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Building Secure ASP.NET Applications: Authentication, Authorization, and Secure Communication

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How To: Store an Encrypted Connection String in the Registry in ASP.NET 1.1

J.D. Meier, Alex Mackman, Michael Dunner, and Srinath Vasireddy
Microsoft Corporation

Published: November 2002

Last Revised: January 2006

Applies to:

  • .NET Framework 1.1

See the "patterns & practices Security Guidance for Applications Index" for links to additional security resources.

See the Landing Page for a starting point and complete overview of Building Secure ASP.NET Applications.

Summary: Applications may choose to store encrypted data such as connection strings and account credentials in the Windows registry. This How To shows you how to store and retrieve encrypted strings in the registry. (7 printed pages)

Contents

Notes
Summary of Steps Step 1. Store the Encrypted Data in the Registry
Step 2. Create an ASP.NET Web Application
Additional Resources

The registry represents one possible location for an application to store database connection strings. Although individual registry keys can be secured with Windows access control lists (ACLs), for added security you should store encrypted connection strings.

This How To describes how to store an encrypted database connection string in the registry and retrieve it from an ASP.NET Web application. It uses the generic encryption and decryption managed class library created in How To: Create an Encryption Library in .NET 1.1, which can be found in Reference section of this guide.

If you have not already created the encryption class library assembly, do so before continuing with the current How To.

For more information about other locations and ways of securely storing database connection strings, see Storing Database Connection Strings Securely in Chapter 12, "Data Access Security."

Notes

  • The connection string, initialization vector and key used for encryption will be stored in the registry as named values beneath the following registry key.
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\TestApplication
    
  • The initialization vector and key must be stored in order to allow the connection string to be decrypted.

Summary of Steps

This How To includes the following steps:

  • Step 1. Store the Encrypted Data in the Registry
  • Step 2. Create an ASP.NET Web Application

Step 1. Store the Encrypted Data in the Registry

This procedure creates a Windows application that will be used to encrypt a sample database string and store it in the registry.

To store the encrypted data in the registry

  1. Start Visual Studio .NET and create a new C# Windows project called EncryptionTestApp.
  2. Add an assembly reference to the Encryption.dll assembly.

    To create this assembly, you must perform the steps described in How To: Create an Encryption Library in .NET 1.1 in the Reference section of this guide.

  3. Add the following using statements to the top of Form1.cs beneath the existing using statements.
    using Encryption;
    using System.Text;
    using Microsoft.Win32;
    
  4. Add the controls in Table 1 to Form1 and arrange them as illustrated in Figure 1.

    Table 1. EncryptionTestApp controls

    ControlTextID
    LabelConnection String: 
    TextBox txtConnectionString
    LabelKey: 
    TextBox txtKey
    LabelInitialization Vector: 
    TextBox txtInitializationVector
    LabelEncrypted String 
    TextBox txtEncryptedString
    LabelDecrypted String 
    TextBox txtDecryptedString
    ButtonEncryptbtnEncrypt
    ButtonDecryptbtnDecrypt
    ButtonWrite Registry DatabtnWriteRegistryData

    Ff649224.fh11sn01(en-us,PandP.10).gif

    Figure 1. Encryption Test Harness dialog box

  5. Set the Text property of txtConnectionString to
    "Server=local; database=pubs; uid=Bob; pwd=Password"
    
  6. Set the Text property of txtKey to
    "0123456789012345"
    

    The key length is 16 bytes to suite the Triple DES encryption algorithm.

    Although the key used in this example is simple, ideally you should use complex keys. Use the RNGCryptoServiceProvider or PasswordDeriveBytes class for generating complex keys.

  7. Set the Text property of Form1 to
    "Encryption Test Harness"
    
  8. Double-click the Encrypt button to create a button click event handler and add the following code to the event handler.
    try
    {
      // Create the encryptor object, specifying 3DES as the
      // encryption algorithm
      Encryptor enc = new Encryptor(EncryptionAlgorithm.TripleDes);
      // Get the connection string as a byte array
      byte[] plainText = 
        Encoding.ASCII.GetBytes(txtConnectionString.Text);
      byte[] key = Encoding.ASCII.GetBytes(txtKey.Text);
    
      // Perform the encryption
      byte[] cipherText = enc.Encrypt(plainText, key);
      // Store the intialization vector, as this will be required
      // for decryption
      txtInitializationVector.Text = Encoding.ASCII.GetString(enc.IV);
    
      // Display the encrypted string
      txtEncryptedString.Text = Convert.ToBase64String(cipherText);
    }
    catch(Exception ex)
    {
      MessageBox.Show("Exception encrypting: " + ex.Message, 
                      "Encryption ");
    }
    
