Claim based Authorization in Asp.Net Core

By Wijitha Wijenayake

Authentication and Authorization are two most essential features in any kind of application. In Microsoft .Net Technology Stack, Identity Framework is the tool designed to achieve this.

In this post I’m not going to talk about the Authentication. I will only show you how we can implement a fully customized Authorization Engine for an Asp.Net Web Application using some of the cool features of Identity Framework.

Before proceed, I assume that you have some understanding on Asp.Net Core, Identity Framework, Token and Cookie based Authentication and MVC architecture.

The Easy and Common Way

The most common and simplest approach is to implement Role based authorization by decorating Controllers and Actions with Authorize attribute with the allowed Role(s).

public class IndexController


Problem with This Approach

This approach will work fine for small applications as long as users do not want complex functionalities related to permissions. However if you have to or will have to answer ‘Yes’ to any of the following questions you might be in trouble down the line.

  1. Would new Roles needs to be added to the system?

  2. Add permissions to the new Roles?

  3. Change the permissions of existing roles? (Ex: Remove user deletion permission from Manager Role)

  4. Implement an admin UI where users can manage Roles and Permissions in the system

As in Role based authorization, if the permissions are hard coded based on roles, it will be challenging if there are any changes related to permissions. Most likely you will have to modify the existing working code, resulting having to perform regression testing each and every time which would take significant amount of time.

Claim based Authorization with Identity Core

The proposed solution is to implement a fully customized Authorization Engine using Identity Framework. Initially it might look bit complex. But once the initial ground work is done, the rest of the work will be smooth. I will try to keep things simple as much as possible.

Step 01

Define a custom claim type as “permission”. Claim types are just strings. Let’s create a const class to hold the values for consistency.

public class CustomClaimTypes
    public const string Permission = "projectname/permission";

Step 02

Next, we need to identify the areas of the system based on business logic and define permissions for those areas. Again these are strings and, I’m creating a const class to hold these values. Let’s assume our system has Users and Teams management areas.

public static class Users
    public const string Add = "users.add";
    public const string Edit = "users.edit";
    public const string EditRole = "users.edit.role";

public static class Teams
    public const string AddRemove = "teams.addremove";
    public const string EditManagers = "teams.edit.managers";
    public const string Delete = "teams.delete";

Step 03

Next step is assigning permission claims to each role based on the requirement. This can be done in various ways. For simplicity I create the initial roles and assigned their permission claims in Entity Framework Database initializer method (Seed method).

await roleManager.CreateAsync(new ApplicationRole("Manager"));

await roleManager.CreateAsync(new ApplicationRole("User"));

var userRole = await roleManager.FindByNameAsync("User");

await roleManager.AddClaimAsync(userRole, new Claim(CustomClaimTypes.Permission, Permissions.User.View));

await roleManager.AddClaimAsync(userRole, new Claim(CustomClaimTypes.Permission, Permissions.Team.View));

var managerRole = await roleManager.FindByNameAsync("Manager");

await roleManager.AddClaimAsync(managerRole, new Claim(CustomClaimTypes.Permission, Permissions.Users.Add));

await roleManager.AddClaimAsync(managerRole, new Claim(CustomClaimTypes.Permission, Permissions.Teams.Addremove));

Role claims are saved in AspNetRoleClaims table. If you prefer you can do this purely in database level. Or else you can give a UI to configure this from the front end. But that might take more time and if there is no specific customer requirement, it will be over an over kill.

Step 04

As the next step, we need to add these claims to authentication token or cookie (Based on the type of authentication used). I’m not sure in cookie authentication whether the role claims are added the to the Auth cookie by default. If not you have to add them manually. In the token based approach you should add them manually. Following is how you do it in token based model.

var roles = await _userManager.GetRolesAsync(user);

var userRoles = roles.Select(r => new Claim(ClaimTypes.Role, r)).ToArray();

var userClaims = await _userManager.GetClaimsAsync(user).ConfigureAwait(false);
var roleClaims = await GetRoleClaimsAsync(roles).ConfigureAwait(false);

var claims = new[]
                 new Claim(ClaimTypes.NameIdentifier, user.Id.ToString()),
                 new Claim(ClaimTypes.Email, user.Email),
                 new Claim(ClaimTypes.Name, user.UserName)

var key = new SymmetricSecurityKey(Encoding.UTF8.GetBytes(_jwtSettings.SigningKey));
var creds = new SigningCredentials(key, SecurityAlgorithms.HmacSha256);

var token = new JwtSecurityToken(
    issuer: _jwtSettings.Issuer,
    audience: _jwtSettings.Audience,
    claims: claims,
    expires: DateTime.UtcNow.AddYears(1),
    signingCredentials: creds);

By now we have defined a custom claim type, added various claim values (permissions) against each role based on permissions and injected role claims to Auth token/cookie. We are almost there, just couple of steps left.

Step 05

Next step is to define Authorization Policies based on the claims. Again we are creating a const class to hold the policy names.

public static class PolicyTypes
    public static class Users
        public const string Manage = "users.manage.policy";
        public const string EditRole = "users.edit.role.policy";

    public static class Teams
        public const string Manage = "teams.manage.policy";

        public const string AddRemove = "teams.addremove.policy";

After that we need to setup the policies. In Asp.Net Core we will do this in “ConfigureServices()” in the Startup.cs. And this logic should be placed after configuring Identity.

services.AddAuthorization(options =>
options.AddPolicy(PolicyTypes.Teams.Manage, policy => { policy.RequireClaim(CustomClaimTypes.Permission, Permissions.Teams.Manage); });
            options.AddPolicy(PolicyTypes.Teams.AddRemove, policy => { policy.RequireClaim(CustomClaimTypes.Permission, Permissions.Teams.AddRemove); });
options.AddPolicy(PolicyTypes.Users.Manage, policy => { policy.RequireClaim(CustomClaimTypes.Permission, Permissions.Users.Add); });
            options.AddPolicy(PolicyTypes.Users.EditRole, policy => { policy.RequireClaim(CustomClaimTypes.Permission, Permissions.Users.EditRole); });

Step 06

By now we have got all we need. Once you have the policies configured, next step is to decorate the Controllers and Actions with Authorize attribute along with policies.

[Authorize(Policy = PolicyTypes.Teams.Manage)]
public async Task<IEnumerable<TeamDto>> GetSubTeams(int parentId)
    var teams = await _teamService.GetSubTeamsAsync(parentId);
    return teams;

Key Benefits of this Approach

You can achieve following things without modifying the code. Even if there is no UI developed, configuration can be easily done in database level.

  • Can alter permission for Roles easily

  • New Roles can be added and configure the permissions any time

It may looks like lots of work. But once the framework is setup at the beginning of a project, rest of the development and maintenance will be lot easier.