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Single Sign-On for everyone

Posted on 2006-12-04 13:06 eFeng.Leung 阅读(...) 评论(...) 编辑 收藏
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Single Sign-On (SSO) is a hot topic these days. Most clients I worked with have more than one web application running under different versions of .NET framework in different subdomains, or even in different domains and they want to let the user login once and stay logged in when switching to a different web site. Today we will implement SSO and see if we can make it work in different scenarios. We will start with a simple case and gradually build upon it:

  1. SSO for parent and child application in the virtual sub-directory
  2. SSO using different authorization credentials (username mapping)
  3. SSO for two applications in two sub-domains of the same domain
  4. SSO when applications run under different versions of .NET
  5. SSO for two applications in different domains.
  6. SSO for mixed-mode authentication (Forms and Windows)

1. SSO for parent and child application in the virtual sub-directory

Lets assume that we have two .NET applications - Foo and Bar, and Bar is running in a virtual sub-directory of Foo (http://foo.com/bar). Both applications implement Forms authentication. Implementation of Forms authentication requires you to override the Application_AuthenticateRequest, where you perform the authentication and upon successful authentication, call FormsAuthentication.RedirectFromLoginPage, passing in the logged-in user name (or any other piece of information that identifies the user in the system) as a parameter. In ASP.NET the logged-in user status is persisted by storing the cookie on the client computer. When you call RedirectFromLoginPage, a cookie is created which contains an encrypted FormsAuthenticationTicket with the name of the logged-in user . There is a section in web.config that defines how the cookie is created:

<authentication mode="Forms">
   <
forms name=".FooAuth" protection="All" timeout="60" loginUrl="login.aspx" />
</
authentication>

 <authentication mode="Forms">
   <
forms name=".BarAuth" protection="All" timeout="60" loginUrl="login.aspx" />
</
authentication>

The important attributes here are name and protection. If you make them match for both Foo and Bar applications, they will both write and read the same cookie using the same protection level, effectively providing SSO:

<authentication mode="Forms">
   <
forms name=".SSOAuth" protection="All" timeout="60" loginUrl="login.aspx" />
</
authentication>

When protection attribute is set to "All", both encryption and validation (via hash) is applied to the cookie. The default validation and encryption keys are stored in the machine.config file and can be overridden in the application’s web.config file. The default value is this:

<machineKey validationKey="AutoGenerate,IsolateApps" decryptionKey=" AutoGenerate,IsolateApps" validation="SHA1" />

IsolateApps means that a different key will be generated for every application. We can’t have that. In order for the cookie to be encrypted and decrypted with the same key in all applications either remove the IsolateApps option or better yet, add the same concrete key to the web.config of all applications using SSO:

<machineKey validationKey="F9D1A2D3E1D3E2F7B3D9F90FF3965ABDAC304902" decryptionKey="F9D1A2D3E1D3E2F7B3D9F90FF3965ABDAC304902F8D923AC" validation="SHA1" />

If you are authenticating against the same users store, this is all it takes – a few changes to the web.config files.

2. SSO using different authorization credentials (username mapping)

But what if the Foo application authenticates against its own database and the Bar application uses Membership API or some other form of authentication? In this case the automatic cookie that is created on the Foo is not going to be any good for the Bar, since it will contain the user name that makes no sense to the Bar.

To make it work, you will need to create the second authentication cookie especially for the Bar application. You will also need a way to map the Foo user to the Bar user. Lets assume that you have a user "John Doe" logging in to the Foo application and you determined that this user is identified as "johnd" in the Bar application. In the Foo authentication method you will add the following code:

FormsAuthenticationTicket fat = new FormsAuthenticationTicket(1, "johnd", DateTime.Now, DateTime.Now.AddYears(1), true, "");
HttpCookie cookie = new HttpCookie(".BarAuth");
cookie.Value =
FormsAuthentication.Encrypt(fat);
cookie.Expires = fat.Expiration;
HttpContext.Current.Response.Cookies.Add(cookie);

FormsAuthentication.RedirectFromLoginPage("John Doe");

User names are hard-coded for demonstration purposes only. This code snippet creates the FormsAuthenticationTicket for the Bar application and stuffs it with the user name that makes sense in the context of the Bar application. And then it calls RedirectFromLoginPage to create the correct authentication cookie for the Foo application. If you changed the name of forms authentication cookie to be the same for both applications (see our previous example), make sure that they are different now, since we are not using the same cookie for both sites anymore:

<authentication mode="Forms">
   <
forms name=".FooAuth" protection="All" timeout="60" loginUrl="login.aspx" slidingExpiration="true"/>
</
authentication>

 <authentication mode="Forms">
   <
forms name=".BarAuth" protection="All" timeout="60" loginUrl="login.aspx" slidingExpiration="true"/>
</
authentication>

Now when the user is logged in to Foo, he is mapped to the Bar user and the Bar authentication ticket is created along with the Foo authentication ticket. If you want it to work in the reverse direction, add similar code to the Bar application:

FormsAuthenticationTicket fat = new FormsAuthenticationTicket(1, "John Doe", DateTime.Now, DateTime.Now.AddYears(1), true, "");
HttpCookie cookie = new HttpCookie(".FooAuth");
cookie.Value =
FormsAuthentication.Encrypt(fat);
cookie.Expires = fat.Expiration;
HttpContext.Current.Response.Cookies.Add(cookie);

FormsAuthentication.RedirectFromLoginPage("johnd");

Also make sure that you have the <machineKey> element in web.config of both applications with matching validation and encryption keys.

