September 08 2018

ASP.NET Core 2.1 - Basic Authentication Tutorial with Example API

Tutorial built with ASP.NET Core 2.1

In this tutorial we'll go through a simple example of how to implement Basic HTTP authentication in an ASP.NET Core 2.1 API with C#.

The example API has just two endpoints/routes to demonstrate authenticating with basic http authentication and accessing a restricted route:

  • /users/authenticate - public route that accepts HTTP POST requests containing the username and password in the body. If the username and password are correct then the user details are returned.
  • /users - secure route that accepts HTTP GET requests and returns a list of all the users in the application if the HTTP Authorization header contains valid basic authentication credentials. If there are no basic auth credentials or the credentials are invalid then a 401 Unauthorized response is returned.

The tutorial project is available on GitHub at https://github.com/cornflourblue/aspnet-core-basic-authentication-api.

Tools required to run the ASP.NET Core 2.1 Tutorial Example Locally

To develop and run ASP.NET Core applications locally, download and install the following:

  • .NET Core SDK - includes the .NET Core runtime and command line tools
  • Visual Studio Code - code editor that runs on Windows, Mac and Linux
  • C# extension for Visual Studio Code - adds support to VS Code for developing .NET Core applications

Running the ASP.NET Core Basic Authentication API Locally

  1. Download or clone the tutorial project code from https://github.com/cornflourblue/aspnet-core-basic-authentication-api
  2. Start the api by running dotnet run from the command line in the project root folder (where the WebApi.csproj file is located), you should see the message Now listening on: http://localhost:4000. You can test the api directly using an application such as Postman or you can test it with one of the single page applications below.

NOTE: You can also start the application in debug mode in VS Code by opening the project root folder in VS Code and pressing F5 or by selecting Debug -> Start Debugging from the top menu. Running in debug mode allows you to attach breakpoints to pause execution and step through the application code.


Running an Angular 6 client app with the ASP.NET Core Basic Auth API

For full details about the example Angular 6 application see the tutorial Angular 6 - Basic HTTP Authentication Tutorial & Example. But to get up and running quickly just follow the below steps.

  1. Download or clone the Angular 6 tutorial code from https://github.com/cornflourblue/angular-6-basic-authentication-example
  2. Install all required npm packages by running npm install from the command line in the project root folder (where the package.json is located).
  3. Remove or comment out the line below the comment // provider used to create fake backend located in the /src/app/app.module.ts file.
  4. Start the application by running npm start from the command line in the project root folder, this will launch a browser displaying the Angular example application and it should be hooked up with the ASP.NET Core Basic Authentication API that you already have running.


Running a React client app with the ASP.NET Core Basic Auth API

For full details about the example React application see the post React - Basic HTTP Authentication Tutorial & Example. But to get up and running quickly just follow the below steps.

  1. Download or clone the React tutorial code from https://github.com/cornflourblue/react-basic-authentication-example
  2. Install all required npm packages by running npm install from the command line in the project root folder (where the package.json is located).
  3. Remove or comment out the 2 lines below the comment // setup fake backend located in the /src/index.jsx file.
  4. Start the application by running npm start from the command line in the project root folder, this will launch a browser displaying the React example application and it should be hooked up with the ASP.NET Core Basic Authentication API that you already have running.


Running a VueJS client app with the ASP.NET Core Basic Auth API

For full details about the example Vue.js application see the post Vue.js - Basic HTTP Authentication Tutorial & Example. But to get up and running quickly just follow the below steps.

  1. Download or clone the VueJS tutorial code from https://github.com/cornflourblue/vue-basic-authentication-example
  2. Install all required npm packages by running npm install from the command line in the project root folder (where the package.json is located).
  3. Remove or comment out the 2 lines below the comment // setup fake backend located in the /src/index.js file.
  4. Start the application by running npm start from the command line in the project root folder, this will launch a browser displaying the VueJS example application and it should be hooked up with the ASP.NET Core Basic Authentication API that you already have running.


ASP.NET Core Basic Authentication Project Structure

The tutorial project is organised into the following folders:
Controllers - define the end points / routes for the web api, controllers are the entry point into the web api from client applications via http requests.
Services - contain business logic, validation and data access code.
Entities - represent the application data.
Helpers - anything that doesn't fit into the above folders.

Click any of the below links to jump down to a description of each file along with its code:

 

ASP.NET Core Users Controller

Path: /Controllers/UsersController.cs

The ASP.NET Core users controller defines and handles all routes / endpoints for the api that relate to users, this includes authentication and standard CRUD operations. Within each route the controller calls the user service to perform the action required, this enables the controller to stay 'lean' and completely separated from the business logic and data access code.

