C# – JWT authentication for ASP.NET Web API

asp.net-web-apic++jwtsecurity

I'm trying to support JWT bearer token (JSON Web Token) in my web API application and I'm getting lost.

I see support for .NET Core and for OWIN applications.
I'm currently hosting my application in IIS.

How can I achieve this authentication module in my application? Is there any way I can use the <authentication> configuration similar to the way I use forms/Windows authentication?

Best Solution

I answered this question: How to secure an ASP.NET Web API 4 years ago using HMAC.

Now, lots of things changed in security, especially that JWT is getting popular. In this answer, I will try to explain how to use JWT in the simplest and basic way that I can, so we won't get lost from jungle of OWIN, Oauth2, ASP.NET Identity... :)

If you don't know about JWT tokens, you need to take a look at:

https://www.rfc-editor.org/rfc/rfc7519

Basically, a JWT token looks like this:

<base64-encoded header>.<base64-encoded claims>.<base64-encoded signature>

Example:

eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJ1bmlxdWVfbmFtZSI6ImN1b25nIiwibmJmIjoxNDc3NTY1NzI0LCJleHAiOjE0Nzc1NjY5MjQsImlhdCI6MTQ3NzU2NTcyNH0.6MzD1VwA5AcOcajkFyKhLYybr3h13iZjDyHm9zysDFQ

A JWT token has three sections:

  1. Header: JSON format which is encoded in Base64
  2. Claims: JSON format which is encoded in Base64.
  3. Signature: Created and signed based on Header and Claims which is encoded in Base64.

If you use the website jwt.io with the token above, you can decode the token and see it like below:

A screenshot of jwt.io with the raw jwt source and the decoded JSON it represents

Technically, JWT uses a signature which is signed from headers and claims with security algorithm specified in the headers (example: HMACSHA256). Therefore, JWT must be transferred over HTTPs if you store any sensitive information in its claims.

Now, in order to use JWT authentication, you don't really need an OWIN middleware if you have a legacy Web Api system. The simple concept is how to provide JWT token and how to validate the token when the request comes. That's it.

In the demo I've created (github), to keep the JWT token lightweight, I only store username and expiration time. But this way, you have to re-build new local identity (principal) to add more information like roles, if you want to do role authorization, etc. But, if you want to add more information into JWT, it's up to you: it's very flexible.

Instead of using OWIN middleware, you can simply provide a JWT token endpoint by using a controller action:

public class TokenController : ApiController
{
    // This is naive endpoint for demo, it should use Basic authentication
    // to provide token or POST request
    [AllowAnonymous]
    public string Get(string username, string password)
    {
        if (CheckUser(username, password))
        {
            return JwtManager.GenerateToken(username);
        }

        throw new HttpResponseException(HttpStatusCode.Unauthorized);
    }

    public bool CheckUser(string username, string password)
    {
        // should check in the database
        return true;
    }
}

This is a naive action; in production you should use a POST request or a Basic Authentication endpoint to provide the JWT token.

How to generate the token based on username?

You can use the NuGet package called System.IdentityModel.Tokens.Jwt from Microsoft to generate the token, or even another package if you like. In the demo, I use HMACSHA256 with SymmetricKey:

/// <summary>
/// Use the below code to generate symmetric Secret Key
///     var hmac = new HMACSHA256();
///     var key = Convert.ToBase64String(hmac.Key);
/// </summary>
private const string Secret = "db3OIsj+BXE9NZDy0t8W3TcNekrF+2d/1sFnWG4HnV8TZY30iTOdtVWJG8abWvB1GlOgJuQZdcF2Luqm/hccMw==";

public static string GenerateToken(string username, int expireMinutes = 20)
{
    var symmetricKey = Convert.FromBase64String(Secret);
    var tokenHandler = new JwtSecurityTokenHandler();

    var now = DateTime.UtcNow;
    var tokenDescriptor = new SecurityTokenDescriptor
    {
        Subject = new ClaimsIdentity(new[]
        {
            new Claim(ClaimTypes.Name, username)
        }),

        Expires = now.AddMinutes(Convert.ToInt32(expireMinutes)),
        
        SigningCredentials = new SigningCredentials(
            new SymmetricSecurityKey(symmetricKey), 
            SecurityAlgorithms.HmacSha256Signature)
    };

    var stoken = tokenHandler.CreateToken(tokenDescriptor);
    var token = tokenHandler.WriteToken(stoken);

    return token;
}

The endpoint to provide the JWT token is done.

