ASP.NET MVC – How to show unauthorized error on login page?

In my ASP.NET MVC app, I have most controllers decorated with

[Authorize(Roles="SomeGroup")]

When a user is not authorized to access something, they are sent to “~/Login” which is the Login action on my Account controller.

How can I determine that a user has reached the login page because of not being authorized so that I can show an appropriate error?

Answers:

Thank you for visiting the Q&A section on Magenaut. Please note that all the answers may not help you solve the issue immediately. So please treat them as advisements. If you found the post helpful (or not), leave a comment & I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Method 1

UPDATE (Jun 2015): @daniel-lidström has correctly pointed out that you should not use Response.Redirect in an ASP.NET MVC application. For more information about why, please see this link: Response.Redirect and ASP.NET MVC – Do Not Mix.

UPDATE (Sep 2014): I’m not sure when HandleUnauthorizedRequest was added to the AuthorizeAttribute, but either way I’ve been able to refine the AuthorizeRedirect code into something smaller and simpler.

[AttributeUsage(AttributeTargets.Class | AttributeTargets.Method)]
public class AuthorizeRedirect : AuthorizeAttribute
{
    public string RedirectUrl = "~/Error/Unauthorized";

    protected override void HandleUnauthorizedRequest(AuthorizationContext filterContext)
    {
        base.HandleUnauthorizedRequest(filterContext);

        if (filterContext.RequestContext.HttpContext.User.Identity.IsAuthenticated)
        {
            filterContext.Result = new RedirectResult(RedirectUrl);
        }
    }
}

Original Answer Below (still fully functional)

I’ve left this answer here as it still gives you an insight as to how the Authorization pipeline works.

For anyone still landing here, I’ve edited Ben Scheirman’s answer to automatically redirect to an unauthorized page when the user is logged in but not authorized. You can change the redirect path using the name parameter RedirectUrl.

EDIT: I’ve made the solution thread-safe thanks to the advice of Tarynn and MSDN

[AttributeUsage(AttributeTargets.Class | AttributeTargets.Method)]
public class AuthorizeRedirect : AuthorizeAttribute
{
    private const string IS_AUTHORIZED = "isAuthorized";

    public string RedirectUrl = "~/error/unauthorized";

    protected override bool AuthorizeCore(System.Web.HttpContextBase httpContext)
    {
        bool isAuthorized = base.AuthorizeCore(httpContext);

        httpContext.Items.Add(IS_AUTHORIZED, isAuthorized);

        return isAuthorized;
    }

    public override void OnAuthorization(AuthorizationContext filterContext)
    {
        base.OnAuthorization(filterContext);

        var isAuthorized = filterContext.HttpContext.Items[IS_AUTHORIZED] != null 
            ? Convert.ToBoolean(filterContext.HttpContext.Items[IS_AUTHORIZED]) 
            : false;

        if (!isAuthorized && filterContext.RequestContext.HttpContext.User.Identity.IsAuthenticated)
        {
            filterContext.RequestContext.HttpContext.Response.Redirect(RedirectUrl);
        }
    }
}

Method 2

You can look for the ?ReturnUrl= querystring value, or you can create your own authorization filter & set a field in TempData indicating the reason.

Here is a simple custom filter that will do the trick:

[AttributeUsage(AttributeTargets.Class | AttributeTargets.Method)]
public class CustomAuthorizeAttribute : AuthorizeAttribute
{

    // NOTE: This is not thread safe, it is much better to store this
    // value in HttpContext.Items.  See Ben Cull's answer below for an example.
    private bool _isAuthorized;

    protected override bool AuthorizeCore(System.Web.HttpContextBase httpContext)
    {
        _isAuthorized = base.AuthorizeCore(httpContext);
        return _isAuthorized;
    }

    public override void OnAuthorization(AuthorizationContext filterContext)
    {
        base.OnAuthorization(filterContext);

        if(!_isAuthorized)
        {
            filterContext.Controller.TempData.Add("RedirectReason", "Unauthorized");
        }
    }
}

Then in your view, you can do something like this:
@if(TempData["RedirectReason"] == "Unauthorized")
{
    <b>You don't have permission to access that area</b>
}

(Though I’d recommend a better approach than these magic strings, but you get the point)

Method 3

Ben Cull’s method works well, but remember there are two AuthorizeAttribute classes – one in System.Web.HTTP (used by Web API), and the other in System.Web.Mvc. Ben’s method uses the System.Web.Mvc class. For clarity, I suggest using the fully qualified path.