The controller actions are secured with basic authentication using the [Authorize] attribute, with the exception of the Authenticate method which allows public access by overriding the [Authorize] attribute on the controller with the [AllowAnonymous] attribute on the action method. I chose this approach so any new action methods added to the controller will be secure by default unless explicitly made public.

using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Mvc;
using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Authorization;
using WebApi.Services;
using WebApi.Entities;
using System.Threading.Tasks;

namespace WebApi.Controllers
{
  [Authorize]
    [ApiController]
    [Route("[controller]")]
    public class UsersController : ControllerBase
    {
        private IUserService _userService;

        public UsersController(IUserService userService)
        {
            _userService = userService;
        }

        [AllowAnonymous]
        [HttpPost("authenticate")]
        public async Task<IActionResult> Authenticate([FromBody]User userParam)
        {
            var user = await _userService.Authenticate(userParam.Username, userParam.Password);

            if (user == null)
                return BadRequest(new { message = "Username or password is incorrect" });

            return Ok(user);
        }

        [HttpGet]
        public async Task<IActionResult> GetAll()
        {
            var users = await _userService.GetAll();
            return Ok(users);
        }
    }
}
 

ASP.NET Core User Entity

Path: /Entities/User.cs

The user entity class represents the data for a user in the application. Entity classes are used to pass data between different parts of the application (e.g. between services and controllers) and can be used to return http response data from controller action methods.

namespace WebApi.Entities
{
    public class User
    {
        public int Id { get; set; }
        public string FirstName { get; set; }
        public string LastName { get; set; }
        public string Username { get; set; }
        public string Password { get; set; }
    }
}
 

ASP.NET Core Basic Authentication Handler

Path: /Helpers/BasicAuthenticationHandler.cs

The basic authentication handler is asp.net core middleware that handles request authentication by inheriting from the asp.net core AuthenticationHandler base class and overriding the HandleAuthenticateAsync() method.

Basic authentication logic is implemented in the HandleAuthenticateAsync() method by verifying the username and password received in the HTTP Authorization header, verification is done by calling _userService.Authenticate(username, password). On successful authentication the method returns AuthenticateResult.Success(ticket) which makes the request authenticated and sets the HttpContext.User to the currently logged in user.

The basic authentication middleware is configured in the application inside the ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services) method in the application Startup file below.

using System;
using System.Net.Http.Headers;
using System.Security.Claims;
using System.Text;
using System.Text.Encodings.Web;
using System.Threading.Tasks;
using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Authentication;
using Microsoft.Extensions.Logging;
using Microsoft.Extensions.Options;
using WebApi.Entities;
using WebApi.Services;

namespace WebApi.Helpers
{
    public class BasicAuthenticationHandler : AuthenticationHandler<AuthenticationSchemeOptions>
    {
        private readonly IUserService _userService;

        public BasicAuthenticationHandler(
            IOptionsMonitor<AuthenticationSchemeOptions> options,
            ILoggerFactory logger,
            UrlEncoder encoder,
            ISystemClock clock,
            IUserService userService)
            : base(options, logger, encoder, clock)
        {
            _userService = userService;
        }

        protected override async Task<AuthenticateResult> HandleAuthenticateAsync()
        {
            if (!Request.Headers.ContainsKey("Authorization"))
                return AuthenticateResult.Fail("Missing Authorization Header");

            User user = null;
            try 
            {
                var authHeader = AuthenticationHeaderValue.Parse(Request.Headers["Authorization"]);
                var credentialBytes = Convert.FromBase64String(authHeader.Parameter);
                var credentials = Encoding.UTF8.GetString(credentialBytes).Split(':');
                var username = credentials[0];
                var password = credentials[1];
                user = await _userService.Authenticate(username, password);
            } 
            catch 
            {
                return AuthenticateResult.Fail("Invalid Authorization Header");
            }

            if (user == null)
                return AuthenticateResult.Fail("Invalid Username or Password");

            var claims = new[] { 
                new Claim(ClaimTypes.NameIdentifier, user.Id.ToString()),
                new Claim(ClaimTypes.Name, user.Username),
            };
            var identity = new ClaimsIdentity(claims, Scheme.Name);
            var principal = new ClaimsPrincipal(identity);
            var ticket = new AuthenticationTicket(principal, Scheme.Name);

            return AuthenticateResult.Success(ticket);
        }
    }
}
 

ASP.NET Core Basic Auth User Service

Path: /Services/UserService.cs

The user service contains a method for authenticating user credentials, and a method for getting all users in the application.

I hardcoded the array of users in the example to keep it focused on basic http authentication, in a production application it is recommended to store user records in a database with hashed passwords. For an extended example that includes support for user registration and stores data with Entity Framework Core check out ASP.NET Core 2.1 - Simple API for Authentication, Registration and User Management.

The top of the file contains an interface that defines the user service, below that is the concrete user service class that implements the interface.

