inetinfo.exe is the Microsoft IIS server running, handling ASP.NET requests among other things. When an ASP.NET request is received (usually a file with .aspx extension), the ISAPI filter aspnet_isapi.dll takes care of it by passing the request to the actual worker process aspnet_wp.exe.
IIS provides a variety of authentication schemes:
- Anonymous (enabled by default)
- Integrated Windows authentication (enabled by default)
- Client Certificate Mapping
Anonymous authentication gives users access to the public areas of your Web site without prompting them for a user name or password. Although listed as an authentication scheme, it is not technically performing any client authentication because the client is not required to supply any credentials. Instead, IIS provides stored credentials to Windows using a special user account, IUSR_machinename. By default, IIS controls the password for this account. Whether or not IIS controls the password affects the permissions the anonymous user has. When IIS controls the password, a sub authentication DLL (iissuba.dll) authenticates the user using a network logon. The function of this DLL is to validate the password supplied by IIS and to inform Windows that the password is valid, thereby authenticating the client. However, it does not actually provide a password to Windows. When IIS does not control the password, IIS calls the LogonUser() API in Windows and provides the account name, password and domain name to log on the user using a local logon. After the logon, IIS caches the security token and impersonates the account. A local logon makes it possible for the anonymous user to access network resources, whereas a network logon does not.
IIS Basic authentication as an implementation of the basic authentication scheme found in section 11 of the HTTP 1.0 specification.
As the specification makes clear, this method is, in and of itself, non-secure. The reason is that Basic authentication assumes a trusted connection between client and server. Thus, the username and password are transmitted in clear text. More specifically, they are transmitted using Base64 encoding, which is trivially easy to decode. This makes Basic authentication the wrong choice to use over a public network on its own.
Basic Authentication is a long-standing standard supported by nearly all browsers. It also imposes no special requirements on the server side -- users can authenticate against any NT domain, or even against accounts on the local machine. With SSL to shelter the security credentials while they are in transmission, you have an authentication solution that is both highly secure and quite flexible.
The Digest authentication option was added in Windows 2000 and IIS 5.0. Like Basic authentication, this is an implementation of a technique suggested by Web standards, namely RFC 2069 (superceded by RFC 2617).
Digest authentication also uses a challenge/response model, but it is much more secure than Basic authentication (when used without SSL). It achieves this greater security not by encrypting the secret (the password) before sending it, but rather by following a different design pattern -- one that does not require the client to transmit the password over the wire at all.
Instead of sending the password itself, the client transmits a one-way message digest (a checksum) of the user's password, using (by default) the MD5 algorithm. The server then fetches the password for that user from a Windows 2000 Domain Controller, reruns the checksum algorithm on it, and compares the two digests. If they match, the server knows that the client knows the correct password, even though the password itself was never sent. (If you have ever wondered what the default ISAPI filter "md5filt" that is installed with IIS 5.0 is used for, now you know.
Integrated Windows Authentication
Integrated Windows authentication (formerly known as NTLM authentication and Windows NT Challenge/Response authentication) can use either NTLM or Kerberos V5 authentication and only works with Internet Explorer 2.0 and later.
When Internet Explorer attempts to access a protected resource, IIS sends two WWW-Authenticate headers, Negotiate and NTLM.
- If Internet Explorer recognizes the Negotiate header, it will choose it because it is listed first. When using Negotiate, the browser will return information for both NTLM and Kerberos. At the server, IIS will use Kerberos if both the client (Internet Explorer 5.0 and later) and server (IIS 5.0 and later) are running Windows 2000 and later, and both are members of the same domain or trusted domains. Otherwise, the server will default to using NTLM.
- If Internet Explorer does not understand Negotiate, it will use NTLM.
So, which mechanism is used depends upon a negotiation between Internet Explorer and IIS.
When used in conjunction with Kerberos v5 authentication, IIS can delegate security credentials among computers running Windows 2000 and later that are trusted and configured for delegation. Delegation enables remote access of resources on behalf of the delegated user.
Integrated Windows authentication is the best authentication scheme in an intranet environment where users have Windows domain accounts, especially when using Kerberos. Integrated Windows authentication, like digest authentication, does not pass the user's password across the network. Instead, a hashed value is exchanged.
Client Certificate Mapping
A certificate is a digitally signed statement that contains information about an entity and the entity's public key, thus binding these two pieces of information together. A trusted organization (or entity) called a Certification Authority (CA) issues a certificate after the CA verifies that the entity is who it says it is. Certificates can contain different types of data. For example, an X.509 certificate includes the format of the certificate, the serial number of the certificate, the algorithm used to sign the certificate, the name of the CA that issued the certificate, the name and public key of the entity requesting the certificate, and the CA's signature. X.509 client certificates simplify authentication for larger user bases because they do not rely on a centralized account database. You can verify a certificate simply by examining the certificate.
- How to configure the sites in Web server (IIS)?
- Advantages in IIS 6.0?
- IIS Isolation Levels?
Internet Information Server introduced the notion "Isolation Level", which is also present in IIS4 under a different name. IIS5 supports three isolation levels, that you can set from the Home Directory tab of the site's Properties dialog:
- Low (IIS Process): ASP pages run in INetInfo.Exe, the main IIS process, therefore they are executed in-process. This is the fastest setting, and is the default under IIS4. The problem is that if ASP crashes, IIS crashes as well and must be restarted (IIS5 has a reliable restart feature that automatically restarts a server when a fatal error occurs).
- Medium (Pooled): In this case ASP runs in a different process, which makes this setting more reliable: if ASP crashes IIS won't. All the ASP applications at the Medium isolation level share the same process, so you can have a web site running with just two processes (IIS and ASP process). IIS5 is the first Internet Information Server version that supports this setting, which is also the default setting when you create an IIS5 application. Note that an ASP application that runs at this level is run under COM+, so it's hosted in DLLHOST.EXE (and you can see this executable in the Task Manager).
- High (Isolated): Each ASP application runs out-process in its own process space, therefore if an ASP application crashes, neither IIS nor any other ASP application will be affected. The downside is that you consume more memory and resources if the server hosts many ASP applications. Both IIS4 and IIS5 supports this setting: under IIS4 this process runs inside MTS.EXE, while under IIS5 it runs inside DLLHOST.EXE.
When selecting an isolation level for your ASP application, keep in mind that out-process settings - that is, Medium and High - are less efficient than in-process (Low). However, out-process communication has been vastly improved under IIS5, and in fact IIS5's Medium isolation level often deliver better results than IIS4's Low isolation. In practice, you shouldn't set the Low isolation level for an IIS5 application unless you really need to serve hundreds pages per second.