3. SSO for two applications in two sub-domains of the same domain

Now what if Foo and Bar are configured to run under different domains http://foo.com and http://bar.foo.com. The code above will not work because the cookies will be stored in different files and will not be visible to both applications. In order to make it work, we will need to create domain-level cookies that are visible to all sub-domains. We can’t use RedirectFromLoginPage method anymore, since it doesn’t have the flexibility to create a domain-level cookie. So we do it manually:

FormsAuthenticationTicket fat = new FormsAuthenticationTicket(1, "johnd", DateTime.Now, DateTime.Now.AddYears(1), true, "");
HttpCookie cookie = new HttpCookie(".BarAuth");
cookie.Value =
FormsAuthentication.Encrypt(fat);
cookie.Expires = fat.Expiration;
cookie.Domain =
".foo.com";
HttpContext.Current.Response.Cookies.Add(cookie);

FormsAuthenticationTicket fat = new FormsAuthenticationTicket(1, "John Doe", DateTime.Now, DateTime.Now.AddYears(1), true, "");
HttpCookie cookie = new HttpCookie(".FooAuth");
cookie.Value =
FormsAuthentication.Encrypt(fat);
cookie.Expires = fat.Expiration;
cookie.Domain =
".foo.com";
HttpContext.Current.Response.Cookies.Add(cookie);

Note the highlighted lines. By explicitly setting the cookie domain to ".foo.com" we ensure that this cookie will be visible in both http://foo.com and http://bar.foo.com or any other sub-domain. You can also specifically set the Bar authentication cookie domain to "bar.foo.com". It is more secure, since other sub-domains can’t see it now. Also notice that RFC 2109 requires two periods in the cookie domain value, therefore we add a period in the front – ".foo.com"

Again, make sure that you have the same <machineKey> element in web.config of both applications. There is only one exception to this rule and it is explained in the next secion.

4. SSO when applications run under different versions of .NET

It is possible that Foo and Bar applications run under different version of .NET. In this case the above examples will not work. It turns out that ASP.NET 2.0 is using a different encryption method for authorization tickets. In ASP.NET 1.1 it was 3DES, in ASP.NET 2.0 it is AES. Fortunately, a new attribute was introduced in ASP.NET 2.0 for backwards compatibility

<machineKey validationKey="F9D1A2D3E1D3E2F7B3D9F90FF3965ABDAC304902" decryptionKey="F9D1A2D3E1D3E2F7B3D9F90FF3965ABDAC304902F8D923AC" validation="SHA1" decryption="3DES" />

Setting decryption="3DES" will make ASP.NET 2.0 use the old encryption method, making the cookies compatible again. Don’t try to add this attribute to the web.config of the ASP.NET 1.1 application. It will cause an error.

5. SSO for two applications in different domains.

We’ve been quite successful creating shared authentication cookies so far, but what if Foo and Bar are in different domains – http://foo.com and http://bar.com? They cannot possibly share a cookie or create a second cookie for each other. In this case each site will need to create its own cookies, and call the other site to verify if the user is logged in elsewhere. One way to do it is via a series of redirects.

In order to achieve that, we will create a special page (we’ll call it sso.aspx) on both web sites. The purpose of this page is to check if the cookie exists in its domain and return the logged in user name, so that the other application can create a similar cookie in its own domain. This is the sso.aspx from Bar.com:

<%@ Page Language="C#" %>

<script language="C#" runat="server">

 

void Page_Load()
{
   
// this is our caller, we will need to redirect back to it eventually
   
UriBuilder uri = new UriBuilder(Request.UrlReferrer);

   HttpCookie c = HttpContext.Current.Request.Cookies[".BarAuth"];

   if (c != null && c.HasKeys) // the cookie exists!
   {
      
try
      
{
         
string cookie = HttpContext.Current.Server.UrlDecode(c.Value);
         
FormsAuthenticationTicket fat = FormsAuthentication.Decrypt(cookie);         

         uri.Query = uri.Query + "&ssoauth=" + fat.Name; // add logged-in user name to the query
      
}
      
catch
      
{
      }
   }
   Response.Redirect(uri.ToString());
// redirect back to the caller
}

</script>

This page always redirects back to the caller. If the authentication cookie exists on Bar.com, it is decrypted and the user name is passed back in the query string parameter ssoauth.