How to validate the JWT when the request comes?

In the demo, I have built JwtAuthenticationAttribute which inherits from IAuthenticationFilter (more detail about authentication filter in here).

With this attribute, you can authenticate any action: you just have to put this attribute on that action.

public class ValueController : ApiController
{
    [JwtAuthentication]
    public string Get()
    {
        return "value";
    }
}

You can also use OWIN middleware or DelegateHander if you want to validate all incoming requests for your WebAPI (not specific to Controller or action)

Below is the core method from authentication filter:

private static bool ValidateToken(string token, out string username)
{
    username = null;

    var simplePrinciple = JwtManager.GetPrincipal(token);
    var identity = simplePrinciple.Identity as ClaimsIdentity;

    if (identity == null || !identity.IsAuthenticated)
        return false;

    var usernameClaim = identity.FindFirst(ClaimTypes.Name);
    username = usernameClaim?.Value;

    if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(username))
       return false;

    // More validate to check whether username exists in system

    return true;
}

protected Task<IPrincipal> AuthenticateJwtToken(string token)
{
    string username;

    if (ValidateToken(token, out username))
    {
        // based on username to get more information from database 
        // in order to build local identity
        var claims = new List<Claim>
        {
            new Claim(ClaimTypes.Name, username)
            // Add more claims if needed: Roles, ...
        };

        var identity = new ClaimsIdentity(claims, "Jwt");
        IPrincipal user = new ClaimsPrincipal(identity);

        return Task.FromResult(user);
    }

    return Task.FromResult<IPrincipal>(null);
}

The workflow is to use the JWT library (NuGet package above) to validate the JWT token and then return back ClaimsPrincipal. You can perform more validation, like check whether user exists on your system, and add other custom validations if you want.

The code to validate JWT token and get principal back:

public static ClaimsPrincipal GetPrincipal(string token)
{
    try
    {
        var tokenHandler = new JwtSecurityTokenHandler();
        var jwtToken = tokenHandler.ReadToken(token) as JwtSecurityToken;

        if (jwtToken == null)
            return null;

        var symmetricKey = Convert.FromBase64String(Secret);

        var validationParameters = new TokenValidationParameters()
        {
            RequireExpirationTime = true,
            ValidateIssuer = false,
            ValidateAudience = false,
            IssuerSigningKey = new SymmetricSecurityKey(symmetricKey)
        };

        SecurityToken securityToken;
        var principal = tokenHandler.ValidateToken(token, validationParameters, out securityToken);

        return principal;
    }
    catch (Exception)
    {
        //should write log
        return null;
    }
}

If the JWT token is validated and the principal is returned, you should build a new local identity and put more information into it to check role authorization.

Remember to add config.Filters.Add(new AuthorizeAttribute()); (default authorization) at global scope in order to prevent any anonymous request to your resources.

You can use Postman to test the demo:

Request token (naive as I mentioned above, just for demo):

GET http://localhost:{port}/api/token?username=cuong&password=1

Put JWT token in the header for authorized request, example:

GET http://localhost:{port}/api/value

Authorization: Bearer eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJ1bmlxdWVfbmFtZSI6ImN1b25nIiwibmJmIjoxNDc3NTY1MjU4LCJleHAiOjE0Nzc1NjY0NTgsImlhdCI6MTQ3NzU2NTI1OH0.dSwwufd4-gztkLpttZsZ1255oEzpWCJkayR_4yvNL1s

The demo can be found here: https://github.com/cuongle/WebApi.Jwt