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ASP.NET Request Validation

Revision as of 22:15, 2 November 2014 by Bricex (talk | contribs) (Description)

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Request validation is a feature in ASP.NET that examines HTTP requests and determines whether they contain potentially dangerous content. This check adds protection from markup or code in the URL query string, cookies, or posted form values that might have been added for malicious purposes. This exploit is typically referred to as a cross-site scripting (XSS) attack. Request validation helps to prevent this kind of attack by throwing a "potentially dangerous value was detected" error and halting page processing if it detects input that may be malicious, such as markup or code in the request.

Don't Rely on Request Validation for XSS Protection

Request validation is generally desirable and should be left enabled for defense in depth. It should not be used as your sole method of XSS protection, and does not guarantee to catch every type of invalid input. There are known, documented bypasses (such as JSON requests) that will not be addressed in future releases, and the request validation feature is no longer supported in ASP.NET vNext.

Enabling Request Validation

Request validation is enabled by default in ASP.NET. You can check to make sure it is not disabled at the page level by searching for any instances of:

<@ Page ValidateRequest="false" %>

You should also inspect the web.config file to ensure that request validation has not been disabled for the entire application:

<pages validateRequest="false" />

Starting with ASP.NET 4.0 request validation is performed for all requests, not just for .aspx page requests. To ensure this is configured correctly look to see that requestValidationMode has NOT been set to 2.0.

<httpRuntime requestValidationMode="2.0" />


ASP.NET Web API does not utilize the request validation feature to sanitize user input. You will need to add this protection manually if any input will be used in HTML output. For example if user input is returned to the browser as the result from an AJAX request to a Web API method.

Validating User Input

Even though request validation provides a good level of input protection, you should not fully rely on it for securing your application against cross-site scripting attacks. Instead, validate all input from users to ensure malicious code is not included.

Use Server.HtmlEncode to encode user input for use in HTML output:

var encodedHtmlInput = Server.HtmlEncode(userInput);

Use Server.UrlEncode to encode user input for use in constructing URLs

var encodedUrlInput = Server.UrlEncode(userInput);

Enhanced Request Validation Encoding

ASP.NET request validation uses a black-listing technique that evaluates the string for a set of character combinations that may indicate presence of malicious script. A superior approach is to use a white-listing technique for input validation, which can be achieved using the Anti-Cross Site Scripting Library from Microsoft. Starting with ASP.NET 4.5 you can specify that the AntiXssEncoder from this library be used as the default encoder for you entire application using the encoderType setting in web.config as shown below.

<httpRuntime encoderType="System.Web.Security.AntiXss.AntiXssEncoder" />

If you are using a version of .NET earlier than 4.5, you will need to download and include the library as a reference to your project, and then use the earlier library name for the encodeType setting as shown below.

<httpRuntime encoderType="Microsoft.Security.Application.AntiXssEncoder, AntiXssLibrary" />

Selectively Disabling Request Validation

In some cases you may need to accept input that will fail ASP.NET Request Validation, such as when receiving HTML markup from the end user. In these scenarios you should disable request validation for the smallest surface possible, and replace it with your own custom input validation.

ASP.NET Web Forms

For ASP.NET Web Forms applications you will need to disable request validation at the page level. Be aware that when doing this all input values (cookies, query string, form elements) handled by this page will not be validated by ASP.NET.

<@ Page ValidateRequest="false" %>


To disable request validation for a specific MVC controller action, you can use the [ValidateInput(false)] attribute as shown below.

public ActionResult Update(int userId, string description)

Starting with ASP.NET MVC 3 you should use the [AllowHtml] attribute to decorate specific fields on your view model classes where request validation should not be applied:

public class User 
    public int Id { get; set; }
    public string Name { get; set; }
    public string Email { get; set; }
    public string Description { get; set; }
    public string Bio { get; set; }