UPD: Here is another good solution to this problem if you are running your own IIS.

Last week I was updating one of applications I work on to ASP.NET Identity. For a specific reasons I could not deploy to Azure for a while. But I did run all the tests locally and everything worked just fine.

When I mostly finished with Identity conversion, I finally managed to deploy the application to Azure Web-Sites. And it worked fine.. until I tried registering a user.

At that point I had an exception exploding in my face:

System.Security.Cryptography.CryptographicException: The data protection operation was unsuccessful. This may have been caused by not having the user profile loaded for the current thread's user context, which may be the case when the thread is impersonating.

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I’ve spent a few hours trying to figure out why my code does not work, and I have not found any explanations to the issue, so might just write it down here.

In ASP.NET Identity there is a concept for user locking out. You can specify how many attempts user can gets before the lock-out kicks in and for how long the lockout is enabled. This is a widely known, from all the articles online. But what these articles don’t say is that users can be opted-in and opted-out from this process.

If you look on IdentityUser class, there are 2 fields that relate to lockout: LockoutEnabled and LockoutEndDateUtc. My first reaction was that LockoutEnabled says that user is locked-out and LockoutEndDateUtc is time when the lockout expires.

Turned out that I was wrong. LockoutEnabled is a flag saying that user can (or can not) be locked in principle. I.e. opt-in flag for locking. So if we have an admin user who we don’t want to lockout ever, we’ll set this flag to be false. And for the rest of user-base this should be set to true.

To check if user is locked-out use UserManager.IsLockedOutAsync(user.Id). Function UserManager.GetLockoutEnabledAsync() checks if user is opted in for lock-out, it does not check if user is actually locked-out.

And fields on IdentityUser – don’t use them to detect is user is locked out, they are lies! Use UserManager functions to detect user state.

Hope this will save some people a head-banging, cause that caused me some stress!

Update 27 Aug 2014

To enable locking-out UserManager should have these flags set:

//lockout users for 10 minutes
UserManager.DefaultAccountLockoutTimeSpan = TimeSpan.FromMinutes(10);

// takes 6 incorrect attempts to lockout 
this.MaxFailedAccessAttemptsBeforeLockout = 6;

// when new user is created, they will be "lockable". 
this.UserLockoutEnabledByDefault = true;

To lockout user you can do this:

user.LockoutEnabled = true;
user.LockoutEndDateUtc = DateTime.UtcNow.AddMinutes(42);
await userManager.UpdateAsync(user);

This will set the user to be locked out for 42 minutes from now. However, this is not recommended way to lock-out user, this is what the framework does in the background. There are ways users can lock themselves out.

If you are updated to AspNet Identity 2.1 (which has been released recently). You should use SignInManager:

var signInManager = new SignInManager(userManager, authenticationManager);
var signInStatus = await signInManager.PasswordSignInAsync(username, password, isPersistent, shouldLockout);

If shouldLockout is true, user is getting locked out after a number of failed attempts to login.

PasswordSignInAsync method does the following steps:

  • checks if user with given username exists;
  • then checks if this user is not locked out;
  • if password is correct, redirects logic to 2FA (if it is enabled);
  • if shouldLockout is true, then on incorrect password increases number of failed log-ins on user record.

If you have not updated and still using Identity v2.0 do the following. On every failed attempt to login, call the following

await userManager.AccessFailedAsync(user.Id); 

IdentityUser class have property AccessFailedCount. The method above increases count on this property. If count is greater than UserManager.MaxFailedAccessAttemptsBeforeLockout, then user is getting locked out: user.LockoutEndDateUtc is set to a date in the future and resets AccessFailedCount to zero.

When user is signed-in successfully, you need to reset AccessFailedCount to zero. Do it by calling:

await userManager.ResetAccessFailedCountAsync(user.Id);

Recently I’ve migrated my project to ASP.NET Identity. One of the features I had in the project is “Impersonation”. Administrators could impersonate any other user in the system. This is a strange requirement, but business behind the project wanted it.

This is the old impersonation way:

  1. When admin wanted impersonation, system would serialise information about admin account (mostly username).
  2. Find account for impersonated user
  3. Create a new authentication cookie for impersonated user
  4. As data add serialised information about admin account to the cookie
  5. Set the cookie
  6. Redirect admin to client page.
  7. Bingo, admin logged in as a client user.

To de-impersonate repeate the process in reverse. Get data about admin from cookie data (if it is present), delete cookie for client-user, login admin user again. Bingo, admin is logged in as admin again.

Here is the article how the old way is implemented

This exact code did not work with Identity framework. I tried finding the solution online, but nothing was available. My question on Stackoverslow immediately got 4 up-votes, but no answers. So people are interested in doing it, but nobody published any material on this. So here I am -)

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