Programmatically Encrypt The Connection String In Asp.Net MVC Applications

Programmatically encrypt the connection string in Asp.Net MVC applications

In this post, I’m going to show you how you can encrypt your connection string using code, as opposed to command line. In command line approach, you use the aspnet_regiis.exe and issue a set of commands to do the encrypt/decrypt, which you lose some flexibility, but the code approach is much cleaner and more flexible in my opinion. But why do you need to encrypt your connection string and other sensitive information? There are a lot of reasons that warrant the need to encrypt sensitive information in Web.config, for example suppose your client uses a shared hosting, if the server is compromised, the hacker has access to the system files, and he/she can easily use the information in Web.config and access your database data, or if you have your email password in there, a hacker can use it for malicious purposes.

In any event, it is a good idea to encrypt your sensitive information, it is not going to save you if your site attacked per se, but it is an extra layer of security which can make the hacker’s work more difficult.

Encrypting an XML node

Suppose we have a connection string like this:

<connectionStrings>
    <add name="OurDb"
         connectionString="Data Source=(LocalDB)MSSQLLocalDB;
         AttachDbFilename=|DataDirectory|OurDb.mdf;
         Initial Catalog=OurDb;
         Integrated Security=True" 
         providerName="System.Data.SqlClient" />
  </connectionStrings>

For encrypting it, we use the code below:

       public static void EncryptConnString()
        {
            Configuration config = WebConfigurationManager.OpenWebConfiguration("~");
            ConfigurationSection section = config.GetSection("connectionStrings");

            if (!section.SectionInformation.IsProtected)
            {
                section.SectionInformation.ProtectSection("RsaProtectedConfigurationProvider");
                config.Save();
            }
        }

First, we grab the root element in our Web.config using WebConfigurationManager configuration manager class, then we use that variable and the GetSection method and grab our connection string, then we check to see if our node is already encrypted, if not we go ahead and use the section variable and call the ProtectSection method and use the RsaProtectedConfigurationProvider to encrypt that section, and then we save our Web.config.

The same process applies if we wanted to encrypt our email, for encrypting the smtp node with an XML like this:

<mailSettings>
      <smtp from="[email protected]">
        <network 
          host="mail.Site.com" 
          port="25" 
          userName="[email protected]" 
          password="password" />
      </smtp>
    </mailSettings>

We use the code:

       public static void EncryptMailSettings()
        {
            Configuration config = WebConfigurationManager.OpenWebConfiguration("~");
            ConfigurationSection section = config.GetSection("system.net/mailSettings/smtp");

            if (!section.SectionInformation.IsProtected)
            {
                section.SectionInformation.ProtectSection("RsaProtectedConfigurationProvider");
                config.Save();
            }
        }

Notice that we need to drill down to the specific section with slash like so:

"system.net/mailSettings/smtp"

Decrypting an XML node

The decryption of our XML node is similar to encrypting it, the only difference is that before we’ve checked to see if node is not encrypted, but now we check to see if our XML node is encrypted, and then we call the UnprotectSection method to decrypt our XML node, the final code should look something like this:

       
       public static void DecryptConnString()
        {
            Configuration config = WebConfigurationManager.OpenWebConfiguration("~");
            ConfigurationSection section = config.GetSection("connectionStrings");
            if (section.SectionInformation.IsProtected)
            {
                section.SectionInformation.UnprotectSection();
                config.Save();
            }
        }

The same process is repeated for decrypting the email section:

       
       public static void DecryptMailSettings()
        {
            Configuration config = WebConfigurationManager.OpenWebConfiguration("~");
            ConfigurationSection section = config.GetSection("system.net/mailSettings/smtp");
            if (section.SectionInformation.IsProtected)
            {
                section.SectionInformation.UnprotectSection();
                config.Save();
            }
        }

Calling our method to encrypt or decrypt our XML nodes

Now we can call the method in Global.asax in Application_Start() event to encrypt or decrypt our sensitive XML nodes:

       
       protected void Application_Start()
        {
            EncryptDecryptWebConfig.EncryptConnString();
            EncryptDecryptWebConfig.EncryptMailSettings();
 
            //EncryptDecryptWebConfig.DecryptConnString();
            //EncryptDecryptWebConfig.DecryptMailSettings();
        }

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Hamid Mosalla

Hi, I’m Hamid Mosalla, I’m a software developer, indie cinema fan and a classical music aficionado. Here I write about my experiences mostly related to web development and .Net.