If you’re using Web API alongside MVC, you will need to implement two filters:

public class AuthorizeRedirectMVCAttribute : System.Web.Mvc.AuthorizeAttribute
{
    protected override void HandleUnauthorizedRequest(AuthorizationContext filterContext)
    {
        base.HandleUnauthorizedRequest(filterContext);

        if (filterContext.RequestContext.HttpContext.User.Identity.IsAuthenticated)
        {
            filterContext.Result = new RedirectResult("~/Account/AccessDenied");
        }
    }
}

public class AuthorizeRedirectAPIAttribute : System.Web.Http.AuthorizeAttribute
{
    protected override void HandleUnauthorizedRequest(HttpActionContext actionContext)
    {
        base.HandleUnauthorizedRequest(actionContext);

        if (actionContext.RequestContext.Principal.Identity.IsAuthenticated)
        {
            actionContext.Response = actionContext.Request.CreateResponse(HttpStatusCode.Forbidden);
        }
    }
}

Note that asp.net will let you decorate your MVC controller with an API filter – it just won’t work the way you expect, so keep your attribute names explicit.

Method 4

If you have a controller and don’t want to have a url in you code you can redirect this way as well. It will not change the url in the address bar of the browser so the user will never see the url for the unauthorized page. This was written in MVC 3. This method will also work if you want to redirect them to a login page or if you want to redirect them to a page to just tell them they aren’t authorized. I had section in the program that some user didn’t have rights to but they were logged in so this is what I used.

public class AuthorizedRedirect : AuthorizeAttribute
{
    protected override bool AuthorizeCore(HttpContextBase httpContext)
    {
        bool isAuthorized = base.AuthorizeCore(httpContext);
        return isAuthorized;
    }
protected override void HandleUnauthorizedRequest(AuthorizationContext filterContext)
{
    filterContext.RequestContext.RouteData.Values["controller"] = "error";
    filterContext.Result = new ViewResult { ViewName = "unauthorized" };
}

Method 5

And an even simpler version that utilizes FormsAuthentication settings. For those not familiar with Contract, Contract.Requires is a .NET 4 addition. Pros and cons to using Code Contracts.

public class RequiresAttribute : AuthorizeAttribute
{
    protected override void HandleUnauthorizedRequest(AuthorizationContext filterContext)
    {
        Contract.Requires(filterContext != null);

        HttpContextBase context = filterContext.RequestContext.HttpContext;

        if (context.User.Identity.IsAuthenticated)
        {
            // user does not possess the required role permission
            string url = context.GetCustomErrorUrl(401);
            context.Response.Redirect(url);
        }
        else
        {

            // redirect the user to the login page
            string extraQueryString  = context.Request.RawUrl;
            FormsAuthentication.RedirectToLoginPage(extraQueryString);
        }
    }
}

Method 6

Going further from divide_byzero’s answer even if you don’t have a controller you can still use the HandleUnauthorizedRequest to change the redirect.

[AttributeUsage(AttributeTargets.Class | AttributeTargets.Method)]
    public class AuthoriseRedirect : AuthorizeAttribute
    {
        protected override void HandleUnauthorizedRequest(AuthorizationContext filterContext)
        {
            filterContext.RequestContext.HttpContext.Response.Redirect("UrlToRedirectTo");
        }
    }

Comes in handy if you have a legacy webforms site that you will be converting to MVC over a longer period of time…..!

Method 7

I like what Brian Vander Plaats posted, just added few improvements:

/// <summary>
/// Authorize or redirect to an unauthorized MVC action if the user does not have the required roles
/// (an unauthenticated user will be redirected to the defualt sign in action)
/// <para>Decorate an action or a controller like this [AuthorizeAndRedirect(Roles = "RoleName")]</para>
/// </summary>
[AttributeUsage(AttributeTargets.Class | AttributeTargets.Method, Inherited = true, AllowMultiple = false)]
public class AuthorizeOrRedirectAttribute : System.Web.Mvc.AuthorizeAttribute
{
    protected override void HandleUnauthorizedRequest(AuthorizationContext filterContext)
    {
        base.HandleUnauthorizedRequest(filterContext);

        if (filterContext.RequestContext.HttpContext.User.Identity.IsAuthenticated)
        {
            var routeData = new RouteData();
            routeData.Values.Add("controller", "Error");
            routeData.Values.Add("action", "Unauthorized");
            filterContext.Result = new RedirectToRouteResult(routeData.Values);
        }
    }
}

/// <summary>
/// Authorize or redirect to an unauthorized API action if the user does not have the required roles
/// (an unauthenticated user will be redirected to the defualt sign in action)
/// <para>Decorate an action or a controller like this [AuthorizeAndRedirect(Roles = "RoleName")]</para>
/// </summary>
[AttributeUsage(AttributeTargets.Class | AttributeTargets.Method, Inherited = true, AllowMultiple = false)]
public class AuthorizeOrRedirectApiFilterAttribute : System.Web.Http.AuthorizeAttribute
{
    protected override void HandleUnauthorizedRequest(HttpActionContext actionContext)
    {
        base.HandleUnauthorizedRequest(actionContext);

        if (actionContext.RequestContext.Principal.Identity.IsAuthenticated)
        {
            actionContext.Response = actionContext.Request.CreateResponse(HttpStatusCode.Unauthorized);
        }
    }
}


All methods was sourced from stackoverflow.com or stackexchange.com, is licensed under cc by-sa 2.5, cc by-sa 3.0 and cc by-sa 4.0

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