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Using a self-signed certificate with .NET's HttpWebRequest/Response

StackOverflow https://stackoverflow.com/questions/526711
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Question

I'm trying to connect to an API that uses a self-signed SSL certificate. I'm doing so using .NET's HttpWebRequest and HttpWebResponse objects. And I'm getting an exception that:

The underlying connection was closed: Could not establish trust relationship for the SSL/TLS secure channel.

I understand what this means. And I understand why .NET feels it should warn me and close the connection. But in this case, I'd like to just connect to the API anyway, man-in-the-middle attacks be damned.

So, how do I go about adding an exception for this self-signed certificate? Or is the approach to tell HttpWebRequest/Response not to validate the certificate at all? How would I do that?

Solution

@Domster: that works, but you might want to enforce a bit of security by checking if the certificate hash matches what you expect. So an expanded version looks a bit like this (based on some live code we're using):

static readonly byte[] apiCertHash = { 0xZZ, 0xYY, ....};

/// <summary>
/// Somewhere in your application's startup/init sequence...
/// </summary>
void InitPhase()
{
    // Override automatic validation of SSL server certificates.
    ServicePointManager.ServerCertificateValidationCallback =
           ValidateServerCertficate;
}

/// <summary>
/// Validates the SSL server certificate.
/// </summary>
/// <param name="sender">An object that contains state information for this
/// validation.</param>
/// <param name="cert">The certificate used to authenticate the remote party.</param>
/// <param name="chain">The chain of certificate authorities associated with the
/// remote certificate.</param>
/// <param name="sslPolicyErrors">One or more errors associated with the remote
/// certificate.</param>
/// <returns>Returns a boolean value that determines whether the specified
/// certificate is accepted for authentication; true to accept or false to
/// reject.</returns>
private static bool ValidateServerCertficate(
        object sender,
        X509Certificate cert,
        X509Chain chain,
        SslPolicyErrors sslPolicyErrors)
{
    if (sslPolicyErrors == SslPolicyErrors.None)
    {
        // Good certificate.
        return true;
    }

    log.DebugFormat("SSL certificate error: {0}", sslPolicyErrors);

    bool certMatch = false; // Assume failure
    byte[] certHash = cert.GetCertHash();
    if (certHash.Length == apiCertHash.Length)
    {
        certMatch = true; // Now assume success.
        for (int idx = 0; idx < certHash.Length; idx++)
        {
            if (certHash[idx] != apiCertHash[idx])
            {
                certMatch = false; // No match
                break;
            }
        }
    }

    // Return true => allow unauthenticated server,
    //        false => disallow unauthenticated server.
    return certMatch;
}

OTHER TIPS

Turns out, if you just want to disable certificate validation altogether, you can change the ServerCertificateValidationCallback on the ServicePointManager, like so:

ServicePointManager.ServerCertificateValidationCallback = delegate { return true; };

This will validate all certificates (including invalid, expired or self-signed ones).

Note, that in .NET 4.5 you can override SSL validation per HttpWebRequest itself (and not via global delegate which affects all requests):

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/system.net.httpwebrequest.servercertificatevalidationcallback.aspx

HttpWebRequest request = (HttpWebRequest)HttpWebRequest.Create(uri);
request.ServerCertificateValidationCallback = delegate { return true; };

Add the self signed cert to the Local Computer Trusted Root Certification Authorities

You can import the cert by running the MMC as Administrator.

How to: View Certificates with the MMC Snap-in

The scope of the validation callback used in Domster's answer can be limited to a specific request using the sender parameter on the ServerCertificateValidationCallback delegate. The following simple scope class uses this technique to temporarily wire up a validation callback that only executes for a given request object.

public class ServerCertificateValidationScope : IDisposable
{
    private readonly RemoteCertificateValidationCallback _callback;

    public ServerCertificateValidationScope(object request,
        RemoteCertificateValidationCallback callback)
    {
        var previous = ServicePointManager.ServerCertificateValidationCallback;
        _callback = (sender, certificate, chain, errors) =>
            {
                if (sender == request)
                {
                    return callback(sender, certificate, chain, errors);
                }
                if (previous != null)
                {
                    return previous(sender, certificate, chain, errors);
                }
                return errors == SslPolicyErrors.None;
            };
        ServicePointManager.ServerCertificateValidationCallback += _callback;
    }

    public void Dispose()
    {
        ServicePointManager.ServerCertificateValidationCallback -= _callback;
    }
}

The above class can be used to ignore all certificate errors for a specific request as follows:

var request = WebRequest.Create(uri);
using (new ServerCertificateValidationScope(request, delegate { return true; }))
{
    request.GetResponse();
}

To add as a possible help to someone else... If you want it to prompt the user to install the self-signed cert, you can use this code (modified from above).

