Geneva Beta 2 Update: ClaimsPrincipalHttpModule

I am currently in the process of updating my Geneva code to Beta 2. There are some pretty substantial changes/additions in the new Beta – so I thought I’ll detail some of them while moving along. Today: ClaimsPrincipalHttpModule.

For a basic understanding what the module does, I recommend reading my initial post here.

Starting with Beta 2, ClaimsPrincipalHttpModule supports converting X509 client certificates to an IClaimsPrincipal. This is done by using the ctor of IClaimsIdentity that takes an X509Certificate2 which results in an authenticated identity with an authentication type set to “SSL/PCT”.

Now as always, certificate based authentication is a little different to e.g. username/password. In the strict sense a user is authenticated when you know “who he is”. For usernames/passwords authentication this means as soon as you have successfully validated the password against your data store (or put differently – as soon as the user provides a proof for his identity). Proofing identity in the certificate case basically means that the certificate is trusted and the client “knows” the corresponding private key. That’s why the ClaimsPrincipalHttpModule sets IsAuthenticated=true when the client certificate is valid.

Now Windows/IIS supports a number of certificate issuers and a user can potentially present a client cert to IIS which is “valid” but the client may still not be a valid/registered user in your system. This results (depending on your design) in different semantics for “IsAuthenticated” checks like Request.IsAuthenticated or <deny users=”?” />.

A better way would be to replace blanket authentication checks with checks for specific claims (like a “User” role or some permission).


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