ImpersonateSecurityContext function (sspi.h)

The ImpersonateSecurityContext function allows a server to impersonate a client by using a token previously obtained by a call to AcceptSecurityContext (General) or QuerySecurityContextToken. This function allows the application server to act as the client, and thus all necessary access controls are enforced.


  [in] PCtxtHandle phContext


[in] phContext

The handle of the context to impersonate. This handle must have been obtained by a call to the AcceptSecurityContext (General) function.

Return value

If the function succeeds, the function returns SEC_E_OK.

If the function fails, it returns the following error code.

Return code Description
The handle passed to the function is not valid.
The client could not be impersonated.
This value is returned by Schannel kernel mode to indicate that this function is not supported.


The server application calls the ImpersonateSecurityContext function when it needs to impersonate the client. Before doing so, the server must have obtained a valid context handle. To obtain the context handle, the server must call AcceptSecurityContext (General) to submit the client's incoming security token to the security system. The server gets a context handle if the inbound context is validated. The function creates an impersonation token and allows the thread or process to run with the impersonation context.

When using the Schannel security support provider (SSP), the server application must pass the ASC_REQ_MUTUAL_AUTH flag when calling AcceptSecurityContext (General). This ensures that the client is asked for a client certificate during the SSL/TLS handshake. When a client certificate is received, the Schannel package verifies the client certificate and attempts to map it to a user account. When this mapping is successful, then a client user token is created and this function succeeds.

The application server must call the RevertSecurityContext function when it finishes or when it needs to restore its own security context.

ImpersonateSecurityContext is not available with all security packages on all platforms. Typically, it is implemented only on platforms and with security packages that support impersonation. To learn whether a security package supports impersonation, call the QuerySecurityPackageInfo function.

Note  If the ImpersonateSecurityContext function fails, the client is not impersonated, and all subsequent client requests are made in the security context of the process that called the function. If the calling process is running as a privileged account, it can perform actions that the client would not be allowed to perform. To avoid security risks, the calling process should always check the return value. If the return value indicates that the function call failed, no client requests should be executed.
All impersonate functions, including ImpersonateSecurityContext allow the requested impersonation if one of the following is true:
  • The requested impersonation level of the token is less than SecurityImpersonation, such as SecurityIdentification or SecurityAnonymous.
  • The caller has the SeImpersonatePrivilege privilege.
  • A process (or another process in the caller's logon session) created the token using explicit credentials through LogonUser or LsaLogonUser function.
  • The authenticated identity is same as the caller.
Windows XP with SP1 and earlier:  The SeImpersonatePrivilege privilege is not supported.

Windows XP:  The SeImpersonatePrivilege privilege is not supported until Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (SP2).


Requirement Value
Minimum supported client Windows XP [desktop apps only]
Minimum supported server Windows Server 2003 [desktop apps only]
Target Platform Windows
Header sspi.h (include Security.h)
Library Secur32.lib
DLL Secur32.dll

See also

AcceptSecurityContext (General)



SSPI Functions