  9. Return to Form1 in Designer mode and double-click the Decrypt button to create a button click event handler.
  10. Add the following code to the Decrypt button event handler.
    try
    {
      // Set up the Decryptor object
      Decryptor dec = new Decryptor(EncryptionAlgorithm.TripleDes);
    
      // Set the Initialization Vector
      dec.IV = Encoding.ASCII.GetBytes(txtInitializationVector.Text);
    
      byte[] key = Encoding.ASCII.GetBytes(txtKey.Text);
      // Perform the decryption
      byte[] plainText =  dec.Decrypt(Convert.FromBase64String(
                                      txtEncryptedString.Text),
                                      key);
    
      // Display the decrypted string.
      txtDecryptedString.Text = Encoding.ASCII.GetString(plainText);
    }
    catch(Exception ex)
    {
      MessageBox.Show("Exception decrypting. " + ex.Message, 
                      "Encryption Test Harness");
    }
    
  11. Return to Form1 in Designer mode and double-click the Write Registry Data button to create a button click event handler.
  12. Add the following code to the event handler.
    // Create registry key and named values
    RegistryKey rk = Registry.LocalMachine.OpenSubKey("Software",true);
    rk = rk.CreateSubKey("TestApplication");
    
    // Write encrypted string, initialization vector and key to the 
      registry
    rk.SetValue("connectionString",txtEncryptedString.Text);
    rk.SetValue("initVector",
               Encoding.ASCII.GetBytes(txtInitializationVector.Text));
    rk.SetValue("key", Encoding.ASCII.GetBytes(
                                             txtKey.Text));
    MessageBox.Show("The data has been successfully written to the 
      registry");
    
  13. Run the application, and then click Encrypt.

    The encrypted connection string is displayed in the Encrypted String field.

  14. Click Decrypt.

    The original string is displayed in the Decrypted String field.

  15. Click Write Registry Data.
  16. In the message box, click OK.
  17. Run regedit.exe and view the contents of the following key.
    HKLM\Software\TestApplication
    

    Confirm that encoded values are present for the connectionString, initVector and key named values.

  18. Close regedit and the test harness application.

Step 2. Create an ASP.NET Web Application

This procedure develops a simple ASP.NET Web application that will retrieve the encrypted connection string from the registry and decrypt it. By default, the ASP.NET process identity used by the Web application will not have access to the registry. Access will need to be explicitly granted.

To create an ASP.NET application

  1. Create a new Visual C# ASP.NET Web Application called EncryptionWebApp.
  2. Add an assembly reference to the Encryption.dll assembly.

    To create this assembly, you must perform the steps described in How To: Create an Encryption Library in .NET 1.1 in the Reference section of this guide.

  3. Open Webform1.aspx.cs and add the following using statements at the top of the file beneath the existing using statements.
    using Encryption;
    using System.Text;
    using Microsoft.Win32;
    
  4. Add the controls listed in Table 2 to WebForm1.aspx.

    Table 2: WebForm1.aspx controls

    ControlTextID
    Label lblEncryptedString
    Label lblDecryptedString
    ButtonGet Connection StringbtnGetConnectionString
  5. Double-click the Get Connection String button to create a button click event handler.
  6. Add the following code to the event handler.
    RegistryKey rk = Registry.LocalMachine.OpenSubKey(
                                    @"Software\TestApplication",false);
    lblEncryptedString.Text = (string)rk.GetValue("connectionString");
    
    string initVector = (string)rk.GetValue("initVector");
    string strKey = (string)rk.GetValue("key");
    
    Decryptor dec = new Decryptor(EncryptionAlgorithm.TripleDes );
    dec.IV = Convert.FromBase64String(initVector);
    
    // Decrypt the string
    byte[] plainText = dec.Decrypt(Convert.FromBase64String(
                                   lblEncryptedString.Text), 
                                   Convert.FromBase64String(strKey));
    
    lblDecryptedString.Text = Encoding.ASCII.GetString(plainText);
    
  7. On the Build menu, click Build Solution.
  8. Right-click Webform1.aspx in Solution Explorer, and then click View in Browser.
  9. Click Get Connection String.

    The encrypted and decrypted connection strings are displayed on the Web form.

Additional Resources

For more information, see How To: Create an Encryption Library in the Reference section of this guide.

patterns & practices Developer Center

Retired Content

This content is outdated and is no longer being maintained. It is provided as a courtesy for individuals who are still using these technologies. This page may contain URLs that were valid when originally published, but now link to sites or pages that no longer exist.

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