviders metabase property is set to NTLM, type the following command, and then press ENTER:
cscript adsutil.vbs get w3svc/NTAuthenticationProviders
The following text should be returned:
NTAuthenticationProviders : (STRING) “NTLM”
Reference: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/871179