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Azure AD should 403

By default Microsoft.Identity.Web responds to unauthorized requests with a 302 (redirect). Do you want a 403 (forbidden) instead? Here's how.

If you're using the tremendous Azure Active Directory for authentication with ASP.NET then there's a good chance you're using the Microsoft.Identity.Web library. It's this that allows us to drop the following statement into the ConfigureServices method of our Startup class:

services.AddMicrosoftIdentityWebAppAuthentication(Configuration);

Which (combined with configuration in our appsettings.json files) hooks us up with Azure AD for authentication. This is 95% awesome. The 5% is what we're here for. Here's a screenshot of the scenario that troubles us:

a screenshot of Chrome Devtools showing a 302

We've made a request to /WeatherForecast; a secured endpoint (a controller decorated with the Authorize attribute). We're authenticated; the app knows who we are. But we're not authorized / allowed to access this endpoint. We don't have permission. The HTTP specification caters directly for this scenario with status code 403 Forbidden:

The 403 (Forbidden) status code indicates that the server understood the request but refuses to authorize it.

However, Microsoft.Identity.Web is ploughing another furrow. Instead of returning 403, it's returning 302 Found and redirecting the browser to https://localhost:5001/Account/AccessDenied?ReturnUrl=%2FWeatherForecast. Now the intentions here are great. If you wanted to implement a page in your application at that endpoint that displayed some kind of useful message it would be really useful. However, what if you want the more HTTP-y behaviour instead? In the case of a HTTP request triggered by JavaScript (typical for Single Page Applications) then this redirect isn't that helpful. JavaScript doesn't really know what to do with the 302 and whilst you could code around this, it's not desirable.

We want 403 - we don't want 302.

Give us 403#

You can have this behaviour by dropping the following code after your services.AddMicrosoftIdentityWebAppAuthentication:

services.Configure<CookieAuthenticationOptions>(CookieAuthenticationDefaults.AuthenticationScheme, options =>
{
options.Events.OnRedirectToAccessDenied = new Func<RedirectContext<CookieAuthenticationOptions>, Task>(context =>
{
context.Response.StatusCode = StatusCodes.Status403Forbidden;
return context.Response.CompleteAsync();
});
});

This code hijacks the redirect to AccessDenied and transforms it into a 403 instead. Tremendous! What does this look like?

a screenshot of Chrome Devtools showing a 403

This is the behaviour we want!

Extra customisation bonus points#

You may want to have some nuance to the way you handle unauthorized requests. Because of the nature of OnRedirectToAccessDenied this is entirely possible; you have complete access to the requests coming in which you can use to direct behaviour. To take a single example, let's say we want to direct normal browsing behaviour (AKA humans clicking about in Chrome) which is not authorized to a given screen, otherwise provide 403s. What would that look like?

services.Configure<CookieAuthenticationOptions>(CookieAuthenticationDefaults.AuthenticationScheme, options =>
{
options.Events.OnRedirectToAccessDenied = new Func<RedirectContext<CookieAuthenticationOptions>, Task>(context =>
{
var isRequestForHtml = context.Request.Headers["Accept"].ToString().Contains("text/html");
if (isRequestForHtml) {
context.Response.StatusCode = StatusCodes.Status302Found;
context.Response.Headers["Location"] = "/unauthorized";
}
else {
context.Response.StatusCode = StatusCodes.Status403Forbidden;
}
return context.Response.CompleteAsync();
});
});

So above, we check the request Accept headers and see if they contain "text/html"; which we're using as a signal that the request came from a users browsing. (This may not be bulletproof; better suggestions gratefully received.) If the request does contain a "text/html"``Accept header then we redirect the client to an /unauthorized screen, otherwise we return 403 as we did before. Super flexible and powerful!