On the other end (Foo.com), we need to insert some code into the http request processing pipeline. It can be in Application_BeginRequest event or in a custom HttpHandler or HttpModule. The idea is to intercept all page requests to Foo.com as early as possible to verify if authentication cookie exists:

1. If authentication cookie exists on Foo.com, continue processing the request. User is logged in on Foo.com
2. If authentication cookie doesn’t exist, redirect to Bar.com/sso.aspx.
3. If the current request is the redirect back from Bar.com/sso.aspx, analyse the ssoauth parameter and create an authentication cookie if necessary.

It looks pretty simple, but we have to watch out for infinite loops:

// see if the user is logged in
HttpCookie c = HttpContext.Current.Request.Cookies[".FooAuth"];

if (c != null && c.HasKeys) // the cookie exists!
{
   try
   
{
      string cookie = HttpContext.Current.Server.UrlDecode(c.Value);
      FormsAuthenticationTicket fat = FormsAuthentication.Decrypt(cookie);
      return; // cookie decrypts successfully, continue processing the page
   
}
   
catch
   
{
   
}
}

// the authentication cookie doesn't exist - ask Bar.com if the user is logged in there
UriBuilder uri = new UriBuilder(Request.UrlReferrer);

if (uri.Host != "bar.com" || uri.Path != "/sso.aspx") // prevent infinite loop
{
   Response.Redirect(
http://bar.com/sso.aspx);
}
else
{
   // we are here because the request we are processing is actually a response from bar.com

   if (Request.QueryString["ssoauth"] == null)
   {
      // Bar.com also didn't have the authentication cookie
      
return; // continue normally, this user is not logged-in 
   
} else
   
{

      // user is logged in to Bar.com and we got his name!
      
string userName = (string)Request.QueryString["ssoauth"];
   
      
// let's create a cookie with the same name
      
FormsAuthenticationTicket fat = new FormsAuthenticationTicket(1, userName, DateTime.Now, DateTime.Now.AddYears(1), true, "");
      
HttpCookie cookie = new HttpCookie(".FooAuth");
      cookie.Value =
FormsAuthentication.Encrypt(fat);
      cookie.Expires = fat.Expiration;
      
HttpContext.Current.Response.Cookies.Add(cookie);
   
}
}

The same code should be placed on both sites, just make sure you are using correct cookie names (.FooAuth vs. .BarAuth) on each site. Since the cookie is not actually shared, the applications can have different <machineKey> elements. It is not necessary to synchronize the encryption and validation keys.

Some of us may cringe at the security implications of passing the user name in the query string. A couple of things can be done to protect it. First of all we are checking the referrer and we will not accept the ssoauth parameter from any source other then bar.com/sso.aspx (or foo.com/ssp.aspx). Secondly, the name can easily be encrypted with a shared key. If Foo and Bar are using different authentication mechanisms, additional user information (e.g. e-mail address) can be passed along similarly.

6. SSO for mixed-mode authentication (Forms and Windows)

So far we have dealt with Forms authentication only. But what if we want to authenticate Internet users via Forms authentication first and if it fails, check if the Intranet user is authenticated on the NT domain? In theory we can check the following parameter to see if there is a Windows logon associated with the request:

Request.ServerVariables["LOGON_USER"]

However, unless our site has Anonymous Access disabled, this value is always empty. We can disable Anonymous Access and enable Integrate Windows Authentication for our site in the IIS control panel. Now the LOGON_USER value contains the NT domain name of the logged in Intranet user. But all Internet users get challenged for the Windows login name and password. Not cool. We need to be able to let the Internet users login via Forms authentication and if it fails, check their Windows domain credentials.

One way to solve this problem is to have a special entry page for Intranet users that has Integrate Windows Authentication enabled, validates the domain user, creates a Forms cookie and redirects to the main web site. We can even conceal the fact that Intranet users are hitting a different page by making a Server.Transfer.

There is also an easier solution. It works because of the way IIS handles the authentication process. If anonymous access is enabled for a web site, IIS is passing requests right through to the ASP.NET runtime. It doesn’t attempt to perform any kind of authentication. However, if the request results in an authentication error (401), IIS will attempt an alternative authentication method specified for this site. You need to enable both Anonymous Access and Integrated Windows Authentication and execute the following code if Forms authentication fails:

if (System.Web.HttpContext.Current.Request.ServerVariables["LOGON_USER"] == "") { 
   System.Web.HttpContext.Current.Response.StatusCode = 401; 
   System.Web.HttpContext.Current.Response.End();
}
else
{
   
// Request.ServerVariables["LOGON_USER"] has a valid domain user now!
}

When this code executes, it will check the domain user and will get an empty string initially. It will then terminate the current request and return the authentication error (401) to IIS. This will make the IIS use the alternative authentication mechanism, which in our case is Integrated Windows Authentication. If the user is already logged in to the domain, the request will be repeated, now with the NT domain user information filled-in. If the user is not logged in to the domain, he will be challenged for the Windows name/password up to 3 times. If the user cannot login after the third attempt, he will get the 403 error (access denied).

Conclusion

We have examined various scenarios of Single Sign-On for two ASP.NET applications. It is also quite possible to implement SSO for heterogeneous systems spawning across different platforms. Ideas remain the same, but the implementation may require some creative thinking.