On successful authentication the Authenticate method returns the user details, the client application should then include the base64 encoded user credentials in the HTTP Authorization header of subsequent api requests to access secure endpoints.

using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;
using System.Threading.Tasks;
using Microsoft.Extensions.Options;
using WebApi.Entities;
using WebApi.Helpers;

namespace WebApi.Services
{
  public interface IUserService
    {
        Task<User> Authenticate(string username, string password);
        Task<IEnumerable<User>> GetAll();
    }

    public class UserService : IUserService
    {
        // users hardcoded for simplicity, store in a db with hashed passwords in production applications
        private List<User> _users = new List<User>
        { 
            new User { Id = 1, FirstName = "Test", LastName = "User", Username = "test", Password = "test" } 
        };

        public async Task<User> Authenticate(string username, string password)
        {
            var user = await Task.Run(() => _users.SingleOrDefault(x => x.Username == username && x.Password == password));

            // return null if user not found
            if (user == null)
                return null;

            // authentication successful so return user details without password
            user.Password = null;
            return user;
        }

        public async Task<IEnumerable<User>> GetAll()
        {
            // return users without passwords
            return await Task.Run(() => _users.Select(x => {
                x.Password = null;
                return x;
            }));
        }
    }
}
 

ASP.NET Core App Settings (Development)

Path: /appsettings.Development.json

Configuration file with application settings that are specific to the development environment.

{
  "Logging": {
    "IncludeScopes": false,
    "LogLevel": {
      "Default": "Debug",
      "System": "Information",
      "Microsoft": "Information"
    }
  }
}
 

ASP.NET Core App Settings

Path: /appsettings.json

Root configuration file containing application settings for all environments.

{
  "Logging": {
    "IncludeScopes": false,
    "LogLevel": {
      "Default": "Warning"
    }
  }
}
 

ASP.NET Core Program

Path: /Program.cs

The program class is a console app that is the main entry point to start the application, it configures and launches the web api host and web server using an instance of WebHostBuilder. ASP.NET Core applications require a host in which to execute.

Kestrel is the web server used in the example, it's a new cross-platform web server for ASP.NET Core that's included in new project templates by default. Kestrel is fine to use on it's own for internal applications and development, but for public facing websites and applications it should sit behind a more mature reverse proxy server (IIS, Apache, Nginx etc) that will receive HTTP requests from the internet and forward them to Kestrel after initial handling and security checks.

using System.IO;
using Microsoft.AspNetCore;
using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Hosting;

namespace WebApi
{
    public class Program
    {
        public static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            BuildWebHost(args).Run();
        }

        public static IWebHost BuildWebHost(string[] args) =>
            WebHost.CreateDefaultBuilder(args)
                .UseStartup<Startup>()
                .UseUrls("http://localhost:4000")
                .Build();
    }
}
 

ASP.NET Core Startup

Path: /Startup.cs

The startup class configures the request pipeline of the application and how all requests are handled.

The basic authentication handler is configured for the application in the ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services) method.

using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Builder;
using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Hosting;
using Microsoft.Extensions.Configuration;
using Microsoft.Extensions.DependencyInjection;
using Microsoft.Extensions.Logging;
using WebApi.Helpers;
using WebApi.Services;
using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Authentication;

namespace WebApi
{
  public class Startup
    {
        public Startup(IConfiguration configuration)
        {
            Configuration = configuration;
        }

        public IConfiguration Configuration { get; }

        // This method gets called by the runtime. Use this method to add services to the container.
        public void ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services)
        {
            services.AddCors();
            services.AddMvc();

            // configure basic authentication 
            services.AddAuthentication("BasicAuthentication")
                .AddScheme<AuthenticationSchemeOptions, BasicAuthenticationHandler>("BasicAuthentication", null);

            // configure DI for application services
            services.AddScoped<IUserService, UserService>();
        }

        // This method gets called by the runtime. Use this method to configure the HTTP request pipeline.
        public void Configure(IApplicationBuilder app, IHostingEnvironment env, ILoggerFactory loggerFactory)
        {
            loggerFactory.AddConsole(Configuration.GetSection("Logging"));
            loggerFactory.AddDebug();

            // global cors policy
            app.UseCors(x => x
                .AllowAnyOrigin()
                .AllowAnyMethod()
                .AllowAnyHeader()
                .AllowCredentials());

            app.UseAuthentication();
            
            app.UseMvc();
        }
    }
}
 

ASP.NET Core Basic Authentication Web Api csproj

Path: /WebApi.csproj

The csproj (C# project) is an MSBuild based file that contains target framework and NuGet package dependency information for the application.

<Project Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk.Web">
  <PropertyGroup>
    <TargetFramework>netcoreapp2.1</TargetFramework>
  </PropertyGroup>
  <ItemGroup>
    <PackageReference Include="Microsoft.AspNetCore.App" />
  </ItemGroup>
</Project>

 

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