Federating with Live ID (using the Access Control Service)

There are already a number of ways today how you can federate with the Live ID service (e.g. using the Live ID SDK, OpenID or WS-Federation). Another option would be to use the Access Control Service. I can see a bunch of reasons why this may be compelling:

  • Live ID is pre-configured in the ACS. You don’t need any extra configuration steps to register your site with Live ID. It just works.
  • You can use the ACS rules engine to transform the Live ID claims to your application claims.
  • A Live ID is a low barrier entry for customers and partners to the ACS. In case they can’t federate “properly” (e.g. using Geneva or the Services Connector).

Generally, this is a good example of how the ACS can simplify security management and configuration in your application endpoints. You can simply add another authentication method to your application without needing to change anything substantial. All the heavy lifting like crypto, trust and claims configuration is done in the ACS.

This walkthrough uses the PDC bits of the ACS and Geneva framework to access Live ID logins in an ASP.NET app. This is all beta software and details are subject to change!

Step 1: Setting up ASP.NET to use the ACS
First you have to enable Geneva in ASP.NET. This involves adding the WS-Federation authentication module as well as the session authentication module. You also have to setup the service certificate and allowed audience URI. Nothing special here.

Very similar to the WCF scenario I described here, you also have to check the token and SAML issuer. For the issuer check you use the regular issuer name registry as described in my post. For the SAML issuer check you can use an extensibility point in the FAM – simply add this code to global.asax:

void WSFederationAuthenticationModule_SecurityTokenValidated(
  object sender, SecurityTokenValidatedEventArgs e)

These two customizations establish a trust relationship with your ACS. You can now start receiving tokens.

Step 2: Registering the application with the ACS
Again nothing special here. You have to create a scope for the application in your ACS as well as configure the the encrypting certificate to match the certificate you configured in step 1.

The interesting part is the rule definition. When you add a new rule, you can now select the Live ID as an input claim and map it to whatever output claim you want. Examples would be to map it to a group (which in turn can map to permissions) or to tunnel the ID to the relying party (either as-is or as a different claim). The following screenshot shows a rule that transforms the Live ID to a standard name claim:

Step 3: Triggering Live ID login
The last step is to trigger the Live ID handshake in your app. The ACS’ endpoint for federation with Live ID is


In the query string for this endpoint you have to provide the scope and the identity provider name (plus an optional reply-to address), like this:


Unfortunately Geneva framework currently does not support the whr parameter directly, which means you have to construct the URL manually. Geneva’s SignInRequest class can help here. The following code does the redirect to the ACS and Live ID:

protected void _lnkLiveLogin_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
    string homeRealm = http://login.live.com”;
    string scope = http://myrp/default.aspx”;
    string acs = https://accesscontrol.windows.net/passivests/{solutionName}/LiveFederation.aspx”;

    var request = new SignInRequestMessage(new Uri(acs), scope);
    request.Parameters.Add(“whr”, homeRealm);


After all redirects have occurred you end up back in your application with a populated IClaimsPrincipal that contains the claims that you configured in your ACS scope. Adding new identity providers would be a matter of registering them with your ACS and changing the value of the home realm parameter.


This entry was posted in ASP.NET, IdentityModel, WCF. Bookmark the permalink.

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