Using SSL On The TFS Application Tier

It is common within acutely sensitive development environments to incorporate SSL between the different tiers of TFS. Generally, the approach to do this is to modify the configuration to leverage the AT (Application Tier), and then we modify the configuration for the build server to use SSL as well. When this is done, you will notice that 9 times out of 10 that you can browse to the SSL site via FQDN to the builder server agent service. The certificate will even look like the application took correctly. However, you will get the error:

The request failed with an HTTP status 403: Forbidden

To get around this, do three steps:
1) Open the build service configuration file located at Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\Common7\IDE\PrivateAssemblies\tfsbuildservice.exe.config, change the value of AllowedTeamServer to the URL of your TFS. Changing http for https in the value should work.
2) Search the registry for AllowedTeamServer and change the value of all occurrences you find.
3) Restart the build service.

Then you should be good to go!


The Basics of Claims – Part 4 – SharePoint Authentication Logic is Simplified with Claims

There is logic found inside of any application out there which supports the various features that it offers. However, applications aren’t always able to successfully rely upon the Windows authentication to help it with the process. You may have web based application that store the names and passwords of users. They may need to be reset when lockouts occur or there is a breach in the system. With enterprise facing applications, there is a domain controller in place that Windows will use to authenticate.

There are plenty of challenges that can occur though in spite of the presence of integrated authentication though. Kerberos tickets are able to give you a list of groups and user accounts. What are you going to do though if you have a need to send an email to them through your application? As you can see, that would become complex in nature to achieve even when you are only working within the framework of a single domain.

While Kerberos does have limitations, you can get around them when you program the Active Directory. This is a complex process though so be ready. Your goal should be to have a very efficient LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol). This way the queries made aren’t going to slow down your directory server.

You will find that with claims based identity you are able eliminate the authentication logic when you are talking about individual applications. What will happen is that there is an application that verifies the user through the claims process. Therefore, claims is a way for your to get rid of authentication logic in terms of your application.

Don’t let the concept of claims based identity intimidate you because it is used all the time and it is everywhere in society. Let’s take the authentication protocol that is in place at the airport as an example. You aren’t able to just go to a gate to board a plane with your photo ID in hand. You have to go through a process that requires you to check in at the right ticket counter location prior to proceeding to the boarding gate. You will be asked for various information at that time including your name and photo ID.

For those passengers with a flight that takes them out of the country, a passport will be required. All of this pertains to adults traveling but not to minors with them. The only thing you will need to provide for children is their names and so that becomes their authentication. The person behind the ticket counter will also make sure there isn’t any problems with the payment that was processed to pay for the flights. Once all that is done boarding passes are issued and then you can head to the gate for your plane.

All of the information you need to get onto the plane is offered on that boarding pass. The agent at the gate will look at your name and they can even see if you are a frequent flyer member. They will also see your flight number and your seating location. There can be additional information too depending on the specific airline you happen to be flying with. Everything on a given boarding pass allows the process to be a smooth one for customers as well as staff.

If you take a closer look at any airport boarding pass, you will also notice that there is a bar code on it. Some of them have a magnetic strip in lieu of it. There is plenty of information encrypted into those areas too. For example the boarding serial number that shows it to be legitimate as there are ways to make fake boarding passes out there.

All of the information on a given boarding pass is a set of claims that the airline has for identifying you. It verifies that you are authorized to be getting onto a given airplane and assigned a particular seat on it. The agents that are at the gate are going to view your boarding pass, they don’t have to ask you for all the same information that you already gave when you first checked in.

Another scenario though is that you may be able to get the validation you need from another source. For example many airlines now make it convenient to get your boarding pass online and then you can bypass the ticket counter when you arrive at the airport. Which method you used to create your boarding pass won’t alter the end result that it allows you to get on your flight as specified. This is because the claims linked to it have been authenticated.

When it comes to software, the claims involved are referred to as the security tokens. Each one is to be signed by a particular issuer that has created it. In a claims based application, the users are authenticated when they are able to present a signed security token that has been validated by a trusted issuer.

When you are talking about an application developer, they have an advantage with this type of system. You see the application won’t need to have a specific type of credential involved from the user. Of course the person in charge of security for your company is going to create policies and rules that will be evaluated by the user. What your application receives is very similar to the boarding pass information I just shared with you.

What all this means is that regardless of the authentication protocol that is used the application is going to get a set of signed claims. These claims will have the pertinent information on them about the user. This information is in a format that is simplistic in nature and the application will be able to use it immediately.


The Basics of Claims – Part 3 – SharePoint And Application Claims Targeting

A common question asked is if every system needs claims. The answer is that no because many of them have several forms of internal applications that they host. There is a Windows verified system in place that allows the Active Directory to store the identity of the users. Kerberos is part of the Windows system so the application won’t have need to authenticate it. Every application that is part of the Windows authentication will already have the identity of the different users in it.

There are times when you may need to go beyond that Windows authentication though. For example you may be operating an application that users need to access but they don’t have any account that is part of that Windows storage file. Your business may have joined forces with another and there are some kinks to work out. One of them may be the fact that the two Windows interfaces don’t have a trust relationship that is in place.

You may decide you would like to share identity with a business that doesn’t have a .NET framework application in place for you to easily share identities back and forth within those different platforms. Of course there are many other scenarios where you may find that claims based identity really is the best method for you to be using so you can avoid such problems.