Custom Authorization Policy Providers using IAuthorizationPolicyProvider in ASP.NET Core

By Mike Rousos

Typically when using policy-based authorization, policies are registered by calling AuthorizationOptions.AddPolicy as part of authorization service configuration. In some scenarios, it may not be possible (or desirable) to register all authorization policies in this way. In those cases, you can use a custom IAuthorizationPolicyProvider to control how authorization policies are supplied.

Examples of scenarios where a custom IAuthorizationPolicyProvider may be useful include:

  • Using an external service to provide policy evaluation.
  • Using a large range of policies (for different room numbers or ages, for example), so it doesn't make sense to add each individual authorization policy with an AuthorizationOptions.AddPolicy call.
  • Creating policies at runtime based on information in an external data source (like a database) or determining authorization requirements dynamically through another mechanism.

View or download sample code from the AspNetCore GitHub repository. Download the dotnet/AspNetCore repository ZIP file. Unzip the file. Navigate to the src/Security/samples/CustomPolicyProvider project folder.

Customize policy retrieval

ASP.NET Core apps use an implementation of the IAuthorizationPolicyProvider interface to retrieve authorization policies. By default, DefaultAuthorizationPolicyProvider is registered and used. DefaultAuthorizationPolicyProvider returns policies from the AuthorizationOptions provided in an IServiceCollection.AddAuthorization call.

Customize this behavior by registering a different IAuthorizationPolicyProvider implementation in the app's dependency injection container.

The IAuthorizationPolicyProvider interface contains three APIs:

  • GetPolicyAsync returns an authorization policy for a given name.
  • GetDefaultPolicyAsync returns the default authorization policy (the policy used for [Authorize] attributes without a policy specified).
  • GetFallbackPolicyAsync returns the fallback authorization policy (the policy used by the Authorization Middleware when no policy is specified).

By implementing these APIs, you can customize how authorization policies are provided.

Parameterized authorize attribute example

One scenario where IAuthorizationPolicyProvider is useful is enabling custom [Authorize] attributes whose requirements depend on a parameter. For example, in policy-based authorization documentation, an age-based (“AtLeast21”) policy was used as a sample. If different controller actions in an app should be made available to users of different ages, it might be useful to have many different age-based policies. Instead of registering all the different age-based policies that the application will need in AuthorizationOptions, you can generate the policies dynamically with a custom IAuthorizationPolicyProvider. To make using the policies easier, you can annotate actions with custom authorization attribute like [MinimumAgeAuthorize(20)].

Custom Authorization attributes

Authorization policies are identified by their names. The custom MinimumAgeAuthorizeAttribute described previously needs to map arguments into a string that can be used to retrieve the corresponding authorization policy. You can do this by deriving from AuthorizeAttribute and making the Age property wrap the AuthorizeAttribute.Policy property.

internal class MinimumAgeAuthorizeAttribute : AuthorizeAttribute
    const string POLICY_PREFIX = "MinimumAge";

    public MinimumAgeAuthorizeAttribute(int age) => Age = age;

    // Get or set the Age property by manipulating the underlying Policy property
    public int Age
            if (int.TryParse(Policy.Substring(POLICY_PREFIX.Length), out var age))
                return age;
            return default(int);
            Policy = $"{POLICY_PREFIX}{value.ToString()}";

This attribute type has a Policy string based on the hard-coded prefix ("MinimumAge") and an integer passed in via the constructor.

You can apply it to actions in the same way as other Authorize attributes except that it takes an integer as a parameter.

public IActionResult RequiresMinimumAge10()

Custom IAuthorizationPolicyProvider

The custom MinimumAgeAuthorizeAttribute makes it easy to request authorization policies for any minimum age desired. The next problem to solve is making sure that authorization policies are available for all of those different ages. This is where an IAuthorizationPolicyProvider is useful.