Does not require admin rights, installs to the local users trusted profiles:

    private static bool ValidateServerCertficate(
        object sender,
        X509Certificate cert,
        X509Chain chain,
        SslPolicyErrors sslPolicyErrors)
    {
        if (sslPolicyErrors == SslPolicyErrors.None)
        {
            // Good certificate.
            return true;
        }

        Common.Helpers.Logger.Log.Error(string.Format("SSL certificate error: {0}", sslPolicyErrors));
        try
        {
            using (X509Store store = new X509Store(StoreName.My, StoreLocation.CurrentUser))
            {
                store.Open(OpenFlags.ReadWrite);
                store.Add(new X509Certificate2(cert));
                store.Close();
            }
            return true;
        }
        catch (Exception ex)
        {
            Common.Helpers.Logger.Log.Error(string.Format("SSL certificate add Error: {0}", ex.Message));
        }

        return false;
    }

This seems to work well for our application, and if the user presses no, the communication will not work.

Update: 2015-12-11 - Changed StoreName.Root to StoreName.My - My will install into the local users store, instead of Root. Root on some systems will not work, even if you "run as administrator"

Just building on answer from devstuff to include subject and issuer...comments welcome...

public class SelfSignedCertificateValidator
{
    private class CertificateAttributes
    {
        public string Subject { get; private set; }
        public string Issuer { get; private set; }
        public string Thumbprint { get; private set; }

        public CertificateAttributes(string subject, string issuer, string thumbprint)
        {
            Subject = subject;
            Issuer = issuer;                
            Thumbprint = thumbprint.Trim(
                new char[] { '\u200e', '\u200f' } // strip any lrt and rlt markers from copy/paste
                ); 
        }

        public bool IsMatch(X509Certificate cert)
        {
            bool subjectMatches = Subject.Replace(" ", "").Equals(cert.Subject.Replace(" ", ""), StringComparison.InvariantCulture);
            bool issuerMatches = Issuer.Replace(" ", "").Equals(cert.Issuer.Replace(" ", ""), StringComparison.InvariantCulture);
            bool thumbprintMatches = Thumbprint == String.Join(" ", cert.GetCertHash().Select(h => h.ToString("x2")));
            return subjectMatches && issuerMatches && thumbprintMatches; 
        }
    }

    private readonly List<CertificateAttributes> __knownSelfSignedCertificates = new List<CertificateAttributes> {
        new CertificateAttributes(  // can paste values from "view cert" dialog
            "CN = subject.company.int", 
            "CN = issuer.company.int", 
            "f6 23 16 3d 5a d8 e5 1e 13 58 85 0a 34 9f d6 d3 c8 23 a8 f4") 
    };       

    private static bool __createdSingleton = false;

    public SelfSignedCertificateValidator()
    {
        lock (this)
        {
            if (__createdSingleton)
                throw new Exception("Only a single instance can be instanciated.");

            // Hook in validation of SSL server certificates.  
            ServicePointManager.ServerCertificateValidationCallback += ValidateServerCertficate;

            __createdSingleton = true;
        }
    }

    /// <summary>
    /// Validates the SSL server certificate.
    /// </summary>
    /// <param name="sender">An object that contains state information for this
    /// validation.</param>
    /// <param name="cert">The certificate used to authenticate the remote party.</param>
    /// <param name="chain">The chain of certificate authorities associated with the
    /// remote certificate.</param>
    /// <param name="sslPolicyErrors">One or more errors associated with the remote
    /// certificate.</param>
    /// <returns>Returns a boolean value that determines whether the specified
    /// certificate is accepted for authentication; true to accept or false to
    /// reject.</returns>
    private bool ValidateServerCertficate(
        object sender,
        X509Certificate cert,
        X509Chain chain,
        SslPolicyErrors sslPolicyErrors)
    {
        if (sslPolicyErrors == SslPolicyErrors.None)
            return true;   // Good certificate.

        Dbg.WriteLine("SSL certificate error: {0}", sslPolicyErrors);
        return __knownSelfSignedCertificates.Any(c => c.IsMatch(cert));            
    }
}

One thing to keep in mind is that having the ServicePointManager.ServerCertificateValidationCallback does not seem to mean that the CRL check and servername validation are not done, it only provides a means to override their result. So your service might still take a while to get a CRL, you'll only know afterwards that it failed some checks.

I was running into the same problem as the OP where the web request would throw that exact exception. I had everything setup correctly I thought, the certificate was installed, I could locate it in the machine store just fine and attach it to the web request, and I had disabled the verification of certificates on the request context.

It turned out that I was running under my user account, and that the certificate was installed to the machine store. This caused the web request to throw this exception. To solve the problem I had to either be running as administrator or install the certificate to the user store and read it from there.

It would seem that C# is able to find the certificate in the machine store even though it can't be used with a web request, and that this results in the OP's exception being thrown once the web request is issued.

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