How-to setup Basic Authentication filter in an Asp.Net Web API project

How-to setup Basic Authentication filter in an Asp.Net Web API

There is no built-in support for Basic Authentication when creating a Web.Api controller using the .Net Framework. However adding this support is fairly straight forward.

The first thing we need to do is create a class that implements the IAuthenticationFilter interface and add it to our project. This class will provide implementations of the following methods: ‘Task AuthenticateAsync(HttpAuthenticationContext context, CancellationToken cancellationToken);’ ‘Task ChallengeAsync(HttpAuthenticationChallengeContext context, CancellationToken cancellationToken);’

The AuthenticateAsync handler is invoked on every call to the web api controller that we associate with the filter. Within this call we determine if the proper Basic authentication header is passed from the client. If the authentication header is valid then a generic principal is set on the HttpContext this could be any type of principal as required for your specific security solution.

A sample implementation of the handler is shown below.

public Task AuthenticateAsync(HttpAuthenticationContext context, CancellationToken cancellationToken)
{
    var authorization = context.Request.Headers.Authorization;
    if (authorization != null &&
        string.Equals(authorization.Scheme, "Basic", StringComparison.OrdinalIgnoreCase) &&
        !string.IsNullOrEmpty(authorization.Parameter))
    {
        if (ExtractUserNameAndPassword(authorization.Parameter, out var userName, out var password) &&
            userName == {VALID_USERNAME} && password == {VALID_PASSWORD})
        {
            var identity = new GenericIdentity(userName, "Basic");
            context.Principal = new GenericPrincipal(identity, null);
        }
        else
        {
            context.ErrorResult = new AuthenticationFailureResult("Invalid username or password", context.Request);
        }
    }
    else
    {
        context.ErrorResult = new AuthenticationFailureResult("Missing auth", context.Request);
    }
    return Task.FromResult(0);
}

This method extracts the username and password from the authorization header supplied by the client browser in the form specified by the RFC specification.

An example of the raw header sent from the browser:

POST /api/controller HTTP/1.1
Authorization: Basic QWxhZGRpbjpvcGVuIHNlc2FtZQ==

The encoded value above is in ISO-8859-1 format, this is simply a base64 encoding of a username and password separated by the colon character ‘:’. To decode this value we can use the following function.

private static bool ExtractUserNameAndPassword(string authorizationParameter, out string userName, out string password)
{
    userName = null;
    password = null;
    byte[] credentialBytes;
    try
    {
        credentialBytes = Convert.FromBase64String(authorizationParameter);
    }
    catch (FormatException)
    {
        return false;
    }

    var encoding = System.Text.Encoding.GetEncoding("ISO-8859-1");
    var decodedCredentials = encoding.GetString(credentialBytes);
    if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(decodedCredentials))
    {
        return false;
    }

    int colonIndex = decodedCredentials.IndexOf(':');
    if (colonIndex == -1)
    {
        return false;
    }

    userName = decodedCredentials.Substring(0, colonIndex);
    password = decodedCredentials.Substring(colonIndex + 1);
    return true;
}

To handle the case where the authentication fails and we need to challenge the browser for the correct authentication. We install an IHttpActionResult in the following method.

public Task ChallengeAsync(HttpAuthenticationChallengeContext context, CancellationToken cancellationToken)
{
    var host = context.Request.RequestUri.DnsSafeHost;
    context.Result = new AddChallengeOnUnauthorizedResult(new AuthenticationHeaderValue("Basic", "realm=\"" + host + "\""), context.Result);
    return Task.CompletedTask;
}

The AddChallengeOnUnauthorizedResult will return a challenge to the browser if the status code is Unauthorized.

 public class AddChallengeOnUnauthorizedResult : IHttpActionResult
{
    private readonly AuthenticationHeaderValue _challenge;
    private readonly IHttpActionResult _innerResult;

    public AddChallengeOnUnauthorizedResult(AuthenticationHeaderValue challenge, IHttpActionResult innerResult)
    {
        _challenge = challenge;
        _innerResult = innerResult;
    }

    public async Task<HttpResponseMessage> ExecuteAsync(CancellationToken cancellationToken)
    {
        var response = await _innerResult.ExecuteAsync(cancellationToken);
        if (response.StatusCode == HttpStatusCode.Unauthorized && response.Headers.WwwAuthenticate.All(h => h.Scheme != _challenge.Scheme))
            response.Headers.WwwAuthenticate.Add(_challenge);
        return response;
    }
}

Finally to enable this filter for all web api requests we simply add the filter to the Filters collection. Within our webapiconfig.cs

    config.Filters.Add(new BasicAuthenticationFilter());

Alternatively a filter can be applied to an individual controller as follows:

[BasicAuthenticationFilter]
public class CustomizedApiControllerBase : ApiController
{
   ...
}