When using MinimumAgeAuthorizationAttribute, the authorization policy names will follow the pattern "MinimumAge" + Age, so the custom IAuthorizationPolicyProvider should generate authorization policies by:

  • Parsing the age from the policy name.
  • Using AuthorizationPolicyBuilder to create a new AuthorizationPolicy
  • In this and following examples it will be assumed that the user is authenticated via a cookie. The AuthorizationPolicyBuilder should either be constructed with at least one authorization scheme name or always succeed. Otherwise there is no information on how to provide a challenge to the user and an exception will be thrown.
  • Adding requirements to the policy based on the age with AuthorizationPolicyBuilder.AddRequirements. In other scenarios, you might use RequireClaim, RequireRole, or RequireUserName instead.
internal class MinimumAgePolicyProvider : IAuthorizationPolicyProvider
    const string POLICY_PREFIX = "MinimumAge";

    // Policies are looked up by string name, so expect 'parameters' (like age)
    // to be embedded in the policy names. This is abstracted away from developers
    // by the more strongly-typed attributes derived from AuthorizeAttribute
    // (like [MinimumAgeAuthorize()] in this sample)
    public Task<AuthorizationPolicy> GetPolicyAsync(string policyName)
        if (policyName.StartsWith(POLICY_PREFIX, StringComparison.OrdinalIgnoreCase) &&
            int.TryParse(policyName.Substring(POLICY_PREFIX.Length), out var age))
            var policy = new AuthorizationPolicyBuilder(CookieAuthenticationDefaults.AuthenticationScheme);
            policy.AddRequirements(new MinimumAgeRequirement(age));
            return Task.FromResult(policy.Build());

        return Task.FromResult<AuthorizationPolicy>(null);

Multiple authorization policy providers

When using custom IAuthorizationPolicyProvider implementations, keep in mind that ASP.NET Core only uses one instance of IAuthorizationPolicyProvider. If a custom provider isn't able to provide authorization policies for all policy names that will be used, it should defer to a backup provider.

For example, consider an application that needs both custom age policies and more traditional role-based policy retrieval. Such an app could use a custom authorization policy provider that:

  • Attempts to parse policy names.
  • Calls into a different policy provider (like DefaultAuthorizationPolicyProvider) if the policy name doesn't contain an age.

The example IAuthorizationPolicyProvider implementation shown above can be updated to use the DefaultAuthorizationPolicyProvider by creating a backup policy provider in its constructor (to be used in case the policy name doesn't match its expected pattern of 'MinimumAge' + age).

private DefaultAuthorizationPolicyProvider BackupPolicyProvider { get; }

public MinimumAgePolicyProvider(IOptions<AuthorizationOptions> options)
    // ASP.NET Core only uses one authorization policy provider, so if the custom implementation
    // doesn't handle all policies it should fall back to an alternate provider.
    BackupPolicyProvider = new DefaultAuthorizationPolicyProvider(options);

Then, the GetPolicyAsync method can be updated to use the BackupPolicyProvider instead of returning null:

return BackupPolicyProvider.GetPolicyAsync(policyName);

Default policy

In addition to providing named authorization policies, a custom IAuthorizationPolicyProvider needs to implement GetDefaultPolicyAsync to provide an authorization policy for [Authorize] attributes without a policy name specified.

In many cases, this authorization attribute only requires an authenticated user, so you can make the necessary policy with a call to RequireAuthenticatedUser:

public Task<AuthorizationPolicy> GetDefaultPolicyAsync() => 
    Task.FromResult(new AuthorizationPolicyBuilder(CookieAuthenticationDefaults.AuthenticationScheme).RequireAuthenticatedUser().Build());

As with all aspects of a custom IAuthorizationPolicyProvider, you can customize this, as needed. In some cases, it may be desirable to retrieve the default policy from a fallback IAuthorizationPolicyProvider.

Fallback policy

A custom IAuthorizationPolicyProvider can optionally implement GetFallbackPolicyAsync to provide a policy that's used when combining policies and when no policies are specified. If GetFallbackPolicyAsync returns a non-null policy, the returned policy is used by the Authorization Middleware when no policies are specified for the request.

If no fallback policy is required, the provider can return null or defer to the fallback provider:

public Task<AuthorizationPolicy> GetFallbackPolicyAsync() => 

Use a custom IAuthorizationPolicyProvider

To use custom policies from an IAuthorizationPolicyProvider, you must:

  • Register the appropriate AuthorizationHandler types with dependency injection (described in policy-based authorization), as with all policy-based authorization scenarios.

  • Register the custom IAuthorizationPolicyProvider type in the app's dependency injection service collection in Startup.ConfigureServices to replace the default policy provider.

    services.AddSingleton<IAuthorizationPolicyProvider, MinimumAgePolicyProvider>();

A complete custom IAuthorizationPolicyProvider sample is available in the dotnet/aspnetcore GitHub repository.