Book Review - Maximizing ASP.NET
Book Review of Maximizing ASP.NET by Jeffrey Putz
Changing the Password Complexity in ASP.NET V2.0
One of the first things many people try with ASP.NET V2.0 (currently in Beta 2) and with the starter kits is to create a new user. Whether it is the CreateUserWizard, a starter kit form or using the membership namespace from code, creating a new profile is going to happen. Immediately following that is often a sigh of frustration when a fairly non-descriptive error occurs: "Please enter a different password." What is that supposed to mean? Is it recommending passwords for us now and not pleased with the one we chose? Did the passwords not match? Even carefully double checking and trying again with a password that is 7 characters and has numbers and upper case and lower case letters triggers this non-descriptive error.
The issue is simply this: ASP.NET V2.0, at the time of writing, has a password complexity requirement of 7 characters and at last 1 non-alphanumeric character. For example, 'Complex592PaSsWoRd' isn't complex enough. A space or a special character is required. Now, being cautious about security is one thing, but many of the V2.0 sites out there now are either test sites, personal or club starter kits or something fairly light. Personally I like to loosen the requirements somewhat, or even loosen them a lot and allow the user to determine how complex they want their password.
Fortunately there are a couple solutions and neither are too complex. The first solution obviously is to enter a more complex password. The second is to override the default complexity requirement and put in your own.
The provider that controls this is the membership provider. This is set by default in the machine.config file on the server. It can be changed at the machine.config file or overridden in the web.config file at the site level.
The two properties that control this are minRequiredPasswordLength and minRequiredNonalphanumericCharacters. They aren't in machine.config by default in the Beta 2 timeframe. I'm not sure if there are plans to change this or not. To override it, simply add them to the <add name="AspNetSqlMembershipProvider" /> section. The minRequiredPasswordLength property must be at least 1, while the minReqiredNonalphanumericCharacters property can be 0. Here is an example of the two lines to add which removes the requirements completely and allows the user to decide on their password. Don't hold me accountable if you open this too much, but I give this example as the other extreme of the default settings.
Now, let's say we want to do this at the web.config level. This is easy enough too. The gotcha is that because it already exists at the machine.config level, there will be a clash between the two. So, you must first "remove" the provider set at the machine level and add it back at the site level. To remove the existing one, (I'm assuming default names) you use <remove name="AspNetSqlMembershipProvider" />
Here is an example of a complete web.config file that could be used. If you have an existing web.config file that you want to work this into, take the section between and including <membership> and </membership> and place it in your <system.web> section.
<add name="LocalSqlServer" connectionString="Data Source=.\SQLExpress;Integrated Security=True;User Instance=True;AttachDBFilename=|DataDirectory|aspnetdb.mdf" />
<remove name="AspNetSqlMembershipProvider" />
type="System.Web.Security.SqlMembershipProvider, System.Web, Version=126.96.36.199, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=b03f5f7f11d50a3a"
Of course anything in my example can be adjusted however you want as long as it is within an allowed range. Take note especially of the connectionStringName which is referenced in the ConnectionString section of web.config and/or machine.config. If you changed your connection string name, then make sure to update the reference to that connection string there. Another thing to take note of is the connection string in this example. That connection string will only work if Sql Server Express is installed on the server and "user instancing" is enabled. At ORCS Web (www.orcsweb.com) for example, we disable user instancing because of security considerations, create a database when first setting up the site, and provide an alternative connection string which should be used instead.
That's it. Once you set this, you'll be able to have a password that isn't quite so complex. This quick example only briefly covers other considerations like the connectionStringName, user instancing, type of database used and additional properties but I hope it gives enough information to lay the foundation of managing the password complexity within ASP.NET v2.0.