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How to make ViewState secure in ASP.NET

, 26 Jan 2011 CPOL
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Ways in which you can prevent someone from decrypting ViewState data.

Introduction

The ASP.NET ViewState is a client side state management mechanism. The ViewState is stored in a hidden field with an ID __VIEWSTATE. Typically, stored ViewState information looks like:

image 

Now let us look at the value. It looks likes an encrypted string. This is nothing but a Base64 encoded string, and is not an encrypted string. So it can be easily decoded.

The main reasons for using Base64 encoding are as follows:

  1. Base64 makes a string suitable for HTTP transfers
  2. It makes it a little harder to read

But people often get confused that this is an encrypted string.

Let us try to decode the string using ViewState Decoder (a nice tool created by Fritz Onion).

image

After decoding the string, we can see the exact data that is stored inside the ViewState. 

You can write a few lines of code to decode the text and you will get the actual View State information.

image

So here is how the ViewState works:

By default, ViewState is serialized into a Base-64 encoded string. On postback, the ViewState information is loaded and reapplied to the persisted state of the control in the control hierarchy.

Solution

There are two different ways in which you can prevent someone from decrypting ViewState data.

  1. You can make sure that the ViewState information is tamper-proof by using "hash codes". You can do this by adding EnableViewStateMAC=true in your page directive. MAC stands for "Message Authentication Code".
  2. image

    When we use EnableViewStateMac="True", during ViewState save, ASP.NET internally uses a hash code. This hash code is a cryptographically strong checksum. This is added with the ViewState content and stored in a hidden filed. During postback, the checksum data is verified again by ASP.NET. If there is a mismatch, the postback will be rejected.

    image

  3. The second option is to set ViewStateEncryptionMode="Always" with your page directives. This will encrypt the ViewState data. You can do this like:
  4. image

ViewStateEncryptionMode has three different options that can be set:

  • Always: encrypt the View State always.
  • Auto: encrypt if a control requests for encryption. For this to happen, the control must call the Page.RegisterRequiresViewStateEncryption() method.
  • Never: Never encrypt the ViewState.

If you set ViewStateEncryptionMode="Always" and try to decode ViewState data, you will get information as shown below:

image

We can also enable these settings for EnableViewStateMAC and ViewStateEncryptionMode in web.config:

image

Note: Try to avoid ViewState encryption if it is not necessary as it can cause performance issues.

If you are a beginner to ViewState, please read my article on ViewState – Beginner’s Guide to View State.

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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About the Author

Abhijit Jana
Technical Lead
India India
.NET Consultant | Former Microsoft MVP - ASP.NET | CodeProject MVP, Mentor, Insiders| Technology Evangelist | Author | Speaker | Geek | Blogger | Husband
 
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Comments and Discussions

 
QuestionMy vote of 5 Pinmembernewton.saber8-Oct-14 2:48 
GeneralMy vote of 3 PinprofessionalArash K121-Jun-13 5:27 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberLanga Manish28-Dec-12 1:22 
GeneralAny example or code about Page.RegisterRequiresViewStateEncryption() PinmemberDomino8819-Mar-11 19:32 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmvpSandeep Mewara27-Jan-11 1:44 
Generalthanks for sharing - have 5 PinmemberPranay Rana26-Jan-11 18:44 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmvpAbhishek Sur26-Jan-11 9:37 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmvpKunal_Chowdhury26-Jan-11 8:00 

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